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In Sanskrit, “method” or “technique,” used especially in reference to a tantric ritual designed to receive attainments (siddhi) from a deity. Tantric sädhanas generally take one of two forms. In the first, the deity (which may be a buddha, bodhisattva, or another deity) is requested to appear before the meditator and is then worshipped in the expectation of receiving blessings. In the other type of tantric sädhana, the meditator imagines himself or herseif to be the deity at this very moment, that is, to have the exalted body, speech, and mind of an enlightened being. Tantric sädhanas tend to follow a fairly set sequence, whether they are simple or detailed. More elabo- rate sädhanas may include the recitation of a lineage of gurus; the creation of a protection wheel guarded by wrathful deities to subjugate enemies; the creation of a body m aņdala, in which a pantheon of deities take residence at various parts of the medi- tator’s body, etc. Although there are a great many variations of content and sequence, in many sädhanas, the meditator is instructed to imagine light radiating from the body, thus beck- oning buddhas and bodhisattvas from throughout the universe. Visualizing these deities arrayed in the space, the meditator then performs a series of Standard preliminary practices called the sevenfold Service (saptāńgavidhi), a Standard component of sädhanas. The seven elements are (1) obeisance, (2) offering (often concluding with a gift of the entire physical universe with all its marvels), (3) confession of misdeeds, (4) admiration of the virtuous deeds of others, (5) entreaty to the buddhas not to pass into nirväna, (6) supplication of the buddhas and bodhi sattvas to teach the dharma, and (7) dedication of the merit of performing the preceding toward the enlightenment of all beings. The meditator then goes for refuge to the three jeweis (ratnatraya), creates the aspiration for enlightenment (bodhi- citta; bodhicittotpäda), the promise to achieve buddhahood in order to liberate all beings in the universe from suffering, and dedicates the merit from the foregoing and subsequent practices toward that end. The meditator next cultivates the four “bound- less” attitudes (apramäna) of loving-kindness (maitrI), compas- sion (karunä), empathetic joy (muditä), and equanimity or
impartiality (upeksà), before meditating on emptiness (śünyatā) and reciting the purificatory mantra, om svabhāvaśuddhāh sarvadharmāh svabhāvaśuddho ’ham (“Om, naturally pure are all phenomena, naturally pure am I”), understanding that emp tiness is the primordial nature of everything, the unmoving world and the beings who move upon it. Out of this emptiness, the meditator next creates the maņdala. The next Step in the sädhana is for the meditator to animate the residents of the maņdala by causing the actual buddhas and bodhisattvas, referred to as “wisdom beings” (jńānasattva), to descend and merge with their imagined doubles, the “pledge beings” (samayasativa). Light radiates from the meditator’s heart, draw- ing the wisdom beings to the maņdala where, through offerings and the recitation of mantra, they are prompted to enter the residents of the maņdala. With the preliminary visualization now complete, the stage is set for the central meditation of the sädhana, which varies depending upon the purpose of the sädhana. Generally, offerings and prayers are made to a sequence of deities and boons are requested from them, each time accompanied with the recitation o f appropriate m a n t r a . At the end of the session, the meditator makes mental offerings to the assembly before inviting them to leave, at which point the entire visualization, the palace and its residents, dissolve into emptiness. The sädhana ends with a dedication of the merit accrued to the welfare of all beings.
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