In TRUE BOOKS by Erik Pema Kunsang53 Comments

While strolling down the main boulevard in Shigatse, the home of the Panchen Lamas, in 1987, I see only a few people and almost no cars. Tibet has just opened up for foreign travellers and back-packers some months before. Standing on the pavement, perusing the items displayed on makeshift tables in the market stalls, my eyes had suddenly fallen on a tiny text. The print is on handmade-parchment, fashioned in the age-old style of inked woodcarving. It is a revelation from many hundred years back, and its Tibetan title means Refined Essence of Oral Instructions. It contains the parting words of Padmasambhava as he is just about to leave Tibet, the master who is admired and loved throughout the Himalayan countries and now all over the world as being the main teacher of Vajrayana Buddhism. My breath stops and my heart skips a beat. The words are like hearing him speak to you in person. I buy two copies without hesitation. 

Homage to the master.
Lady Tsogyal of Kharchen served the nirmanakaya Orgyen Padmakara from her eighth year, accompanying him like a shadow follows a body. When the master was about to leave Tibet for the land of the rakshas, I, Lady Kharchen, having offered a mandala of gold and turquoise and having arranged a tantric feast, a wheel of gathering, implored:

Great master! You are leaving to tame the rakshas. I am left behind here in Tibet. Although I have served you for a long time, master, this old woman has no confidence about the time of death. So I beseech you to kindly give me an instruction condensing all teachings into one, which is concise and easy to practice.

The great master replied: Devoted one with a faithful and virtuous mind, listen to me. Although there are many profound key points of body, rest free and relaxed as you feel comfortable. Everything is included in simply that.
Although there are many key points of speech such as breath control and mantra recitation, stop speaking and remain like a mute. Everything is included in simply that.
Although there are many key points of mind such as concentrating, relaxing, projecting, dissolving and focusing inward, everything is included in simply letting it rest in its natural state, free and easy, without fabrication. But the mind doesn’t remain quietly in that state.

You may wonder, is mind nothing? It still shimmers and flashes forth, like haze in the heat of the sun. You may wonder, is it something? It has no color or shape to identify it but is utterly empty and completely awake. That is the nature of your mind.
Having recognized it as such, to become certain about it, that is the view. To remain undistracted in the state of stillness, without fabrication or fixation, that is the meditation. In that state, to be free from clinging or attachment, accepting or rejecting, hope or fear, towards any of the experiences of the six senses, that is the conduct.

Whatever doubt or hesitation occurs, mentally call on your master for help. Don’t remain in places of ordinary people, practice in seclusion. Give up your clinging to whatever you are most attached to as well as to whomever you have the strongest bond with in this life, and practice. Like that, although your body remains in human form, your mind is equal to the buddhas’.

At the time of dying, you should practice as follows. When the earth element dissolves into water, the body becomes heavy and cannot support itself. When the water element dissolves into fire, the mouth and nose dry up. When the fire element dissolves into wind, body heat disappears. When the wind element dissolves into consciousness, you cannot but exhale with a rattle and inhale with a gasp.
Next you feel as if being pressed down by a huge mountain, being trapped within darkness, or being dropped into the expanse of space. All these experiences are accompanied by thunderous and ringing sounds. The whole sky is vividly bright like an unfurled brocade.

Now within a dome of rainbow lights the natural forms of your mind, the peaceful, wrathful, semi-wrathful deities and the ones with various heads begin to fill the sky. Some brandish weapons and utter “Beat! beat!” “Kill! kill!” “Hung! Hung!” “Phat! Phat!” and other fierce sounds. There is light like a hundred thousand suns shining at once. At this time, your innate deity will remind you of awareness saying, Don’t be distracted! Don’t be distracted! Your innate demon will disturb all your experiences, make them collapse and utter sharp and fierce sounds and confuse you.

At this point, know this: The feeling of being pressed down is not that of being pressed by a mountain. It is your own elements dissolving. Don’t be afraid of that! The feeling of being trapped within darkness is not a darkness. It is your five sense faculties dissolving. The feeling of being dropped into the expanse of space is not being dropped. It is your mind without support because your body and mind have separated and your breathing has stopped.

