Practical Issues > Things to do > Religion and Animals

Teachings from the Vajrasattva Retreat -- Lama Zopa Rinpoche




The practice of liberating animals from the danger of death is included within the pledges (samaya) of the dhyani buddha Vairocana, which contain the practices of three types of morality:

    The morality of abstaining from vice.

    The morality of gathering virtue.

    The morality of working for the sake of sentient beings.

The morality of abstaining from vice refers to keeping vows, such as those of individual liberation (pratimoksha), which include the five lay vows, and also includes living within the morality of abandoning the ten non-virtues.

The morality of gathering virtue is collecting merit by the virtuous practice of Dharma. If the practice of liberating animals is done perfectly, it will involve all six perfections (paramitas):

1. The perfection of generosity (charity) includes:

(a) The generosity of giving loving kindness.
(b) The generosity of liberating from fear.
(c) The generosity of giving Dharma.
(d) The generosity of giving material objects (miscellaneous charity).

You are practicing the generosity of loving kindness because not only are you wishing the animals happiness but you are also causing them to have happiness by liberating them from the dangers of death, harm and a short life.

The practice of liberating animals includes the generosity of liberating from fear because you save them from fear and danger.

It becomes charity of Dharma because you recite powerful mantras and blow the mantras upon the animals to benefit them by purifying their negative karmas and giving them a good rebirth in the deva, human or pure realms.

If you give food to the animals when you liberate them—for example, if you put food in the water for the fish or on the ground for the forest animals—this is the practice of the fourth generosity, giving material (miscellaneous) objects.

2. Abandoning giving harm to other beings and not hurting them is the perfection of morality.

3. Bearing the hardships of doing this practice, such as buying the animals and transporting them to the place where they will be set free, becomes the perfection of patience. The perfection of patience has three types:

(a) The patience of definitely thinking about Dharma.
(b) The patience of voluntarily bearing hardship and suffering.
(c) The patience of not becoming angry with the humans or animals at the time of liberation. This also includes the fourth perfection:

4. The perfection of enthusiastic perseverance.

5. The perfection of concentration is maintaining continuous awareness, concentrating on virtuous motivation and keeping your mind constantly positive.

6. The perfection of wisdom is seeing yourself and the action of liberating animals as nothing other than being merely imputed by the mind.

The third morality included in the pledge of Vairocana, that of working for sentient beings, is also covered by this practice. Those who have taken tantric vows can practice the three types of morality here. Those who have taken bodhisattva vows have eleven parts in the morality of working for sentient beings, which can also be practiced here.


This practice of the generosity of Dharma is extremely important because even if you buy the animals from the shops and places where they are to be killed and put them in a place where there is no danger to their lives, so what? They have no opportunity to listen to Dharma, to change their minds, and will again have to experience much negative karma. When they do eventually die, they will again be reborn as animals. Most will go back to the lower realms.

Of course, since you are prolonging the animals’ lives and as long as no enemies immediately attack them in the place where you liberate them, your actions have some benefit. But the best benefit comes from reciting mantras and teachings of the Buddha.

According to my own experience, it seems that frogs are able to hear—when you recite mantras they look at you. There are also stories of pigeons being able to hear. Therefore, animals that can hear benefit from the sound of the mantras and those that cannot hear are purified by having mantras blown, or blessed water poured, onto them. Thus, according to the various animals’ capacity, there are many different ways in which you can benefit them.


Recite the mantras and blow upon the bodies of the animals, or blow onto water, which you then pour onto the animals. If there is a big pile of shellfish (“conch animals”), pour the mantra-blessed water over them so that it touches them all. You can also put them in a big container and fill it with blessed water so that they are all touched by it. You can also recite the mantras onto sand or talcum powder and then sprinkle the sand or powder onto the animals. The main thing is to try to use something that does not give the animals harm.

You should be aware of the animals in the containers. For those that may be in a difficult situation where they cannot survive long, the best thing to do is, before going to the place where you are to liberate the animals, bless a vessel of water by visualizing the deity above the vessel with nectar-beams coming from the deity’s heart as you recite many mantras and blow on the water, which gives the water great power to purify all their negative karma and obscurations. Then visualize the deity absorbing into the water.

When you arrive at the place where you will liberate the animals, everybody should generate the motivation together, recite a few mantras, and pour the blessed water on the animals or sprinkle it on birds, and also blow on them if possible. Then, those animals that are having a difficult time should be quickly released. The other animals that are not in such a poor condition can remain longer, while you recite more mantras and prayers before liberating them. This is important. Otherwise, the weak ones may die before they can be freed. Be sure to make the containers as comfortable as possible so that the animals do not die in them.


Reciting teachings on shunyata, bodhicitta and tantra leaves imprints on the animals’ minds. As a result, it is definite that in future lives they will receive a human body, meet, listen to and reflect and meditate on the Dharma and actualize the path. If you recite the Buddha’s teachings to them such that they can hear, the animals will not only be able to put a complete end to their samsaric suffering but will definitely reach full enlightenment.

Reciting teachings and prayers has these incredible, infinite benefits for the animals. Knowing that you are saving them from the whole entire suffering of samsara and its cause, delusion and karma, brings you great inspiration and you can really enjoy benefiting them in this way.

There are many stories from the past. For example, Guru Shakyamuni Buddha once gave teachings to five hundred swans and in their next lives they all became monks and completely ended their samsara by attaining arhatship. A pigeon on Nagarjuna’s roof overheard him reciting teachings and in its next life was reborn a human who became a pandit monk and wrote four commentaries on the same teachings he had heard as a pigeon.

The results of the imprints of hearing teachings as given in these examples is so unbelievable that our minds cannot comprehend them; they are too hard for our ordinary minds to understand. However, the results of the imprints of hearing teachings will manifest sooner or later, therefore, it is unbelievably beneficial for you to recite Buddha’s teachings. Furthermore, if you recite the powerful mantras that purify the animals’ negative karma, you can prevent them from again being reborn in the lower realms.

