Request from Garchen Rinpoche

...Regarding the long-life practice Rinpoche requests the worldwide sangha to do, he asks that we recite long-life mantras on December 22 as much as our personal circumstance permits. In 2008 in the northern hemisphere, December 21 is the shortest day of the year in terms of daylight, and Rinpoche says that the next day, “when daylight and warmth begin to increase again,” is a most powerful time for reciting long-life mantras. He said we may recite the mantras of any of the three long-life deities, who are the same for all the Buddhist lineages—White Tara, Amitayus, and Namgyalma—but that it is sufficient to recite White Tara’s mantra. He said that Namgyalma and Tara are basically the same deity, and that Namgyalma is especially powerful. He said she protects us from the eight great fears and from rebirth in the lower realms and that the benefit of practicing her mantra is immense, since she protects us in this and future lifetimes. She abides at the crown protuberance (“ushnisha” in Sanskrit) of the Buddha, and thus her Sanskrit name: Ushnishavijaya (“victorious crown protuberance”).

In addition to praying for the long life of all, it is most auspicious that this gift of practice provides an extra and powerful opportunity to pray for Rinpoche’s long life in anticipation of his long-life celebration on Losar. Rinpoche has told us that it is our sincere prayers that prolong his life, and he also gave the following precious teachings on the life span of the lama:

“Life span depends on love. So whether the life span of the lama will be long depends on whether his or her disciples have love and keep their samayas (vows). The basic samaya is the Bodhisattva vow, which the lama has given to his disciples. His disciples therefore all share a samaya of bodhichitta with each other and with the lama. If disciples quarrel and cause disharmony among the sangha, this will decrease the lama’s life span. There are many stories of a great Tulku whose life was cut short because of disharmonious conduct by his disciples. If, however, we keep our samaya of bodhichitta toward our lama and all our sibling-disciples, it will increase the lama's life span. If we constantly quarrel and are miserable, this will decrease his life span as a result of our breached samaya.”

Rinpoche’s love for all mother sentient beings is immeasurable and unceasing, and may we constantly express our gratitude through loving kindness and harmonious relations with all.

Following are the mantras for each of the long-life deities, along with some further description for each:

White Tara

White Tara, who is Rinpoche’s yidam (meditation deity), is called the Mother of all Buddhas and represents the motherly aspect of compassion. She strives constantly to relieve the suffering of all beings and is associated with longevity, healing, and the overcoming of obstacles, especially those that may inhibit the practice of religion.

In iconography, White Tara has seven eyes. In addition to the usual two, she has a third eye on her forehead and one on each of her hands and feet. This symbolizes her vigilance and ability to see all the suffering in the world. Her white color, "radiant as the eternal snows in all their glory," is indicative of the selflessness -- the purity -- of her compassion, but especially of the undifferentiated Truth of the Dharma.

She is seated in the diamond lotus posture, with the soles of her feet pointed upward. Her posture is one of grace and calm. Her right hand makes the boon-granting gesture and her left hand is in the protective mudra. In her left hand, she holds an elaborate lotus flower that contains three phases of blooming, representing the past, present, and future. The first bloom represents the past Buddha Kashyapa; the second symbolizes the present Buddha Shakyamuni; and the third signifies the future Buddha Maitreya, altogether symbolizing that Tara is the essence of the three Buddhas.




Buddha Amitayus is the bodhisattva of longevity or eternal life, also known as the Buddha of Infinite Life, and is closely connected with Amitabha, the Buddha of Infinite Light. He wears the ornaments of a bodhisattva and is red in color. He sits in the diamond lotus posture, and his hands cradle a vase containing the elixir of immortality and the leaves of the ashoka tree, which symbolize "a long life without the misery (shoka) of disease."

Amitayus’s mantra (either of the following forms may be recited):





Namgyalma has three faces and eight arms. One face is peaceful, one slightly wrathful, and one very wrathful in appearance, and each has three eyes. Her two main arms hold a double vajra, her upper right hand holds a small image of the Buddha, her second right hand holds an arrow, and her lower right hand is palm up in the boon-granting mudra. Of her left hands, the upper one holds a lasso, the one beneath it holds a bow, and the lower left hand holds the long-life vase filled with nectar. She is very youthful and graceful, is seated in the diamond lotus posture, and wears the ornaments of a bodhisattva.

The practice of Namgyalma is considered to be extremely effective for removing obstacles to long life, for powerful purification of the negative results of unwholesome actions of body, speech, and mind, and for helping those with severe disease. She protects us from the eight great fears and from rebirth in the lower realms, and the benefit of practicing her mantra is immense, since she protects us in this and future lifetimes. She abides at the crown protuberance (“ushnisha” in Sanskrit) of the Buddha, and thus her Sanskrit name: Ushnishavijaya (“victorious crown protuberance”).




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