In my previous post, I introduced you the FOUR DHARMAKAYA RELIC MANTRAS, now allow me to introduce you to another very powerful Buddhist amulet called – LAMA ATISHA PROTECTION AMULET.
This is said to be one of the most powerful protection amulet in Buddhism. According to Lama Zopa Rinpoche, simply seeing or touching a copy of the said amulet will bring a person tremendous protection against physical harm.
It functions like that of the scapular for Catholics. If a person has this on his body at that time of his or her death, it is guaranteed that he or she will have a good rebirth and will be saved from the lower realms. If displayed inside the house or office, one will be saved from bad influences of other people and it will help create harmony. It is also very good to have this amulet if one is in the hospital, to protect a person from the yin chi of the hospital, and it will also prevent you from getting the attention of the lost souls. Thus, it is also a very good amulet to have to wear when one is going to a funeral or cemetery.
I don’t have a personal story or story that I heard first hand about the LAMA ATISHA PROTECTION AMULET, but one of the most popular story associated by the LAMA ATISHA PROTECTION AMULET, and is widely accepted by the different Buddhist traditions is a story that happened fairly recently. It was suppose to have happened to a young Tibetan man and his family.
As you all know, China has invaded Tibet and a lot of people they are either doing some ethnic cleansing or is slowly erasing the cultures and traditions of the Tibetan who are still in Tibet. The man’s name is Tenzin Choejor ( the truth is Tenzin is a fairly common Tibetan boy’s name because it means ‘holder of Buddhist doctrines’, and the current Dalai Lama’s name himself is Tenzin. I was told that Choezor is not a family name but it is a second name, which means Dharma Wealth. From the name of the man, it can be concluded that his parents are devout Buddhist, but this is not unique because most Tibetans are devout Buddhist.)
Tenzin Choejor’s family is one of the many Tibetans who’ve experienced oppression in Tibet. He was born after the 14th Dalai Lama has fled to Tibet to escape the Chinese oppression, so it can be said that he has never experienced true freedom. He has always long for to escape the Chinese oppression of Tibet but has not dared to do it because all his family are in Tibet. However, his perspective changed when he got married and started to have his own family.
It is said that Tenzin Choejor has planned to escape with his parents, but in a country ruled by oppression and where paranoia is really high, the government soon found out about his plan to escape. It is said that it was possible that another relative or a friend squealed on him. Like most Tibetans who plan to escape or oppose the Chinese government, he was tortured and separated from his family and was put to hard labor for several years. Upon his release, he find it hard to start a new life, because he was considered as an ‘ex-convict’ and even fellow Tibetans who took pity on him will not hire him because they’re afraid that they might earn the ire of the Chinese government. This is when he realized and decided that the only way for him to survive and take care of his family is if they escape Tibet. This time, however, Tenzin Choejor is more careful and he only confided to his father, who told him to ask for the blessing of his grandfather, his father’s uncle, for a blessing because it will be a long journey, a very difficult one, and if caught they might be killed on the spot or if they’re not caught they might die of freezing in the mountains. His father also cautioned him to think again of his plans because Tenzin Choejor’s children then aged 10 and 7 might not survive the trip. However, Tenzin Choejor knew that’s the only way for them to have a better life, and he thought it is better to risk their lives that forever live under the Chinese oppression.
Tenzin Choejor great uncle is one of the few monks left in Tibet who has personally met the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, and because he is monk in a place under Chinese rule, it is expected that he is very poor. So he has nothing to offer Tenzin Choejor but the blessing that Tenzin Choejor seeks from him. He performed some Buddhist protection ritual, which was improvised to adjust to their situation, but then took Tenzin Choejor aside to tell him that there is one thing that he would like to give Tenzin Choejor.
He told Tenzin Choejor that he believe that the only reason he was able to escape the Chinese’s physical oppression, unlike most monks, is because of an amulet that he has kept for a long time. He told Tenzin Choejor that he believes that the amulet is one of the reasons that he remained alive under the hands of the Chinese communist government. He then gave Tenzin Choejor a leather cloth where the image of LAMA ATISHA PROTECTION AMULET is printed. He told Tenzin Choejor that the amulet would keep his family safe. It is said that Tenzin Choejor initially refused to accept the amulet, but his great uncle insisted and told him that he has no need for the amulet because of his old age and that he is ready to part with his body.