If you recite the prostration prayer to Buddha Rinchen Tsugtorchen, “Chom-den-de de-zhin sheg-pa dra-jom-pa yang-dag-par dzog-pai sang-gye Rin-chen Tsug-tor-chen chag-tsal-lo,” humans or animals who hear it will not be reborn in the lower realms. This is the particular purpose of this buddha. If a person is dying and you have the freedom to recite this prayer without creating a lot of confusion in this person’s mind or among the surrounding people, you can recite it in the person’s ear.

Similarly, there are also mantras that purify negative karma and prevent rebirth in the lower realms. While reciting these powerful mantras, blow on the body of the dying person. If the mantra is short, recite it over and over and blow on the person’s body. If the mantra is long, recite it and blow onto some water or powder, which you then sprinkle on the person’s body. This purifies the person’s negative karma, preventing rebirth in the lower realms and giving the person a chance of rebirth in a pure realm.

Although this makes it sound easy to purify sentient beings and change their rebirth, these things work in dependence on the extent of your faith in them and through the power of the truth of the Buddha’s teachings, due to Buddha’s unbearable compassion for sentient beings. However, it doesn’t happen with everyone but only with those who have the right karma. You can see the difference; at the time of death, not everybody has the karma for it to happen like this. Not all dying animals or people are able to meet great yogis, unbelievable bodhisattvas or high lamas. Only some beings have the karma to meet pure practitioners who can save them from the lower realms. But if you have the karma, by meeting such a practitioner, your consciousness can immediately be transferred to a pure realm, even if you are already dead.

Some people who have cancer and AIDS have completely recovered by liberating animals. Since cancer shortens your life, you need to create the cause for a long life. Causing others to have a long life by saving them from certain death is such a cause. This is why cancer and AIDS patients have recovered by liberating animals.

Purifying negative karma by reciting mantras is like taking antibiotics to destroy bacteria. Liberating animals is like building up your health by following a certain diet. In other words, reciting mantras purifies the various harms and diseases and liberating animals prolongs your life.

Also, these days it is especially important to dedicate for people who are ill, as there are so many who are dying of cancer and AIDS—diseases for which there is no cure. Even surgery, chemotherapy and radiation are limited in their ability to help, and often the disease recurs again and again. Therefore, it is very important to dedicate your merit to the long life of others, especially since many of them have not met the Dharma and have no knowledge of these methods. If voluntarily you dedicate for them, they will receive great benefit.


Namgyalma is a deity for long life and purification. Her mantra has infinite benefits. It is said to be so powerful that anybody who hears it will never again be born from the womb. Therefore, if animals hear it, they will never again be reborn in the lower realms.

There is a story from the time Guru Shakyamuni Buddha was on earth concerning a deva called Paripu Denpa. Due to karma, when devas start experiencing the signs of death, they spontaneously remember their previous lives and see their future lives; they perceive that they are about to be reborn in the lower realms and so forth. Since their realm has unbelievable enjoyments thousands of times better than those of the richest country on earth, when they realize that they are about to leave a life of such pleasure and be reborn where there is incredible suffering, their minds suffer greatly.

Thus, as he was dying, the deva Denpa saw that he was about to be reborn as six types of animal—dog, monkey and so forth. Very worried, he asked King Indra what to do. King Indra suggested that he see the Buddha, which he did. Buddha manifested as the deity Namgyalma and gave him the mantra. Denpa recited it six times daily and in seven days completely changed his karma so that he did not have to be reborn as those six types of animal. The Namgyalma mantra is unbelievably powerful for purification. I have translated its benefits and explained how to recite it for people who have cancer and other diseases.

The kind, compassionate Guru Shakyamuni Buddha taught the benefits of reciting the Namgyalma mantra to the Four Guardian Kings. Even if you are in danger of dying because the karma that determines your life-span is running out, if you wash your body, wear clean clothes and, abiding in the eight precepts, recite the Namgyalma mantra one thousand times, you can increase your life-span, purify your obscurations and free yourself from disease.

If you recite the Namgyalma mantra into the ear of an animal, you ensure that this is its last animal rebirth. If somebody suffering from a heavy disease that doctors cannot diagnose does the practice Lord Buddha taught to the deva Denpa, he or she will be liberated from that disease, bring to an end all future rebirths in the lower realms, and after death be reborn in a blissful pure land. For humans, the present life will be their last rebirth from the womb.

If you recite this mantra twenty-one times, blow upon mustard seeds and throw them onto the bones of even extremely evil beings who have created many heavy negative karmas, those beings will immediately be liberated from the lower realms and be reborn in a higher realm, such as that of a deva. Throwing seeds blessed by the Namgyalma mantra onto the bones or body of a dead being purifies that being’s consciousness, and even though that being may have been reborn in hell or any other lower realm, that being can be reborn in a deva realm.

If you put this mantra in a stupa or on a banner inside your house or above the roof, whoever is touched by even the shadow of that stupa or banner will not be reborn in the lower realms. Also, any being touched by a breeze that has first touched a stupa, banner or statue containing this mantra is purified of the karma to be reborn in the lower realms. What need is there to mention, therefore, how great the purification experienced by those who recite this mantra or keep it on their body.


This mantra also has unbelievable benefits. If you recite it seven times each day you will be reborn in the pure realms. If you recite this mantra and blow upon clothing, it purifies yourself and any other sentient being who touches it. If you recite it, blow on the incense and then burn it the smoke purifies other sentient beings. If you put this mantra above doorways, people who pass beneath it are purified and not reborn in the lower realms. In Tibet, paper with this mantra written on it was touched to dead people’s bodies, purifying their karma and preventing rebirth in the lower realms.

