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Chenrezig

By Sharon Wells

‘Chenrezig arises radiating clear white light suffused with the five colours. His eyes gaze in compassion and his smile is loving…Chenrezig is within us because love and compassion are not qualities added to the mind. These qualities are part of the awakened state…’

– Chenrezig, Lord of Love by Bokar Rinpoche

On Wednesday evening a group gathered to recite the Chenrezig prayers. Although we came together as a community online, the warmth, intimacy and poignancy generated came as a surprise. Rather than the practice and distance being compromised by the pixelated meet up, I sensed, and others have mentioned, an increased capacity for connection, collective contemplation, concentration and aspiration. Who would have thought Zoom could ignite ‘the feels’. Indeed, it seems this time and technology is ripe for our community to practice.

With the world retreating, our lives slowing, and a pause in activities across the globe, this disengagement from many of samsara’s tantalising/agitating/FOMO distractions does meet a much yearned for desire for me – for personal and collective refocusing and a values readjustment.  Regardless of the possible benefits from a Dharmic, psycho-social and environmental point of view, suffering remains, for ourselves, those close to us, as well as the unimaginable millions whose lives we have little awareness of, yet are part of our intricate network. With this in mind, the Tuesday sitting for me offers a window to contemplate the wider suffering, and powered by this practice of compassion and additional tenderness, to direct our intentions for the benefit of all sentient beings. 

So why Chenrezig? Chenrezig or the Lord of Love is considered the embodiment of both compassion and the awakened qualities in us all. The practice of Chenrezig is a powerful and unique meditation practice, developed and refined over a thousand years. It is said that by reciting Chenrezig’s mantra ‘one will not experience suffering of body, speech and mind. One will be free from fears of vicious animals, cannibals, human beings, non-human beings and sickness. When such a person who has recited ten malas of Om Mani Padmi Hum goes into water – either a river or ocean – the water that touches the person’s body gets blessed and then this blessed water purifies all sentient beings, however many billions of billions there are in the water.’ Similarly, for the wind, all who touch this wind are purified. Hearing about the benefits of practicing Chenrezig is obviously encouraging, and for a Western mind might appear as magical thinking, but for me the poetic phrasing of such benefits refers to and inspires the greater ambitions and potential inherent when practicing compassion. 

Additionally it is said the nectar beams of Chenrezig when entering our bodies and mind, purifies diseases, negative karma and defilements from beginningless rebirths, ‘like milk coming through a glass pipe, all the dirt and garbage comes out…and we become meaningful to behold’.  Whilst these benefits are remarkable, Western science also supports the biological, psychological and social benefits of practicing compassion including reducing disease, increasing our wellbeing and longevity.

Digging a little deeper, and by way of explanation to provide some extra juju, at the heart of Chenrezig practice is the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum. Here each syllable symbolizes one of the five wisdoms and corresponds to one perfection. OM corresponds to the perfection of concentration, and purifies the negativities that arise from pride. MA corresponds to Buddhas’ activity born out of boundless love, and is linked to the perfection of patience . NI is the embodiment of the Buddhas’ body, speech, and mind and represents morality, purifying grasping, which frees us from the four doors of birth, illness, old age, and death. PAD embodies limitless equanimity and corresponds to the perfection of wisdom, removing negativities caused by ignorance. ME corresponds to the perfection of giving and HUNG to the perfection of wisdom, with the power to purify hatred.

So to all OM MANI PADME HUNG.

May we achieve Awakening for the benefit of all beings.