Tenzin Choejor then proceeded to escape Tibet. It must be noted that after the initial exodus of Tibetans from Tibet, the Chinese communist government has intensified border security, making it harder for all Tibetan planning to go to exile to leave Tibet. There is no exact statistics as to how many people have been killed or captured and tortured just because the seek a better life. Tenzin Choejor armed with determination and faith in his ‘religion’ decided to set out on an escape with his wife and two young children.
On his way to India, Tenzin Choejor encountered several problems, but somehow they manage to get away with it. Among these two things are an encounter with a Chinese soldiers and a fight against nature.
First, on their escape, they literally came across some Chinese soldiers, and because of fatigue and coldness because of the freezing snow, he and his wife noticed them a little too late. They came across two drunken Chinese soldiers, and was almost apprehended, in fact, a gun was already pointed at them. Should the soldiers decided to shoot at them, the soldiers won’t get reprimanded because there is a standing order to shoot to kill all people who are trying to escape. Fearing for the life of his family, Tenzin Choejor used his body to block his wife and kids, and instinctively touched the LAMA ATISHA PROTECTION AMULET given to him by his great uncle and started to call on the Buddhas. According to their testimony, Tenzin Choejor’s wife didn’t know where he mustered her courage to talk to the soldiers.
Tenzin Choejor’s wife knows how to speak Chinese, being born and raised under the Chinese communist government; Chinese has been her second language. Tenzin Choejor knows the language also but because he grew up in the countryside he understands it better than he can speak. His wife on the other hand knows how to speak it but not fluently either. But she managed to address the soldiers and pretend that she is Chinese, and when asked why Tenzin Choejor’s himself doesn’t speak she told them that her husband is deaf – mute. There are many loopholes to her cover, like how can she explain their looks and what are they doing in the mountain, but because it was dark and maybe because the Chinese soldiers were drunk they let them go. Tenzin Choejor believes that it is because of LAMA ATISHA PROTECTION AMULET.
The second ordeal was when they were in the mountain, Tenzin Choejor’s second child got really ill. Without medicine all Tenzin Choejor and his wife can do are to call on the help of the Buddhas. Tenzin Choejor decided to take off the amulet and placed it on top of his son’s body. Needless to say, the son got healed.
After weeks of travelling in the mountain they finally got to the border of Tibet and India, where they plan to go in exile and seeks the Dalai Lama’s protection. But little did they know that India besieged by thousands and thousand of Tibetan exiles and without a place to put them has made it harder for Tibetans to go inside their country. Though they don’t understand each other, Tenzin Choejor understands the problem with their facial and body language. He started to touch the amulet again and hope for the best. Soon they were met by a Tibetan who took their story. Three days after they were put on a holding area, luckily with food, they were told that they could stay in India.
According to Tenzin Choejor, and these were acknowledge by the highest ranking lamas, it was because of the LAMA ATISHA PROTECTION AMULET that Tenzin Choejor and his family survived the ordeal.
But who is LAMA ATISHA?
For that allow me to share his story using Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s own words. The following was lifted from the archive of FPMT.
Having a little bit of understanding of the life story of Atisha is very beneficial for our mind, so we can try to understand the teaching he wrote. By understanding Atisha’s life story and how he practiced Dharma and achieved realizations, devotion arises and we can feel that his teaching is most precious and pure. 1
Actually it is a very long life story, and it is divided into three parts. In order to have some idea about the great bodhisattva Atisha and how he benefited sentient beings, there are stories about his birth, his home, his birthplace and his early life. The stories explain how he achieved great knowledge and realizations with that holy body. Then after achieving the knowledge and realizations of the path, he benefited the teachings and helped sentient beings— he led the disciples and sentient beings to happiness.