Recalling this mantra just once has the power to purify even the five uninterrupted negative karmas. It prevents rebirth in Avici, the heaviest of all the hells; for many eons you will not have to be reborn in this state of unbearable suffering. You eradicate all obscurations and negative karma and are never again reborn in the lower realms. It enables you to remember past lives and see future lives. If you recite this mantra seven times each day you accumulate unbelievable merit equivalent to that of making offerings to buddhas equal in number to the grains of sand in the River Ganges. In your next life you will be reborn in a pure realm and will be able to achieve hundreds of concentrations.

If you recite this mantra, blow upon sand and throw that sand onto a dead body, even if the dead person had broken vows and was reborn in a lower realm, you can change the person’s life and he or she will be reborn in a higher realm. If you recite this mantra and blow upon perfume or incense, whoever smells that perfume or incense will be purified of negative karma and cured of even contagious disease. It helps you achieve the complete qualities of a buddha.


The Milarepa mantra has the same benefits as the others. By reciting it every day you will be born in the pure land of Milarepa and be able to see Milarepa, as he promised. This great yogi attained enlightenment in one lifetime. If you recite his mantra and blow onto the bones or flesh of beings who have been reborn in the lower realms, they will be purified of all negative karma and be able to receive higher rebirth in a pure land.


Teachings by Lama Zopa Rinpoche, New York City and Boston, 1991. Edited and abridged by Sarah Tenzin Yiwong. Edited for this book by Nicholas Ribush.


I mentioned some of these details during the Vajrasattva retreat. The prayers are in the Liberating Animals booklet [see below, the actual practice], but how to do the practice is the most important part.

In my experience, because of their crowded conditions, some animals may die while you are reciting the prayers and mantras, therefore, as soon as the animals are brought to where the altar is set up you should take them around it ten, twenty, thirty, many times as you can. In this way, if some of the animals die during the recitations, it’s not so regrettable since a great amount of negative karma has been purified and they have already created so many causes of enlightenment, so many causes for good rebirths in hundreds of thousands of lifetimes.

After circumambulating the altar with the animals in that way, begin the practice. Start as usual with refuge and bodhicitta and then do the four immeasurables. After that, if there’s time, you can generate the elaborate motivation. Usually I try to explain the four ways in which the mother is kind and then go through the development of bodhicitta in order to liberate the animals more extensively, according to the deeds of the bodhisattva.

The third of the three practices of morality is working for sentient beings, so include that—liberating animals as a practice of the paramita of morality. And from the tantric vows, in the samayas of the dhyani buddha Ratnasambhava is the practice of the four types of charity, especially the charity of loving kindness, as mentioned in the six session yoga. If you feed the animals, that is the practice of miscellaneous charity. By reciting the mantra for them, you are practicing Dharma charity. By blessing the water by blowing on it after you have recited the mantra and sprinkling it on their bodies and by circumambulating them you are practicing the charity of fearlessness, because all this purifies their negative karma, liberates them from the lower realms and gives them good rebirths.

When you do the elaborate motivation, dedicate your practice to the long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and for all his holy wishes to be successful; for the lives of all other virtuous friends to be stable and for all their holy wishes to be successful; to the long lives of the sangha and for them to complete their realizations and scriptural understanding; to the long lives and well-being of all benefactors who offer service to the teachings of the Buddha and for all their Dharma wishes to be successful; for all the people who have cancer, AIDS or other life obstacles to be free of these hindrances, to have long lives, and for the rest of their life to be most meaningful; to the long lives of those people who do more good than harm, those for whom it is more beneficial to live than to die; and for evil beings to meet the Dharma and to change their minds and, by finding faith in refuge and karma, to have long lives. You can also dedicate the practice to specific people who are sick.

Experience has shown that liberating animals is one of the important ways in which people who have cancer or other life-threatening diseases can heal themselves and have a long life. It has been proven by many people who have done this practice and recovered totally from terminal cancer. This practice is one of the causes of this; others include taking the eight Mahayana precepts and engaging in other activities such as recitation of certain mantras. The practice of liberating animals is principally for long life, and recitation of mantras is more for healing sickness or protection from those harmful beings who become a condition for certain diseases to be experienced. Through these practices, all these problems can be purified, as can the karma that causes them.

Animal liberation doesn’t have to be done for only yourself. You can also dedicate the practice to others—family members or anyone else. You can dedicate it to everyone. In that way, however much money is spent, whether it’s on one animal or many, there are a great many benefits.

Once you’ve taken the animals around the altar many times and done your short or elaborate motivation, start the actual practice. Again, depending on how much time you have, this can be brief or extensive. If you have time, after refuge, bodhicitta, and the four immeasurables, do the other prayers that we do when we take precepts—purifying the place, blessing the offerings that are set up around the table, invocation, the seven-limb prayer and the short mandala offering. Then recite a direct lam-rim meditation for the animals. In this way you are doing puja on behalf of the animals. After that, recite the mantras.

The different mantras to be recited include several malas of OM MANI PADME HUM, and you can also do some of the long Avalokiteshvara mantra, NAMO RATNA TRAYAYA.... Then you can do the Medicine Buddha mantra and also the five powerful purification deities’ mantras: Mitukpa, Kunrig, Stainless Beam, Stainless Pinnacle, and Wish-granting Wheel. There are also many other mantras you can recite, but these are the main ones I suggest be recited. All this has unbelievable benefit.

Depending on how many animals and people there are, you have one, two, three or more buckets of water. After everybody has chanted each mantra together, you all bless the water by blowing on it. Then sprinkle that blessed water on the birds or pour it over the sea animals that you have. Then again, everybody takes them around the altar as many times as possible. In this way, not only do the animals get the benefit of as many circumambulations as are done but the people who take them around also get this benefit. Each circumambulation creates the causes of liberation and enlightenment and many hundreds of thousands of good rebirths for both the animals and, by the way, the people who circumambulate. When you chant the mantras, it’s good to do so loudly, so that the animals can hear them, especially those that don’t pay attention, like frogs, fish and so forth.

