The practice of reciting mantras as a formal way of practice originates from ancient India. The Sanskrit word ‘mantra’ literally means mind protection, after ‘manas’ for mind and ‘tram’, which means to protect. Thus, mantras are a sacred verbalized formula recited to enact protection and transformation of the mind.
The use of mantras came from India’s Brahmanic tradition but was adopted by Lord Buddha and incorporated into the Buddhist tradition. As mentioned in the Sutras, mantras form one of the main pillars of practice within the Buddhist Tantras. In fact, the Vajrayana tradition was originally named the Mantrayana tradition or the Mantra vehicle.
Buddhists believe that a fully awakened Buddha is able to emanate in various forms to benefit sentient beings. A Buddha may take on the form of a lama, a student or even emanate in the form of sound. This is the basis for the existence of mantras, and how they are used to invoke the blessings of various yidams and Dharma Protectors. Apart from mantras that are used to invoke the Buddhas, there are also mantras that are used to invoke and express the nature of reality, as taught by the Buddha and other sacred beings. An example of this is the Heart Sutra Mantra, which was spoken by the Buddha and recorded in the Heart Sutra (Prajnaparamita Hridaya Sutra).
Mantras are typically short phrases that incorporate sacred syllables whose meaning cannot be translated literally. Some of the most common syllables that make up a mantra are ‘Om’, usually recited at the beginning of the mantra, and ‘Hum’, ‘Phet’ and ‘Soha’, which are recited at the end of some mantras.
There are also seed-syllable mantras that are not usually recited but are meditated upon when we generate the visualization of the deity. In such visualizations, the syllables OM, AH and HUM are very important because they symbolize the body, speech and mind of the deity. When engaging in the actual practice, the mantras and syllables can be visualized either in alphabets or in Tibetan script.
The Mantra of Dorje Shugden
Mantras form an integral part of the daily prayers to Dorje Shugden, and the actual mantra recitation is accompanied by a simple meditation.
The mantra recitation begins with the prayer below:
From the heart syllable of myself visualized as the yidam, light rays emanate. They strike the HUM syllables and surrounding mantra garlands which, matching each deity in color, stand upon the sun seats at the hearts of Dharmapala Gyalchen Shugden’s five fierce families, exhorting them without choice to perform whatever desired peaceful increasing, powerful, or wrathful activity, without obstruction.
Mantra: OM BENZA WIKI WITRANA SOHA
Visualization for tantric initiates
We start by visualizing that we have transformed into any one of the yidams of the 4 classes of Tantra. This is why the yidam’s sadhana is usually performed prior to the prayers of Dorje Shugden. However, in order to visualize oneself as the Yidam, the practitioner must have already received the appropriate initiation.
Visualization for non-initiates
Non-initiates should visualize Lama Tsongkapa resting on top of their head. In this instance, the practitioner should perform Lama Tsongkapa’s Gaden Lhagyama or Guru Yoga prior to the prayers of Dorje Shugden.
We then visualize Duldzin Dorje Shugden in front of us an arms length away, similar to visualizing Buddha or Tsongkapa during other meditations. Surrounding him are his emanations in the peaceful, increase, control and wrathful forms. We should visualize and belief strongly that Dorje Shugden is one with our lama. This is very important and one should have great faith in this.
Next, we visualize lights going out from Dorje Shugden, materializing various offerings to all the Buddhas in the ten directions. After that, lights flow back from all the Buddhas into the syllable HUM that rests in the heart of Dorje Shugden, the central deity. Surrounding the syllable HUM is Dorje Shugden’s main mantra, Om Benza Wiki Bitana Soha that moves clockwise around the syllable. The syllable HUM is Dorje Shugden’s seed syllable and it represents his awakened mind.
Some of the light branches off and strikes the HUM syllables at the heart of Dorje Shugden’s other emanations. This includes Shize (Vairocana Shugden) who rides upon a gentle elephant and has a white mantra garland moving in a clockwise motion around the syllable HUM at his heart, Gyenze (Ratna Shugden) who rides a divine palomino horse and has a yellow mantra garland moving in a clockwise motion around the syllable HUM at his heart, Wangze (Pema Shugden) who rides a turquoise dragon and has a red mantra garland moving in a clockwise motion around the syllable HUM at his heart, and Trakze (Karma Shugden) who rides a powerful Garuda and has a dark red mantra garland moving in a clockwise motion around the syllable HUM at his heart.