Atisha’s birthplace was in Bengal, India. He was born as a prince and his family was extremely wealthy. He was surrounded by servants and workers, and there were 100,000 people just in his palace. The palace had thirteen golden roofs and 25,000 golden banners on the top, and there were also many pools, like in the West. At the palace there were 25,000 pools and beautiful parks, gardens of beautiful flowers that people could enjoy, seven bridges, and special trees that only grow in India.
When Atisha was three, he became an expert in general education—in astrology, letters, the brahmas, these things. He also became expert in discriminating the inner and outer being, so his parents wanted him very badly to take the place of the king. They tried very hard, but after some time he left with 300 horses, disguised as an army going to fight.
Many people went into the forest with Atisha to seek the guru. He took many teachings on refuge and bodhicitta, and then the guru sent him home to check up and try to understand the suffering of life. This happened three times. He came back, the guru sent him to another guru, and that guru sent him home to check up on the shortcomings of worldly life. His parents tried very hard to have him marry and take the place of a king. They invited all the beautiful women of the country to a party, and let them all dance around, but it didn’t work.
Atisha explained, “ There is no difference for my mind between this palace and a prison. There is no difference between beautiful, expensive clothes and the torn cloth in the garbage. There is no difference between delicious food and dog meat and pus. There is no difference between princesses and mara women—devil women.” Why devil women? Because they transform into beautiful bodies and cheat us. His parents listened to him.
Atisha followed 157 gurus perfectly and received many teachings, initiations and Vajrayana teachings. Once, while he was at home, Tara, the female aspect of Buddha, instructed him in a dream not to be attached to the samsaric happiness of worldly life. After this, Atisha went to see his guru. Then one day, after receiving many initiations, he thought, “There is no Vajrayana teaching left that I don’t know. I have become the most learned.” He felt a little bit of pride. That night, he had a dream that many female dakinis— transformations of buddhas who have high realizations of tantra—showed him many Vajrayana texts that he had never seen before. This made him lose his feelings of pride.
Atisha wanted to receive Mahamudra realization in his lifetime, by living in Vajrayana conduct. One of his gurus, Rahula, suddenly realized with his psychic power that Atisha was thinking this. Without any resistance, Rahula appeared in front of Atisha and instructed him, “What are you doing, forgetting all the sentient beings by leaving them? Take ordination and do great work for the teachings. This will be greatly beneficial for the teachings.” So, Atisha took ordination when he was twenty-nine years old. He was persuaded to do so by his guru and also by the buddha’s female aspect, Tara, Guru Shakyamuni Buddha, Maitreya Buddha and many other buddhas and Vajrayana deities such as Heruka, in his dreams.
After some time, when he was going around the Bodhgaya stupa—the temple in India, the most holy place where Guru Shakyamuni Buddha received enlightenment— above the stupa, in space, he saw the transformation of a young woman asking an old woman a question. At that time Atisha was concerned with quickly receiving enlightenment, and in space the young woman was asking the old woman, “What path should we practice in order to quickly receive enlightenment?” The old woman said, “Train the mind in love and compassion, in bodhicitta.”
Again, when Atisha was going around the stupa, there were paintings on the walls that talked to each other. One painting asked the other what path we should follow to reach enlightenment quickly, and the other answered, “Train the mind in love and compassion, and bodhicitta.”
Again, when Atisha was going around near Nagarjuna’s caves, he saw the statues of Buddha communicating, saying, “Train the mind in love and the compassionate thought, bodhicitta.” There was one ivory statue, and it said, “Yogi, if you want to quickly receive enlightenment, train the mind in love and compassion, and the thought of bodhicitta.” Many statues spoke like this.
Atisha went to see Guru Serlingpa, and he spent about twelve years taking the complete teachings on bodhicitta. In the presence of Guru Serlingpa, he received the actual realization of bodhicitta. Then Lama Serlingpa predicted that he should go to Tibet, the northern snow land.