Each person carrying the animals—fish, insects and so forth—around the altar should think, depending on how many sentient beings are in the bag or the packet, “I’m giving enlightenment to these one hundred, one thousand...mother sentient beings. I’m giving them enlightenment. I’m also giving them liberation. I’m also giving them many hundreds of thousands of good rebirths.” And this is what’s actually happening.

Then, as many holy objects as are on the altar, for example, one hundred statues or stupas, then you are giving each of the insects or other sentient beings that you are carrying one hundred enlightenments and so forth—as many as there are holy objects on the altar. The more holy objects, the more enlightenments, liberations from samsara and good rebirths you are giving them. Therefore, the more holy objects you can put there, the better.

That is how to do the practice. At the end, dedicate the merits to the same results that you mentioned in the motivation—the long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and your other virtuous friends, the fulfillment of their holy wishes and so forth.

Liberating animals is done at least once a month in FPMT’s Singapore, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Taipei centers. In Hong Kong there’s one student who is responsible for organizing it and making sure that the various jobs involved are shared around. In Singapore they do it twice a month. That makes it easy for students from centers in other parts of the world to participate when the need arises to liberate many animals on behalf of a sick person or for whatever reason. In some places it may be difficult to do, so it is very convenient to send money to sponsor the liberation of animals in those centers where it is done regularly.

Another very attractive feature of this practice is that it can become a social occasion where many people create merit together. People bring their children and their friends, and the children love carrying the animals. Benefiting other sentient beings is something that makes everybody feel good. It’s also a good practice and an excellent education for the children. It can be combined with a group outing to a restaurant or a picnic at the beach or in the country. And by the way, it becomes a cause for the liberation of the humans as well, since, as I mentioned, the people get to carry the animals around the altar, collecting a lot of merit, purifying much negative karma and creating many, many causes to not be born in the lower realms. This practice also gives people who don’t come to courses or other teachings at the center an opportunity to create merit in an easy, social atmosphere. That’s what happens in those Eastern countries where this is done regularly.

If there are many large animals, like big fish or other sea creatures, instead of bringing them onto land, you can set up a small boat with the altar in the water and have a bigger boat carrying the animals go around it. It might be harder for them to hear the mantras if you do it this way, but at least the circumambulation gets done. However, as you free the animals, you should recite the mantras loudly at that time.


Oral teaching by Lama Zopa Rinpoche at Aptos, California, 21 April, 1999. Edited by Nicholas Ribush.



First, reflect that all these creatures have been human beings, like yourself, but because they did not practice Dharma and subdue their minds they have been reborn as animals. Their having such suffering bodies is the result of having followed delusion because of their unsubdued minds. When we see some small decay in our body, some sign of old age such as one more wrinkle on our body, our minds feel very uncomfortable and painful. Therefore, how could we stand having the body of an animal? There is no way. Thus, it is extremely important that we should feel for them. We should not look at them with a mind that sees their experience of being in such bodies as having nothing to do with us. We should not think, “I am a human being and they are animals; there is absolutely no connection.”

We should not think that our own minds could not create such bodies, that these are permanent or truly existing animals that never came from the mind. It is not like that.

Think that all of these animals have been your own mother. When they were human beings they were extremely kind in giving you your body to practice Dharma and saved your life from danger hundreds of times each day. Later, they were kind by bearing many hardships to educate you in the path of the world, starting by teaching you how to speak, how to walk, how to behave as a human being and so forth.

Not only have they been kind like this numberless times as a human mother; numberless times they were born as an animal and looked after you. As a mother dog they gave you milk and food. As mother birds they fed you with many worms each day. Each time they were your mother they took care of you selflessly, sacrificing their own lives for your sake numberless times in order to protect you and give you happiness. As animals, they guarded and protected you from the attack of other animals numberless times, when you were in an egg or when you were a baby animal. In such ways, they have been unbelievably kind many, many times.

Not only has each of these animals been your mother but each has also been your father, brother, and sister numberless times. We are all the same; we are all of one family.

Think, “I must free all hell beings from all their suffering and its cause and lead them to enlightenment. I must free all hungry ghosts from all their suffering and its cause and lead them to enlightenment. I must free all animals from all their suffering and its cause and lead them to enlightenment.”

Think a little more about the suffering of the animals, such as being extremely dumb, being eaten by other animals without choice and being tortured by humans—not only do animals eat each other but humans harm, torture and eat them as well.

Then think, “I must free all the human beings from all their suffering and its cause and lead them to enlightenment.” While humans are experiencing the suffering results of past karma, on top of that, still being under the control of delusion, they continue to create cause after cause to experience rebirth in the suffering lower realms of samsara.

Continue by thinking, “I must free all the suras and asuras from all their suffering and its cause and lead them to enlightenment. In order to free all sentient beings from their obscurations and lead them to enlightenment, I must first achieve enlightenment myself—there is no other way. To do that, I must practice the six perfections. Therefore, I am going to liberate these animals and work for sentient beings in general by making Dharma and food charity.” In this way, generate bodhicitta.

Dedication of the practice

Think, “I liberate these animals for the long life of the Compassionate Buddha in human form, His Holiness the Dalai Lama—the source of all sentient beings’ happiness and their sole refuge—and for all his holy wishes to be successful.

“I dedicate this practice to the long and stable lives of all other holy beings who live for the happiness of sentient beings and to the long lives of the sangha—who preserve the teachings and spread Dharma and who practice the three higher trainings of morality, concentration, and wisdom —and for the success of their Dharma practice.

“I liberate these animals so that all benefactors may have long lives and that all their wishes will succeed according to the holy Dharma.

“I liberate these animals for the long life of those people who have refuge in their mind and who create much good karma.

“May this practice become medicine for all those people who suffer from cancer, AIDS and other life-threatening diseases that they might be liberated from the suffering of disease and death.

“May those people who do not have the money to rescue sentient beings from life danger also benefit from this.

“I also dedicate this practice for evil beings to meet the Dharma. If they do not meet the Dharma they will continue to live evil lives and their living long will only be harmful. Therefore, may they meet and practice Dharma and have long lives.”

