How to Direct Your Practice

Advice on the Feast-Offering Accumulation

by Phakchok Rinpoche

The upcoming series of feast-gatherings will be held at the extraordinary sacred site of Asura. The participants performing the offerings will be the sangha of monks, nuns, ngakpas (tantric practitioners) and lay disciples. In terms of the occasion, it will be held on Guru Rinpoche day, the tenth day of the lunar month. The Dharma to be practiced will successively be the Guru Heart Practices of the Dispeller of All Obstacles (Barché Künsel), The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Wishes (Sampa Lhündrup), The Heart-Essence of the Lake-Born One (Tsokyé Nyingtik), The Powerful Vajra Wrath Guru (Guru Dorjé Draktsal) and The Embodiment of All Realization (Chidril Gongpa Kündü), followed by the Yidam practice of Vajrakīlaya (Dorjé Purba) and the Ḍākinī activity of Kurukulle (Pema Khandro).

When offering this feast-gathering, imagine that you are in the extraordinary sacred site of Asura, in the midst of sacred lands. There, visualize that Guru Rinpoche is present in person, as the embodiment of the three kāyas: Samantabhadra and all dharmakāya buddhas; the five family lords and all sambhogakāya deities; and all nirmāṇakāya emanations throughout the three times. All are indivisible from Guru Rinpoche, who emanates every activity without ever wavering from dharmakāya realization—this is how you should visualize and think of him.

In this way, we gather the entire mandala of deities for the offering; we gather all the offering articles; we gather many people together for the recitation, both male and female, monastic and lay from all around the world who form the gathering circle of ḍākas and ḍākinīs. As for the motivation, the best among all motivations is that of bodhicitta, the resolve to attain awakening for the benefit of all beings. In terms of samadhi (meditation), visualizing that the Guru is there in person, we make offerings on the outer, inner, and secret level: Outwardly, we offer all the feast articles and substances that have been prepared. Inwardly, we visualize the entire phenomenal world, the vessel and contents, as the feast-offering, and proffer that. Secretly, trusting the indivisibility of our own minds with Guru Rinpoche, we rest in that recognition if we know how to meditate in this way, and if not, we can just think of the non-duality of mind and wisdom. This is the correct way to engage in feast-gatherings and their associated visualizations.

In particular, these seven times 100,000 accumulations of feast-gatherings are especially being held this year to benefit the world at a trying time. As we face a pandemic as well as social, political, and economic turmoil in much of the world, it is particularly important for practitioners to accumulate merit and dedicate it to all beings so that they may overcome obstacles and receive temporary and ultimate happiness. It is therefore essential to keep in your hearts all those who are currently suffering while setting your motivation at the beginning of the practice and dedicating the merit at the end.

Please keep all these points in mind while performing the feast-gatherings.

Asura Cave

As followers of Buddha Shakyamuni, we make the journey to Bodh Gaya. As followers of Guru Padmasambhava, we go on pilgrimage to the caves of Asura and Yangleshö. So vast was Guru Rinpoche’s attainment here that masters such as Kathok Rikzin Tsewang Norbu (1698–1755) have emphasized that these caves are as important as Bodh Gaya for practitioners of the Vajrayāna. This extraordinary place, the single most sacred site connected with Guru Padmasambhava outside the land of Tibet, lies just beyond the Kathmandu Valley’s southern rim, not far from the village of Pharping. For centuries, devotees have traveled to the two main caves here to offer homage at the site of Guru Rinpoche’s attainment of the siddhi of Mahamudra.

Guru Rinpoche engaged in intensive retreat on two of the eight Kagyé deities (Yangdak Heruka and Vajrakilaya) in two distinct caves. The Lower Cave of Yangleshö, or simply Yangleshö, is located just below the village of Pharping. Asura Cave, or the Upper Cave of Yangleshö, is poised in the thick of a forest on the hill immediately behind Pharping. Guru Rinpoche began his retreat focusing on the deity Yangdak Heruka, a wrathful form of Buddha’s wisdom heart, while at the lower cave of Yangleshö. Later at the Asura Cave, he combined Yangdak Heruka with the practice of Vajrakilaya, a deity associated with the Buddha’s enlightened activity and renowned for the removal of obstacles to awakening. 

Subsequently, Guru Rinpoche compiled, revised, and systematized the Vajrakilaya teachings. As the result of his exceptional scholarly efforts, the Barché Lamsel prayer praises the Mahaguru as the Pandita of Yangleshö, and invokes him as Guru Mawé Sengé, Guru Rinpoche indivisible from the Buddha of Wisdom, Manjushri.