More about the detailed iconography of Dorje Shugden’s emanations here: http://www.dorjeshugden.com/introduction/mandala/dorje-shugdens-five-families/
From the heart of the five emanations of Dorje Shugden, the corresponding colored light flows forth and enters the crown of your head, filling your body with bright golden wisdom light and blessing you. This is a request for Dorje Shugden to perform pacifying, increasing, controlling and wrathful activities. During this time, you can also visualize your body being healed, and your mind gaining the power to easily understand the Dharma and gaining attainments. You should also visualize your prayers and requests being fulfilled by Dorje Shugden.
The visualization described above is a general visualization that is safe for all practitioners to use.
What Does Dorje Shugden’s Mantra Mean?
Ven. Geshe Kelsang Gyatso gave this explanation about the meaning of Dorje Shugden’s mantra.
- The first syllable OM refers to physical aspect of Dorje Shugden. Therefore, the recitation of this syllable is likened to calling upon Dorje Shugden.
- The second syllable of BENZA (or Vajra) represents Dorje Shugden’s true adamantine nature, which is the union of bliss and emptiness of Je Tsongkapa and of all the other Buddhas.
- The subsequent five Sanskrit syllables WIKI WITRANA symbolize the five attainments of pacification, increase, control, wrathful methods and supremacy.
- Finally, the last syllable SOHA is a request to bestow requests on the practitioner.
Therefore, the mantra is actually a request to Dorje Shugden – “O Dorje Shugden, please bestow the pacifying, increasing, controlling, wrathful, and supreme attainments.”
How to recite Dorje Shugden’s mantra
Dorje Shugden’s mantra can be recited as a standalone practice or ideally, as part of the daily prayer to Dorje Shugden, and can be recited in counts of 3, 7, 21, 108 or more.
The recitation of mantras is usually done with a set of prayer beads (mala in Sanskrit). The mala comprises of 108 beads (representing the 108 volumes of the complete collection of Lord Buddha’s teachings) with 3 additional counter beads to facilitate the mantra count. The mala is generally held in the right hand; however those who are practicing or intend to receive the practice of Heruka Chakrasamvara or Vajrayogini should hold the mala in the left hand.
The mala is usually placed over the index finger and with each recitation of the mantra, a single mala bead is pulled towards the direction of the practitioner with the thumb of the hand holding the mala. The finger on which the mala is placed reflects the activity of the deity that the practitioner wishes to invoke upon. The index finger is for peaceful activity, middle finger for increasing, ring finger for controlling and the last finger is for invoking wrathful activity.
Ideally, mantras should be recited in front of one’s shrine while sitting in the meditational posture. The shrine should have the basic offerings laid out or at least with some lit incense to welcome Dorje Shugden. The mantras can also be recited while sitting on a chair or in any comfortable position, with as few distractions as possible. After completing one’s daily prayers and mantras, one can also recite additional mantras while watching TV, while taking a walk or even while exercising. The recitation of additional mantras will create more merit and affinity with Dorje Shugden.
Variations of Dorje Shugden’s Mantra
Dorje Shugden’s main mantra has two authentic variations. The first variation is OM BENZA WIKI WITRANA SOHA, which descends from Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche’s lineage, while the other is OM BENZA WIKI BITANA SOHA, which descends from Kyabje Zong Rinpoche’s lineage. Both variations are valid pronunciations of the mantra and one should recite according to the lineage of one’s preceptor from whom one received the oral transmission of the mantra.
There are many other mantras for each of Dorje Shugden’s emanations and the deities of his mandala, each with a specific purpose, e.g.: for healing, increase, control, peace, protection and more. View the full list here: http://www.dorjeshugden.com/prayers/mantras/mantras/
Whichever mantra we choose to recite, mantra recitation is the ultimate heart practice that purifies one’s negative karma and creates powerful affinity with Dorje Shugden.