You can also dedicate your practice of liberating animals to particular families and people whose lives you would like to be long.

This is how to make an extensive dedication of your practice of liberating the animals so that it benefits others, not just yourself.


Prostrations to the Thirty-five Buddhas and the seven Medicine Buddhas

[See the FPMT Prayer Book]

Visualize the Thirty-five Buddhas above the animals. Nectar-beams emanate and purify all their obscurations and negative karma accumulated from beginningless rebirths. Finally, their bodies and minds become pure, like crystal, they generate all the realizations of the path and become enlightened in the aspect of Guru Shakyamuni Buddha.

After reciting the names of the Thirty-five Buddhas, prostrate to the seven Medicine Buddhas as follows, saying their names slowly so that you can do the purifying meditation properly. Then complete the rest of the Thirty-five Buddhas prayer, which includes the four opponent powers.

Prostration to the seven Medicine Buddhas goes like this:

To the bhagavan, the tathagata, the arhat, the fully enlightened one, Renowned Glory of Excellent Signs, I prostrate.

To the bhagavan...King of Melodious Sound, Brilliant Radiance of Ability, I prostrate.

To...King of Immaculate Excellent Gold, Radiant Jewel Who Fulfills All His Vows, I prostrate.

To...King of Supreme Glory Who Frees from All Suffering, I prostrate.

To...Melodious Ocean of Proclaimed Dharma, I prostrate.

To...King of Clear Light, He Who Totally Delights in the Supreme Wisdom of the Ocean of Dharma, I prostrate.

To...Medicine Guru, King of Lapis Light, I prostrate.

Chenrezig Practice

Visualize Thousand-armed Chenrezig above the animals. Nectar-beams emanate from his heart and purify them, as before. Recite the praises to Chenrezig and then chant the mantras as many times as possible:

Praises to Chenrezig

Holy body of Dharma, being of the three times gone to bliss, Who looks with compassionate eye upon all sentient beings of the six migrations, Having the eleven faces encompassing all, like the sky, Glorious Limitless Light (Amitabha), to you I prostrate.

Your thousand arms are the thousand wheel-turning kings, Your thousand eyes are the thousand buddhas of the fortunate eon.

I praise and prostrate to the pure, compassionate-eyed one Who manifests in that form to subdue sentient beings.

Chenrezig Mantras

Long mantra:

Short mantra: OM MANI PADME HUM

Then dedicate the merits to achieve the Compassionate Buddha’s enlightenment and to lead all sentient beings to the Compassionate Buddha’s enlightenment: “Due to this merit may I soon attain the enlightened state of Chenrezig that I may be able to liberate all sentient beings from their sufferings and lead them to Chenrezig’s enlightened realm.”

Namgyalma Mantra

Long mantra:


The Wish-Granting Wheel Mantra


Milarepa Mantra


Medicine Buddha Mantra



“Due to this merit may I soon attain the enlightened state of the gurubuddha that I may be able to liberate all sentient beings from their sufferings and lead them to that enlightened state.

“May the precious bodhi mind not yet born arise and grow. May that born have no decline, but increase forever more.”




The purpose of this practice

The purpose of practicing Dzambhala is to receive everything required to practice Dharma; to benefit all other sentient beings extensively by relieving their poverty, liberating them from suffering, giving them whatever they need to practice Dharma, supporting temples for the sake of all sentient beings, maintaining monasteries for monks and nuns to study and practice Dharma and helping sentient beings collect merit and practice Dharma in general; and to spread the teachings of the Buddha for the benefit of all sentient beings. These are some of the many reasons for practicing Dzambhala.

There are three basic Dzambhala practices: the Dzambhala wealth vase; torma offering to Dzambhala; and the daily practice of water offering to Dzambhala, including recitation of mantras. The third of these is given here [see Chapter 48, Tuesday, April 27 for the origin and a general description of this practice].


Begin with strong motivation, first taking refuge and generating bodhicitta and contemplating the four immeasurables. Think, “The purpose of my life is to liberate all sentient beings from their suffering and cause them to become enlightened. For this I must achieve perfect buddhahood.” To strengthen your practice, contemplate the sufferings of each of the six samsaric realms. Then think, “In order to achieve enlightenment, I am going to make water offerings to Dzambhala and water charity to the pretas.”

After offering water to Dzambhala, it is very good to make charity of that same water to the pretas; to combine these two practices. The practice can be done with a Dzambhala statue in the receptacle or just by visualization.


First, generate yourself as Chenrezig, then recite, “I offer this water to the holy body of Dzambhala, who rides a dragon. His body is white in color. His right hand holds a trident; his left, a club. He is surrounded by the four dakinis, one in each cardinal direction.”

[The four dakinis are: in the east, blue Vajra Dakini holding a vajra in her right hand and a vessel full of auspicious, variegated substances in her left; in the south, yellow Jewel Dakini holding a heap of jewels in her right hand and an iron hook in her left; in the west, red Lotus Dakini holding a lotus in her right hand and a jewel-marked banner of victory in her left; and in the north, green Karma Dakini holding a double vajra in her right hand and a treasure-producing mongoose in her left. All of them sit in the half-lotus posture and are adorned with jeweled ornaments.]

Now offer the water by pouring it on Dzambhala’s head. It is good to use a watering can with a long spout, which lets you offer water in the preferred fine stream. As you pour the water with your right hand, snap the fingers of your left at your heart (to remind yourself of emptiness) and recite the mantra, OM PADMA KRODHA ARYA DZAMBHALA HRI DAYA HUM PHETseven, twenty-one or as many times as possible.

