Make It Nice, Make It Special
..and then stop making it!
We make our practice special to realise our true nature. When we sit to meditate, the place should be nice and special; it should outside the normal business of life. This could be as simple as a cushion and a shelf on which to put a text or book and any image that inspires. So it is nice place to be: I have a special blanket to wrap myself in, and cover my ordinary clothes (and it stops draughts). We never leave spiritual books lying around for others to step over.
In Tibetan Buddhism, we may chant in Sanskrit or Tibetan, both being spiritual languages. These are languages that have been used for hundreds – and even thousands – of years, which not only gives them power, but blessings also. One might regard this as merely psychological, but valuing something as special does have a good effect. These blessing will translate into our own language when the material is understood.
Here is an article about mantras by Thrangu Rinpoche:
Presently, we are reciting all these prayers in Tibetan because these Tibetan words are loaded with very many blessings caused by many, many lamas having practised these texts. So the words convey all the lama’s blessings.
A similar thing happened in Tibet at the beginning of the spreading of Dharma there. The old mantras that came from India were in Sanskrit and they were not translated into Tibetan. This could have been done, but it was felt that the words had a special power of blessing because they had been recited by so many beings who had achieved realization in this way that they contained so much blessing. This was why the mantras such as “OM AH HUNG” or “OM TARA TUT TARA TURE SVAHA” were used.
Although we recite them in Tibetan, we should study their meaning in English (or our local language) so that we can understand the meaning of our practice. However, when we recite the text, we receive the blessing from the words themselves. Sometimes in the future, when people have achieved realisation in the English context of practice, then at that time the English words will also be full of blessing and we can then use English in our practice.
We should try to study these prayers when we are by ourselves. What we can do is take the phonetic transcription and see what part of the English text corresponds to what Tibetan words and try to understand the meaning of what we are doing so that once we begin reciting it in Tibetan, we know the meaning of the words and exactly what these words are describing.
Here, I must add what Jamgon Mipham Rinpoche has to say, because we must never forget the whole point of practice, which is to realise that which cannot be illustrated.
“To elaborate or to examine is nothing but adding concepts.
To make to effort or cultivate is only to exhaust oneself.
To focus or to meditate is but a trap of further entanglement.
May these painful fabrications be cut from within!
“Being beyond thoughts or description, not a thing is seen.
There is, however, nothing extra remaining to be seen.
That is the profound meaning of resolving one’s mind.
May this nature, hard to illustrate, be realised!”
Even if you follow another tradition, it would be beneficial to take the same degree of care.