Why do we pray for Enlightened Beings to remain in this world, surely they are always here?

A student writes:

It’s always puzzled me that we pray for Enlightened Beings to remain in this world and not to pass into nirvana, but surely if we believe in the vaster view it makes no difference where they are as by its very nature their Enlightened Mandala* [world, refering to Mandala Principle] will always we working to bring all beings to Awakening?

Lama Shenpen responds:

It’s an interesting question which harks back to the life of the Buddha where Ananda doesn’t take the hint and omits to request the Buddha to remain in this world.  It is a question of tendrel* and I suppose it means dharmata* tendrel here – the structure of mandalas and mandala connections and the power of pranidhanas (powerful aspirational/wishing prayers). 

The Buddha was willing to remain but it required a particular tendrel – the request – to complete the mandala structure for him to continue to manifest in this world.  What he could do was limited by the tendrel and the karma of the beings who formed the mandala of this world.

In other words his manifestation depended on the Five Certainties – a certain time, a certain place, a certain assembly a certain teaching and a certain teacher. It is the same when we ask our teachers to live long and their activity in this world to flourish – by doing that we create a mandala structure in which it is possible for that to happen not only for ourselves to maintain that mandala connection but for all those connected to us to maintain that connection.  By praying that way we empower the mandala of the teacher in that time and place to that assembly.


So if we’re saying for the Mandala to fully express itself the necessary tendrel has to be in place, I can go with that but it the suggests that the Buddha’s Mandala activity in this realm is not as effective as it might have been simply because Ananda or someone else didn’t ask?

Lama Shenpen:

Perhaps a better answer would be: the mandala of the five certainties has to be complete – like a bit of technological equipment. If one small essential connection is not there the whole thing doesn’t work. It is all of a piece – some bits that look big and important might be inessential while one small connection that seems too small to even notice is essential.

*Tendrel (Tib.) (Skt. Nidana) An auspicious connection, sign or link. Good tendrel are indications of good connections between past, present and future events, persons and deeds, and so can be read as predictive signs of auspiciousness. They can also be deliberately forged so as to lead to auspicious situations in the future. Similarly, inauspicious signs (tendrel) are a warning and efforts can be made to avert evil by creating corresponding good tendrel. Sometimes the term is translated as luck because we call auspicious signs lucky.  However in Buddhism the assumption is that the good tendrel have come from our own wholesome actions in the past and so are not simply lucky chance.

*Mandala (Skt., Tib:  dkyil ’khor) – a general term for any structure having a centre and periphery, particularly circular structures. E.g: a sangha with a teacher at the centre. Mandala Principle is the name for the dynamic pattern and structure for everything that happens. Every experience has this structure, all our experiences, physical, psycholocial, emotional, social and spiritual are mandalas. Each moment of experience in our daily life and meditation is a mandala. It’s not a belief but the truth of the dynamic pattern and flow inherent in everything. Mandala Principle is taught as part of the Living the Awakened Heart Training and helps us better to understand our life, our habits and all we are experiencing.

*Dharmata: (Skt.) the true nature of reality, the intrinsic nature of everything, the essence of things as they are.

Lama Shenpen’s students are all studying the Living the Awakened Heart Training – the structured, comprehensive, supported, distance learning programme in Buddhist meditation, reflection and insight. The training, that’s open to all, brings the profound Dzogchen and Mahamudra teachings to a Western audience in an experiential, accessible way, through spiral learning. Find out more and how to join the Awakened Heart Sangha and start your journey to discover the heart of Buddhism at www.ahs.org.uk/training