To collect more merit when you do this practice, the most important thing is to visualize Dzambhala as your own guru. Also visualize unceasing wish-fulfilling jewels or billions and billions of dollars pouring out of the mouths of the dragon and the mongoose like a beautiful waterfall tumbling down a mountainside. The water you offer generates great bliss on Guru Dzambhala’s head; he experiences endless bliss like the sky. After you have offered the water, from this state of bliss, Dzambhala’s mind is extremely inspired, and he promises to help you completely, to provide everything you need for all your projects to succeed and for you to realize all attainments.


On a lotus and a moon disk, the seed syllable Jam transforms into Yellow Dzambhala. His right hand holds a pitsapura fruit and his left a treasureproducing mongoose spewing a stream of wish-granting jewels.

Generate yourself as Chenrezig and recite, “By offering to your holy body that which cleans”—tsang-che, another term for water, which is called this because it cleans as it is poured—“all pains are pacified and I am fully satisfied by experiencing great bliss. Please grant all attainments and needs.”

Recite the mantra OM DZAMBHALA DZALANDRAYE SOHA as many times as possible and, as before, offer the water by holding up the watering can and snapping your fingers.


Next offer water to Black Dzambhala, reciting the mantra OM JLUM SOHA OM INDRAYANI MUKHAM BHRAMARI SOHA seven or twenty-one times, pouring water on Dzambhala’s stomach and snapping your fingers as before. To collect the greatest merit, again think that Dzambhala is your guru. Your offering of water generates bliss like the sky in Dzambhala’s holy mind and he is fully inspired to grant you all realizations and every kind of assistance.

(When offering water to White Dzambhala, recite White Dzambhala’s mantra. When offering water to Yellow Dzambhala, recite Yellow Dzambhala’s mantra. When offering water to Black Dzambhala, recite the mantra of Black Dzambhala. And when offering water to only one of the three, don’t recite the mantras of other two. You can also recite the mantra without offering water, in which case visualize making the offering.)


“Savior Dzambhala, guardian of the north, enriched with wealth, treasure of jewels, lord of all the harm-givers who have wealth, to you who grants supreme attainments, I prostrate. We who are tortured by the fire of miserly karma go to you for refuge from life to life. With the flowing nectar rain of jewel treasure, please pacify the suffering of those sentient beings who live in poverty.”

Think that the poverty of all sentient beings in the ten directions has been eliminated. Then take a little water with your fingers and touch it to your tongue to receive the attainments. Say, DZAMBHALA SIDDHI PHALA HO.

After this, make water charity to the pretas, using the water from the Dzambhala practice.


This teaching was given by Lama Zopa Rinpoche in Madison, Wisconsin, 26 July, 1998, transcribed and edited by Vens. Sherab Chen and Diana Finnegan, and revised for this book by Nicholas Ribush.


Do this practice using a container with a lid. Hold it in the fingers of your right hand [see Chapter 48 for more advice on how to do this practice]. Clarify your visualization of yourself as Chenrezig or the deity with whom you are doing this practice. Say the prayer, “May the continuous flow of milk from the hand of the Arya Compassionate-eyed Lord (Chenrezig), satisfy the pretas, bathe them and always keep them cool.”

Make the mudra of granting sublime realizations and stretch your right hand out over your knee while offering the water. In the palm of your right hand is a HRIH. The HRIH emits beams of light along which nectar flows, satisfying all pretas.

Your left hand is at your heart in the mudra of granting refuge. Visualize numberless general pretas and while snapping your fingers, recite OM AH HRIH HUM seven or twenty-one times and slowly pour water from the container into the receptacle from the Dzambhala practice. In this way, give water to the general pretas. It becomes nectar, enters their mouths and immediately relieves them from all their heavy sufferings. They experience inconceivable bliss and generate in their minds the entire path to enlightenment. Also do this visualization with the other types of preta, as follows.

Snapping your fingers, recite OM MANI PADME HUM seven or twentyone times and drip water from the container into the receptacle. In this way, give water to the pretas with flames coming from the mouth.

Then, snapping your fingers, recite OM JVALA MIDAM SARVA PRETA BHYAH SOHAas many times as possible and drip water from the container, but this time it goes outside the receptacle. In this way, give one drop of water individually to each of the ju-geg-ma pretas.

The necks of the ju-geg-ma pretas are obstructed by three knots and they have no freedom to swallow even a drop of water. They are especially tormented by hunger and thirst, and flames come from their stomachs. Of all pretas, these have the most extreme suffering. Their obstructions to taking food and drink are the result of having created the karma of stopping people from practicing giving.

If you recite this blessed, precious mantra and offer one drop of water, the knots in the pretas’ necks are instantly untied. As the drop of water goes down its throat, the preta becomes blissfully satisfied. The teachings say that this practice has great benefit. All their obscurations and negative karma are purified and they all become enlightened in the form of Chenrezig or the deity with whom you do this practice.

“Due to the merit of making charity of this nectar, may the Queen of the Pretas as the principal and all other pretas who have external and internal obstructions to food and drink, those who are in the main preta place and those scattered elsewhere, be liberated from sufferings of hunger and thirst and the two obscurations and be fully satisfied by this nectar. May all miserliness and similar minds, including even their imprints, be completely purified. By completing the paramita of charity, may they be enriched with enjoyments infinite as the sky. May all beings be free of harm and freely enjoy ‘sky treasure’ forever.”

The benefits of doing this practice are that you accumulate inconceivable merit, do not experience poverty of necessities, enjoyments and so forth, and get reborn in the pure realms.


Clarify your visualization of yourself as the Arya Compassionate-eyed Lord. The syllable HRIH in the palm of your right hand transforms into Transcendental Wisdom Star-Arrow (Yeshe Karda), who has a blue-green holy body. Her left hand is in the mudra of concentration and her right in the mudra of granting sublime realizations. Nectar flows from her whole body as well as her palms, satisfying all sentient beings, especially those pitiful migrators, the intermediate state beings. Pray, “May this flow of nectar satisfy migratory beings.”