At that time, there was a lot of degeneration of the teachings in Tibet. The people did not know how to practice the teachings, and they were confused about the practice of sutra and tantra together. The king of Tibet, Lha Lama Yeshe Ö, sent twenty-one boys to India to study Dharma and all of them except two died from the heat. These two came back to Tibet and told the king that everyone was talking about Atisha, the pandit, and that they should invite him to Tibet to help. These two translators’ names were Rinchen Sangpo and Legshey.
As soon as Lha Lama Yeshe Ö, the king of Tibet, heard the name of Atisha, incredible devotion arose in his mind, and he decided to invite Atisha to Tibet. He sent many gold offerings to India to invite Atisha, but it didn’t work. Then afterwards, he went himself to find gold for Atisha, and he was captured and put in the prison by an irreligious king who didn’t want the spread of Dharma in Tibet.
King Lha Lama Yeshe Ö’s nephew, Jangchub Ö, came to see him in prison. The irreligious king told Jangchub Ö, “I won’t free your uncle until you find gold the size of his body.” So, Jangchub Ö found enough gold to reach up to his neck, but still the irreligious king was not satisfied. He said, “If you don’t bring gold the size of his head, I won’t let him be free from prison.” Again, Jangchub Ö went to his uncle, the king of Tibet, and explained all these things.
The imprisoned king of Tibet, Lha Lama Yeshe Ö, explained to his nephew that since a lot of gold was offered to the irreligious king and he was still not satisfied, Jangchub Ö should not offer this king even one handful of gold. King Lha Lama Yeshe Ö said he was now very old and did not have long to live, and it would be more beneficial for his nephew, Jangchub Ö, to take the gold. He said to Jangchub Ö, “I don’t care if I die in prison. Take all this gold and ask Atisha to come to Tibet and spread the Dharma.” Then the king sent a message to Atisha through his nephew, saying, “I gave up my life to invite you to Tibet. Please guide me with your compassion. What I have in my mind is only for you to come to Tibet and spread the teachings.”
The imprisoned king sent the message with Jangchub Ö with a suffering, frantic voice, and then he passed away in prison. His nephew sent a translator with many gold offerings to invite Atisha, but the kings and abbots of India wanted Atisha to stay there. Finally, Atisha received permission and he came secretly to Tibet and helped spread the Dharma there. According to his teachings, he wrote the Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment there.
Atisha spread the pure Mahayana teaching like the rising sun, and all conflict, ignorance, and wrong conceptions were destroyed. His text was translated into English by some Tibetan lamas and other translators. I am reading the translation of this teaching because it is extremely beneficial. It is so short. Atisha did great work and brought so much benefit to India and Tibet. In India he destroyed many followers of other religions, wrong paths and wrong conceptions. He did great work.
These days, many young people from the West have the chance to hear the teachings and to understand and practice these meditations on the gradual path to enlightenment. They can find satisfaction in their lives, and they can make their lives meaningful and happy. They integrate it in their own mind, and they understand that there is a chance to make their lives meaningful. All these things are due to the kindness of Atisha, the great bodhisattva.
This great bodhisattva, Atisha, lived in discipline, and had the realization of moral conduct. He kept the 253 precepts purely, and on the basis of that, the bodhisattva’s precepts, the moral conduct precepts and the Vajrayana precepts. He had unshakeable, firm, one-pointed concentration that could last for years—even if hundreds of rockets were flying nearby they couldn’t disturb or shake his meditation. He had perfect realization of shunyata, the absolute nature, and he achieved high tantric realizations, seeing himself in the form of deities.
Atisha had high tantric realization without projections, and he did not see ordinary places—we see an ordinary house built of mud or cement, an impure place, but Atisha had only pure projections and pure view, and he always saw the view of the mandala of the deities. He had high Vajrayana realizations and he was able to transform even kaka into nectar and poison into medicine.
We can meditate like this to increase devotion to Atisha’s teachings. We can do checking meditation according to that. We may find it difficult at the beginning of the subject, and it may take time to understand, but by checking and understanding more and more the various meditations and teachings, gradually it will become clear within our mind.
Please note that Choejor is also spelled as Choezor and that the story from the archive of FPMT is part of Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s teaching of the life and work of Lama Atisha at 9th Kopan Course in 1976.