All the experiences of rainbow lights are the natural manifestations of your mind. The peaceful and wrathful forms are the natural forms of your mind. All sounds are your own sounds. All lights are your own lights. Have no doubt about that. If you do feel doubt, it throws you back into samsara. Resolve all this to be self-display, and when you then remain wide awake in luminous emptiness, simply in that you will attain the three kayas and awaken to enlightenment. Even if someone then cast you into samsara, you won’t go there.

The innate deity means undistracted presence of mind which right now arrests your thinking. From this moment, the most important point is rid this mind of hope and fear, clinging and fixation, toward the objects of your six sense faculties as well as to fascination, joy and sadness. If you already now become stable in this, you will be able to reassume your natural state in the bardo and awaken to enlightenment. The most vital point is therefore to sustain your practice undistractedly from this very moment.

The innate demon is your present tendency for ignorance, your doubt and hesitation. Whatever frightful phenomena appear at that time, such as sounds, colors and lights, don’t be fascinated, don’t doubt and don’t be afraid. Falling into doubt for even a moment, will cause you to wander into samsara, so gain complete stability.

Next you may experience the entrances to a womb in the form of celestial palaces. Don’t be attracted to them. Be certain of that! Be free from hope and fear! I swear there is no doubt that you will then become enlightened without taking further rebirths.
When this happens, it is not that you are helped by a buddha, because your awareness is primordially enlightened. It is not that you can be harmed by a hell, because fixation is naturally cleared away, fear of samsara and hope for nirvana are cut from the root. Becoming enlightened can be compared to water cleared of sediments, gold cleansed of impurities or the sky cleared of clouds.

Having realized space-like dharmakaya for the benefit of oneself, you will accomplish the welfare of sentient beings as far as space pervades. Having attained sambhogakaya and nirmanakaya for the welfare of others, you will benefit sentient beings as far as your mind pervades phenomena.

If this instruction is given three times to even a great sinner such as one who has killed his own father and mother, he will not fall into samsara even if thrown there. There is no doubt about becoming enlightened. Even if you have many other profound teachings, without an instruction like this, you remain far away from enlightenment. Since you don’t know where you may wander next, practice this with perseverance.

You must give this instruction to recipients who have great faith, strong diligence and are intelligent, who always remember their teacher, who have confidence in the oral instructions, who exert themselves in the practice, who are stable-minded and able to give up concerns for this world. Give them this with the master’s seal of entrustment, the yidam’s seal of secrecy, and the dakini’s seal of entrustment.

Although I, Padmakara, have followed many masters for one thousand eight hundred years, have requested instructions, received teachings, studied and taught, meditated and practiced, I have not found any teaching more profound than this. I am going to tame the rakshas. You should practice like this. Lady, you will become enlightened in the celestial realms. Therefore persevere in this instruction.

Having spoken, the precious master mounted the rays of the sun and departed for the land of the rakshas. Following that, Lady Tsogyal attained liberation. She committed this teaching to writing and concealed it as a profound treasure. She made this aspiration: In the future, may it be given to Guru Dorje Lingpa. May it then benefit many beings.

This completes the Sacred Refined Essence Instruction, the reply to questions on self-liberation at the moment of death and in the bardo. Samaya, seal, seal, seal.

This text by the treasure revealer Dorje Lingpa was translated in accordance with the precious oral instructions of Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche and his Dharma heir Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, by Erik Pema Kunsang and is included in Dakini Teachings, Rangjung Yeshe Publications.

About the Author
Erik Pema Kunsang

Erik Pema Kunsang

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Translator of ancient Buddhist scriptures, author, bridge-builder to modern life, Buddhist teacher & meditation instructor. Board of director at 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha. Founder of Rangjung Yeshe Publications and LEVEKUNST art of life. Other LEVEKUNST articles by the same author. Erik's website & retreats.

Featured image by LEVEKUNST art of life. Photo by Madboy.

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  1. Avatar

    Thank you very much for enlightening us on the final words of Padmasambhava. I found it to be genuinely beautiful.

  2. Jigme NB Lama

    Precious instructions brought to us by a great translator ! Thank you Erik la !