As before, hold the water container in your right hand, visualize numberless intermediate state beings and, while snapping the fingers of your left hand, recite OM JNANA AVALOKITE SAMANTA PARANA RAMI BAWA SAMAYA MAHA MANI DURU DURU HRIH DAYA JALANI SOHA seven times and OM MANI PADME HUM as many times as possible, blow on the water, and pour it back into the body of water where you’re doing this practice (swimming pool, pond, lake, river or beach).

The nectar enters the intermediate state beings’ mouths and immediately relieves them of all their heavy sufferings. They experience inconceivable bliss and generate in their minds the entire path to enlightenment.

Then pray, “Due to the merits of offering this water, may all the migratory beings of the intermediate state be liberated from all suffering and fear and reach the pure land.”

Repeat this entire process seven times, each time substituting another mantra for the OM MANI PADMEHUM. The first time, recite the Medicine Buddha mantra at least seven times, blow on the water and offer it. Repeat this process with the Namgyalma, Mitukpa, Kunrig, Wish-granting Wheel, Stainless Pinnacle and Stainless Beam mantras. In this way, since the water you pour is blessed, the entire body of water gets blessed and all the sentient beings in that water get purified and receive good rebirths. After pouring the water, think and visualize that all the water appears as nectar to all the pretas that the buddhas perceive; all the pretas receive the nectar and are totally satisfied; the nectar purifies all their negative karma, they get liberated from all their suffering and all become Chenrezig. Do this after each time you have poured the water.

Finally, pray, “May the intermediate state beings who died or were killed yesterday and so forth, those who have not received a body, whose minds are wandering without support in the intermediate state, be satisfied by this nectar charity. May they be able to remember the guru-deity. By recognizing the intermediate state as the intermediate state, may they be liberated immediately from the fear of the four terrifying enemies”— your own negative karma manifested in the terrifying appearance of the four elements—“the three precipices of the lower realms, and so forth. May they achieve the holy body of complete enjoyment (sambhogakaya).

“Due to the merits of offering this water charity, as soon as the appearance of the intermediate state occurs, may every sentient being immediately be shown the unmistaken path by the eight bodhisattvas and be born in a blissful realm. Through transformations, may they guide the migratory beings of the impure realms.”


After you have finished the water offering and prayers for the intermediate state beings, Transcendental Wisdom Star-Arrow transforms into the fully qualified destroyer, Immovable Vajra (Mitukpa). From his right hand, which is in the mudra of granting sublime realizations, nectar flows and purifies the sentient beings of the six realms, particularly the nagas, and satisfies them.

Visualize infinite sentient beings, especially the nagas, and while snapping your fingers, recite, “Due to the water charity flowing from these fingers, may the pitiful migratory beings be able to free their breath” and the Mitukpa mantra OM KAMKANI KAMKANI ROTSANI ROTSANI TROTANI TROTANI TRASANI TRASANI PRATIHANA PRATIHANA SARVA KARMA PARAM PARA NIME SARVA SATTVA N�NYTSA SOHA seven times.

The nectar enters the intermediate state beings’ mouths and immediately relieves them of all their heavy sufferings. They experience inconceivable bliss and generate in their minds the entire path to enlightenment.

“Due to this water charity, may the mental continua of the King of the Nagas, The Joyful One, The Near-Joyful One and so forth, the Owner of All Water, landlords and all other sentient beings be adorned by the thought of pure charity, become the supreme meaning of the yoga of pure enjoyment and be quickly enlightened.” With this prayer, offer water charity to the nagas.


“Due to the power of my pure attitude, the blessings of the one Gone As It Is and the sphere of Dharma (profound emptiness), in order to make offerings to all transcendent beings and to benefit all sentient beings, may all my intentions happen instantly, without resistance.”

With your right hand in the mudra of revealing Dharma, recite, “All the causes and the dharmas that arise from these causes have been explained by the one Gone As It Is. Everything that ceases these causes has been taught by the great one in the training in virtue.”

Then recite The Heart Sutra in full or its essence: “The inexpressible, inconceivable Wisdom Gone Beyond, unborn, unceasing, only in the nature of sky, is the object to be perceived by discerning, self-recognizing wisdom. To the Mother of the Victorious Ones of the three times, I prostrate.” Then recite the mantra of the perfection of wisdom, TAYATHA OM GAT� GAT� PARAGAT� PARASAMGAT� BODHI SOHA, three times.

Think that all sentient beings of the six realms understand the meaning of the mantra, generate the entire Mahayana path and its result in their mental continua, ripen and gain liberation.

While reciting, “And thus, O venerable compassionate gurus, I seek your blessings that all karmic debts, obstacles and sufferings of mother beings may, without exception, ripen upon me right now, and that I may give my happiness and virtue to others, thereby investing all beings in bliss,” three times, take into the center of your own heart the suffering and its cause of all samsaric sentient beings and give them your own happiness and merit.

Then recite, “Should even the environment and the beings therein be filled with the fruits of their karmic debts and undesired sufferings pour down like rain, I seek your blessings to take these miserable conditions as a path by seeing them as causes to exhaust the results of my negative karma.”


Dedicate the merits with the intense understanding that you yourself, the action and the object of charity are all merely labeled by the mind; that nothing in the slightest exists from above the object; and that in name, cause and result, dependent arising is unbetraying.

Thinking of the meaning of the words, slowly recite the following:

“Due to all these merits, may the holy enlightened beings be the guide and refuge of the pitiful sentient beings, who suffer because of contaminated cause and have no guide or refuge.

“Due to the merits accumulated in the three times and the merit of my having done this practice, may I become the holy guide and refuge for all pitiful migratory beings.

“For all the narak beings tormented by heat, may I become rain and protect them with coolness. For all the narak beings suffering from cold, may I become the supreme sun eliminating torment.

“May I become oceans of food and drink of a hundred tastes and give breath to all the pretas.

“May I become the sublime light eliminating the darkness of ignorance of those used for work and food (animals).

“May I become armor for those who suffer jealousy, quarrel and receive rainfalls of arrows (asuras).

