Book Review: Awakening Wisdom – Guidance from the Heart on the Core Practices of Vajrayana Buddhism by Pema Wangyal Rinpoche

- through Francois Leclercq

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In February 2023, Shambhala Publications published a book titled Awakening Wisdom – Guidance from the Heart on the Core Practices of Vajrayana Buddhism by Pema Wangyal Rinpoche. Originally transcribed from his lectures in English in 1989 – aimed at a diverse audience, both newcomers to the Buddha's path and those more familiar with it – into a book in French, then from this book in English, this translation constitutes a valuable companion for those who follow the path of the Buddha. Buddhist path.

From amazon.com

This book – where we feel Rinpoche himself holding our hand and walking with us, neophytes and initiates alike, from the first steps of Buddhist practice to the door to advanced Vajrayana practice – is mainly based on the text by Dudjom Rinpoche, Preliminary practice of the new treasure (Dudjom Tersar Ngöndro) and similar to Words from my perfect teacher by Patrul Rinpoche.

“New Treasure Preliminary Practice” is a specific set of practices within Tibetan Buddhism, associated with a particular treasure or treasure. spa tradition. The Terma are hidden teachings and treasures, concealed by enlightened masters and later revealed by tertons (spiritual discoverers) for the benefit of future generations. Often called “Ngöndro” in Tibetan, these are foundational practices designed to purify the mind and prepare practitioners for advanced Vajrayana practices.

Rinpoche's approach differs from Patrul Rinpoche's lessons because it is culturally neutral, aiming to reach a contemporary European audience, who will have had a very different cultural experience from thirty-five generations of Buddhism.

In this book, the spiritual practices are not new inventions but have been passed down for over 2 years. They were conveyed to Rinpoche by his teachers, Kangyur Rinpoche, Dudjom Rinpoche and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, who also emphasized the importance of healthy skepticism and, wherever possible, personal experience – which Rinpoche advocates when adopting these teachings, and something I completely agree with. Therefore, the practices shared in this book are rooted in practice, not theory, and it encourages readers to explore the practices for themselves.

We are offered a structured journey through Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism, comprising three parts: preparation, basic practices and preliminary practices.

From the beginning, this wonderful little book reminds us of the fleeting nature of our existence and, just as grains of sand slide through the hourglass, our bodies will one day end, marking the end of our chance to awaken in this life. . This reminds us of the vital importance of the nature of our minds. Our thoughts and intentions not only shape the integrity of our actions, but also possess the potential to resonate far beyond ourselves – first placing the proverbial oxygen mask on ourselves so that we can ensure that we can help others, thanks to mirror neurons. we all have in our brains, and even resonating within the complex fabric of the quantum realm itself, in one way or another we influence the experiences of others.

This is done through a practice known as Tonglen in Tibetan. This is a Buddhist meditation practice in which you breathe in the suffering of others, accept it with compassion, and breathe out positive energy and relief to ease their pain. We also have the power to remember that Buddhahood is a potential within us all.

The book highlights the importance of mindfulness and self-awareness, even in everyday environments like our homes, offices, or cars. By practicing various structured postures and breathing techniques, he guides readers to cleanse both the body and mind, expelling negative energies and blockages associated with emotions like hatred, aggression, attachment and 'ignoring. This method, when integrated into daily life, helps cultivate calm, mental clarity and the ability to be present in the moment, making it a valuable tool for personal growth and resolution. Conflicts.

It serves as a manual that will offer practical meditations using visualizations of colored lights and sacred syllables to develop wisdom. It uses five main colors and three syllables (oṃ āḥ hūṃ) to affect different aspects of the body, speech and mind. We are guided to imagine white, red and blue lights spreading blessings and purifying blockages associated with emotions. The colors and syllables correspond to the purification of distressing emotions and have various practical applications, such as energy balance, improving communication and protection against negativity. The syllables, in particular oṃ āḥ hūṃhave a powerful transformative effect, especially when both recited and visualized at the same time, and the practices shared in this book can aid self-healing and also help others when applied regularly.

The book also explores the four topics that lead the mind toward intrinsic freedom: the value of human life, the impermanence of existence, the meaning of conscious actions, and the influence of past actions on present experiences. It discusses the five main poisons that hinder the recognition of fundamental freedom, highlights the transformative power of meditation techniques, and emphasizes how crucial it is to echo the Buddha's teachings against violence – at all levels – emphasizing that negativity cannot lead to positive growth. We must be careful not to be swayed by any advocacy of violence as a spiritual path and instead strive to develop personally towards liberation.

Controversial or not, as we progress through the pages the practices become deeper until Rinpoche also shares some meditations which certainly once were on the precipice of the secret Tantras. However, correct motivations and preparations have been established and these meditations are safely explained, making them blessed inclusions. We are thus introduced to the visualization of deities like Vajrayogini and Padmasambhava, as well as the recitation of the seven-line prayer and the mantra of Guru Vajra.

Pema Wangyal Rinpoche. At shambhala.com

The writing clearly explains practices, postures, visualizations, motivations and reasons, while remaining warm and friendly, contemplative, insightful and yet perfectly concise. And while meditations, visualizations, mantras, and translations fill almost every chapter, Rinpoche effectively conveys complex philosophical concepts in an understandable way, using story, analogies, and examples that enhance the reader's understanding.

This is a book that should be on every practitioner's shelf and should never gather dust. But even for those who don't follow a strict Buddhist path, this book offers thoughts we would all benefit from considering and meditations we would all benefit from practicing.

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Awakening Wisdom – Guidance from the Heart on the Core Practices of Vajrayana Buddhism by Pema Wangyal Rinpoche (Shambhala Publications)

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Francois Leclercq

François Leclercq is the founder of Buddhist News, a website which aims to disseminate information and practical advice on Buddhism and spirituality. François Leclercq was born and raised in Paris. He studied Buddhism at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, where he graduated in social sciences and psychology. After graduating, he devoted himself to his passion for Buddhism and traveled the world to study and learn about different practices. He notably visited Tibet, Nepal, Thailand, Japan and China.

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