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    Chap su chai

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    Deep Gratitude for these wonderful Translations of Guru PadmaSambhava’s Teachings

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    Very very enlightening. In this teaching many pointers/metaphors have been used. This is what many Advaitic Masters have also suggested/taught albeit in different voices but many pointers/metaphors are common. What I feel that one has to be very cautious while reading this teaching like any spiritual teaching because there is always a chance that reader may take out literal meaning of the pointers/metaphors (symbolic words).

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      Very important book

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    Knee deep in gratitude to be able to connect to such profound teaching. Every word resonates and sound as if GURU speaking to me.

    Heartfelt thank you for sharing this terma. May all sentient beings be liberated from suffering!


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    I am very much delighted to go through the original text ” The final words of padmasambhava” Many thanks Erik Pema for sharing.

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    Thank you for sharing the very truth which will help me and all sentient beings living or dead.

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    Chapsu choe… far I am in search of Such a words nd prayed for Guru was I never ever expected words of tody.Thanks Guru thanks i have no word to express in this States, will follow U Guru for all beings to get enlightenment.

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    There are no words sufficient to express the deeply profound gratitude of my very being Most Kind Erik Pema Kunsang. May all your excellent wishes be fulfilled. Peace, b

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    Thank you Erik for sharing all the precious teachings from time to time! Your kindness and generousity are very much appreciated.

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    Thank you so much dear Erik. Reading this sitting in bed with a high fever cleared my mind.

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    Hi Erik, I can translante it to spanish. Still needed?

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    precious instructions handed down through the kindness of the Lotsawa.
    thank you

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    What a gift, to simply run across this amazing, incalculably precious document on Facebook!!! Eternally grateful, even if there’s no such thing as eternal.

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    Thank you very much for this sacred work. To me it is very important to find the way to face the Great Event as I call it.
    Padmasambhava the Guru Master makes it so beautiful and reassuring. I wish that I could have been able to hand copy
    this scripture but I hope that I will be able to order the book Dakinis Teachings by Ranjung Yeshe Publishers.

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    May all sentineings benefit from this precious teaching of bardo from precious Guru….Om Ah Hung Vajra Guru Padma Siddi Hung…….thank you

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    Erik, Thank you so much for sharing this precious teaching!

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    Hi! I can translante it to portuguese! Still needed?

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        As palavras finais de Padmasambhava

        Homenagem ao mestre.

        A Senhora Tsogyal de Kharchen serviu o nirmanakaya Orgyen Padmakara desde o seu oitavo ano, acompanhando-o como uma sombra segue o corpo. Quando o mestre estava prestes a deixar o Tibete para a terra do rakshas, eu, Senhora Kharchen, tendo oferecido uma mandala de ouro e turquesa e ter organizado um festim tântrico, uma roda de encontro, implorei:

        Grande mestre! Você está a partir para domar os rakshas. Eu fico para trás no Tibete. Embora eu o tenha servido durante muito tempo, Mestre, esta velha mulher não tem confiança sobre o momento da morte. Então, eu imploro que gentilmente me dê uma instrução condensando todos os ensinamentos num só, de forma concisa e fácil de praticar.

        O grande mestre respondeu: devota dedicada, com uma mente fiel e virtuosa, escute-me. Embora existam muitos pontos-chave profundos do corpo, descanse livre e relaxada de forma confortável. Tudo está simplesmente incluído nisso.

        Embora existam muitos pontos-chave da fala, tais como o controle da respiração e recitação de mantras, pare de falar e permaneça como uma pessoa muda. Tudo está simplesmente incluído nisso.

        Embora existam muitos pontos-chave da mente, tais como concentração, relaxamento, projecção, dissolução e foco interior, tudo está simplesmente incluído em deixá-la descansar no seu estado natural, livre e relaxada, sem fabricação. Mas a mente não permanece aquietada nesse estado.

        Você pode perguntar, será a mente coisa nenhuma? Ela ainda assim brilha e reflecte, como neblina sob o calor do sol. Você pode perguntar, será ela alguma coisa? Ela não tem cor ou forma que possa ser identificada, mas é totalmente vazia e completamente desperta. Essa é a natureza da sua mente.

