In response to increasing interest in the study and practice of Highest Yoga Tantra, many
highly qualified Tibetan lamas have given teachings and initiations into the mandalas of
Highest Yoga tantric deities throughout the world. They strongly emphasize that the best way
to make these teachings meaningful is to put them into practice through meditation. This
retreat manual is presented here in order to enable people to do these meditations, as well
as to dispel misconceptions about tantric practices.
This important deity Vajrabhairava, with its five unique features is widely acclaimed as a
crucial practice for our degenerate times. Therefore, those who have trained in the common
paths and received the initiation of Vajrabhairava should be encouraged to do the retreat of
this deity as often as possible and wherever possible, and to integrate this retreat
practice into ordinary life. For this purpose, these instructions, given by Kyabje
Phabongkha (1878-1941) to a cabinet minister in the midst of his pressing governmental
duties, seem highly relevant to the busy lives of Dharma practitioners in these times:
In order to make the retreat practice complete, an extensive sadhana of the Solitary Hero
Vajrabhairava is included here, as well as other relevant materials for the accomplishment
of the retreat. The texts have been clearly presented in English so that people with the
necessary qualifications may understand the procedures of this practice, of this practice,
to achieve the supreme goal.
The Buddhist tradition repeatedly stresses that the true value of such teaching and
initiations can only be derived if they are actually put into practice. To do this
adequately, both now and in the past people have relied not only on oral explanations of
their lamas, but also on books, especially in relation to the practice of tantra. However,
while there has lately been a profusion of translations of Buddhist works in general, there
are still few reliable books concerning tantra. This is undoubtedly due to the complexity of
the subject on the one hand and on the other to a natural caution about publicizing matters
that have traditionally been kept secret. Nevertheless, as His Holiness the Dalai Lama has
advised, the grave misunderstandings to which tantra is often subject are more harmful than
partial lifting is often of such secrecy, so there is a necessity for books to be made
available which contain authentic explanations.
LTWA is therefore pleased to be able to publish Meditation on Vajrabhairava, a manual by
Kyabje Phabongkha Dechen Nyingpo, a prominent master of the first half of this century,
which explains in meticulous detail how to undertake the retreat of the Meditational deity
how to undertake the retreat of the Meditational deity Vajrabhairava. Also included are on
annotated translations of the sadhana, Victory over Evil, as well as various supplementary
rituals. The translations are to be commended for their efforts to present the material in a
way that is clear and easy to use in practice. Sharpa Tulku, who was an early member of
LTWA's translation bureau, continues to put his two decade's experience of translating
Buddhist teachings to good effect, with the assistance here of Richard Guard, and I am
grateful to them both.
Sale and distribution of this book is restricted. We earnestly request that only initiates
into Highest Yoga Tantra and preferably into the system of Vajrabhairava itself should read
it. This caution is customary to the tradition and to disregard it can only be detrimental,
however, responsibility for observing it lies entirely in the hands of the reader. That said
we hope that this book will be of benefit to those serious students interested in practicing
this impeccable path to enlightenment for the welfare of all living beings.
In this time of the five degenerations it is extremely fortunate to have the rare
opportunity to do the Meditational retreat of such an important deity of the Highest Yoga
Tantra, with the five unique features, so those who have received sufficient training in the
common paths and the initiation of Vajrabhairava and who maintain the commitments should be
encouraged to do the retreat of this deity as often as possible and wherever possible, and
to integrate this retreat practice into ordinary life. Kyabje Phabongkha sent these
particular retreat the Tibetan government prior to 1959, while the minister was on duty on a
distant place in Tibet. Kyabje Rinpoche gave these instructions so that he could do this
retreat while carrying out his governmental duties. Therefore, it seems especially suitable
to translate this for the benefit of the many who are very interested in doing the retreat
of this deity, while engaged in their careers of this life.
It is very good to do the retreats of these deities, but often, because of the elaborate
procedures mentioned in the retreat instructions, many people are intimidated by the
seemingly complex nature of these practices, and are thus discouraged from actually doing
such retreats. As the lamas in recent times have stressed, in keeping with our present
circumstances, retreats of this kind can be done even while keeping a regular job, by doing
a morning and evening session each day, or at least one session each day. Of course it is
excellent to set aside the time to do a closed retreat with all the restrictions and so
forth, but it is important to recognize that retreats do not have to be such a closed
practice, done only for a certain period of time, once a year. They should be enjoyed and
made a part of everyday life. Therefore, one can do this type of retreat more often than
people usually feel is possible.
One should not be so concerned with every detail of the procedures of retreat according to
the instructions. Many things can be adapted according to the place, time and circumstances,
such as the offerings and so forth. After the completion of the required number of mantra
recitations for the retreat, as long as the continuity of doing the sadhana each day is not
broken, compensating ritual fire offering of peace can be done whenever the time and
It seems to me that many new Buddhist tend to attach an inflated sense of importance to
doing an exclusive retreat, thus cutting off their relationships and ties with family
members and friends, and abandoning their worldly duties, which normally require at least
fifty percent of their attention. It is often the case in doing such a strict retreat that
many people suffer from mental frustration (rlung).
In any case, such a retreat should be done with a sense of strong confidence in the
procedures one is following. One should try to follow the basic instructions as closely as
possible, but it is very important never to doubt anything that one does, and to do
everything with a sense of full confidence and joy. As a retreat is done to enhance one's
own practice, it should never be publicized or boasted about for self-aggrandizement. It is
my hope that this small effort will assist people to find a source of joy in doing many
retreats of this sort.
It is very good that there is an increasing awareness of the practice of this deity, and it
is similarly extremely fortunate that many people have had the opportunity and continue to
receive the initiations into the mandala of glorious Vajrabhairava, and to receive teachings
from many realized lamas, who are still living amongst us.
With growing awareness and strong interest in the study and practice of Vajrabhairava, many
Westerners interested in doing the retreat of this deity have come to me for instructions
for doing the retreat. In addition to harboring a strong desire to compile and translate a
comprehensive retreat manual, I was strongly motivated by the sincere interests of these
students to finally complete such a work.
In order to make the retreat practice complete, an extensive sadhana of the Solitary Hero
Vajrabhairava that was compiled for easy recitation by Kyabje Phabongkha himself is included
here, as well as other relevant materials, found in the appendices, for the accomplishment
of the retreat. This sadhana has been revised and adapted from an existing translation by
Alex Berzin, based on a teaching on Yamantaka given by Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey at the Library
of Tibetan Works and Archives, translated by Sharpa Tulku. The headings and instructions
have been newly added.
While Richard and I have come here to Dharamsala for the summer months to continue working
on the Yamantaka Cycle Translation Project, we have made this our private undertaking, as
the materials in this text are not included in the list of texts for the Project. Although
several retreat manuals have been translated for the project, since it may take some time
before their eventual publication, I was very eager to make a manual like this available as
soon as possible for those who want to do the retreat.
I wish to express my thanks to Ven. Thubten Ngoedrub and Alexander Kocharov, who kindly did
the illustrations, and to Ven. Lhadri jamyang-la, for the cover design.
Through putting these instructions into practice, may everyone quickly attain the state of
Vajrabhairava for the benefit of all living beings. By the force of the merits gained from
this, may there be complete peace and harmony in the world at large.
Sharpa Tulku, V
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