“And may I become the stable ship liberating those for whom the tidal wave of death means downfall (suras).

“To those attacked by the intense contagious diseases of terrifying rebirth, old age, sickness and death, may I become the supreme medicine eliminating all disease of disturbing thoughts.

“To those with poverty of merit and no means of living, may I become the great treasure granting all wishes.

“To those tormented by separation from relatives and friends, may I become steadfast relatives and friends.

“In all my lifetimes may I be able to receive a perfect body with freedoms and richnesses, and hold the virtuous friend, the wish-granting jewel, on my crown. By entering the boat of listening, reflecting and meditating, may I go to the land of the three kayas.

“I dedicate the merits of having done this practice to accomplish every single prayer and action of the Ones Gone to Bliss and the bodhisattvas of the three times, and to cause the holy Dharma of scriptural understanding and realization to be upheld.

“Due to this, in all my lifetimes may I never be separated from the four wheels of the supreme vehicle [residing in places where enlightened beings are present and you have facilities for Dharma practice such as food and teachings; having a guru; accomplishing your past vows; and already having a great accumulation of merit] and complete the principles of the path—the determination to be free, the thought of enlightenment, perfect view and the two stages.”

It is said that it is more difficult to meet the sutra and tantra teachings of Lama Tsong Khapa, which are refined with the three analyses, than it is to find a perfect human body, receive many hundreds of thousands of times the wealth of Brahma, Indra, wheel-turning kings and so forth, meet the teachings of the buddha, or be born in the special buddha field of Pure Sky Enjoyment (Dagpa Kach�). Therefore, the reliable holy beings of the past say with one voice that it is extremely important to pray to meet these teachings. There are elaborate prayers for this, but here is a condensed one written by the Fifth Dalai Lama:

“May I and all others be able to live lives of pure moral conduct, like Lama Tsong Khapa himself, train our minds in bodhicitta and live in pure view and conduct. In this way may we be able to complete our lives without corrupting the pure wisdom of the Second Buddha’s teachings.”


Translated by Lama Zopa Rinpoche in Sydney, Australia, October, 1991. Originally transcribed and lightly edited by Vens. Tenzin Tsapel and Ailsa Cameron and first published in Mandala, October, 1992, and April, 1993. Edited for this book by Nicholas Ribush using material from the teaching at Madison, Wisconsin.


There is a very simple practice of making charity of water to pretas that can be done anywhere, but is extremely beneficial for them. It is especially good to do when you go to the beach; there is so much water there that you can do the practice all day long. Just take along a big jug or watering can, bless the water and make charity of it to the pretas.

You can do this practice with Chenrezig, Buddha of Compassion, or Tara. She herself taught it to the great yogi, Tagpu Dorje Chang, who often saw Tara and received directly from her the initiation and entire teaching of the Highest Yoga Tantra path of Cittamani Tara, which mentions that Tara advised that this practice of offering water to the pretas be done.

Even if you have not received Tara initiation, you can still do this practice with Tara; just don’t visualize yourself in her aspect. Otherwise, generate yourself as Tara.

Fill a container with water and visualize Tara on the water with her mantra at her heart. Invoke the wisdom beings, who absorb into Tara and become non-dual. Then invoke the empowering deities, who bestow the initiation. Make offerings and give praise to Tara.

Now recite one or more malas of the Tara mantra. Visualize that from the ten directions, the blessings of all buddhas and bodhisattvas in the form of nectar beams [beams of light together with streams of nectar] absorb into the mantra at Tara’s heart. Nectar flows down from the mantra through Tara’s holy body to mix with and bless the water in the container.

After the recitation, Tara melts into light and absorbs into the water, becoming oneness with it. If you have visualized yourself as Tara, emanate numberless Taras to fill the whole earth. Around each Tara are numberless pretas with flames coming from the mouth. Nectar flows into the mouths of the pretas from the right hand of each Tara, immediately putting out the flames and completely purifying the pretas. While visualizing this, recite the mantra that dedicates the nectar to the pretas enabling them to receive it: OM TAR� TUTTAR� TUR� SARVA PRETA BHYAH SOHA.

Through your making water charity like this, the pretas receive inconceivable benefit. They are liberated from the lower realms and receive the body of a happy transmigrator or are born in a pure realm. This water charity makes a huge difference to them. It stops their lives of unbelievable suffering and enables them to receive happy rebirths. It is a very simple practice but brings the pretas these unbelievable benefits. And that’s not even mentioning the benefits received by the person doing this practice, which is actually part of a bodhisattva’s practice of charity. As well as making material charity of the water, by reciting the mantra, you are also making Dharma charity.

Making charity of water is also a practice of the tantric vows, the samayas of the five dhyani buddhas. It is part of the practice of the morality of working for sentient beings, which is one of the three moralities of the Vairocana samaya, and includes the four types of charity— material, fearlessness, Dharma and loving kindness—of the samaya of Ratnasambhava. (By doing this practice motivated by the wish that all pretas be happy, you make it the charity of loving kindness.)

You can also bless the water by reciting the mantras of the deities that purify the causes of the lower realms, such as Chenrezig, Medicine Buddha and Milarepa. Recite the mantra and blow on the water.

The reason I have explained this practice is that it is something we can add to our lives without much extra effort. Since you are going to the beach, lake or pool anyway, even if you are going for your own pleasure, doing this practice once you get there gives meaning to your having gone. No matter how far you’ve traveled to get to that water, how long, expensive or difficult your journey, using that trip as a means of practicing Dharma and benefiting others gives great meaning to all the time, effort and expense involved.

This practice is unbelievably important for the happiness of the pretas and, just by the way, becomes the cause of our own greatest success— of our enlightenment, the greatest possible success; liberation from samsara; and the temporal success of this life, such as wealth and so forth. It brings success in this and future lives.


This teaching by Lama Zopa Rinpoche was originally edited by Ven. Ailsa Cameron and first appeared in Mandala, April, 1992.  

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