        Reconhecê-la como tal, ter confiança nisso, essa é a visão. Permanecer sem distracções no estado de quietude, sem fabricação ou fixação, essa é a meditação. Nesse estado, permanecendo livre do desejo ou apego, aceitação ou rejeição, esperança ou medo em relação a qualquer das experiências dos seis sentidos, essa é a conduta.

        Qualquer que seja a dúvida ou hesitação que ocorra, peça mentalmente ajuda ao seu mestre. Não permaneça em locais de pessoas comuns, pratique em reclusão. Desista do apego àquilo que esteja mais ligada, bem como a quem você tenha o vínculo mais forte nesta vida, e pratique. Assim, embora o seu corpo permaneça na forma humana, a sua mente é igual à dos Budas.

        No momento da morte, você deve praticar da seguinte forma. Quando o elemento terra se transforma em água, o corpo torna-se pesado e não se consegue sustentar. Quando o elemento água se transforma em fogo, a boca e o nariz secam. Quando o elemento fogo se transforma em vento, o calor do corpo desaparece. Quando o elemento vento se transforma em consciência, você não pode deixar de exalar como um chocalho e inalar com um suspiro.

        Em seguida, você sente-se como se estivesse a ser pressionada por uma enorme montanha, como estando presa dentro da escuridão, ou a ser lançada na imensidão do espaço. Todas essas experiências são acompanhadas de sons trovejantes e vibrantes. O céu inteiro é vividamente brilhante como um brocado desfraldado.

        Agora dentro de uma cúpula com luzes de arco-íris, as formas naturais da sua mente, as divindades pacíficas, iradas, semi-iradas e aquelas com várias cabeças começam a encher o céu. Algumas brandem armas e proferem “Bate! bate! “,” Mata! mata! “, “Hung! Hung!”, “Phat! Phat!” e outros sons ferozes. Há luz igual a cem mil sóis brilhando simultaneamente. Neste momento, a sua divindade inata irá lembrá-la da consciência, dizendo, Não se distraia! Não se distraia! O seu demónio inato vai perturbar todas as suas experiências, fazê-las entrar em colapso e proferir sons agudos e ferozes e confundi-la.

        Nesta altura, saiba isto: a sensação de estar a ser pressionada não é o de ser pressionada por uma montanha. São os seus próprios elementos dissolvendo-se. Não tenha medo disso! A sensação de estar preso dentro da escuridão não é escuridão. São as suas cinco faculdades sensoriais a dissolver-se. A sensação de cair na imensidão do espaço não é cair. É a sua mente sem apoio, porque o seu corpo e mente separaram-se e a sua respiração parou.

        Todas as experiências de luzes de arco-íris são as manifestações naturais da sua mente. As formas pacíficas e iradas são as formas naturais da sua mente. Todos os sons são os seus próprios sons. Todas as luzes são as suas próprias luzes. Não tenha dúvida alguma disso. Se você duvidar, isso lança-a de volta para o samsara. Perceba que tudo isso é manifestação espontânea, e então quando você permanecer profundamente desperta na vacuidade luminosa, assim você atingirá simplesmente os três kayas e despertará para a iluminação. Mesmo que alguém depois a lance no samsara, você não irá para lá.

        A divindade inata significa presença mental atenta que agora detém o seu pensamento. A partir deste momento, o ponto mais importante é livrar essa mente da esperança e medo, apego e fixação, em relação aos objectos das suas seis faculdades sensoriais, bem como a fascinação, a alegria e a tristeza. Se você já se tornou estável nisto, será capaz de reassumir o seu estado natural no bardo e despertar para a iluminação. O ponto mais importante é, portanto, sustentar a sua prática atentamente a partir deste momento.

        O demónio inato é a sua tendência actual para a ignorância, a sua dúvida e hesitação. Quaisquer que sejam os fenómenos espantosos que surjam naquele momento, como sons, cores e luzes, não se deixe fascinar, não duvide e não tenha medo. Caindo em dúvida por um momento que seja, fará com que vagueie pelo samsara, então ganhe estabilidade completa.

        Em seguida, você pode experienciar as entradas para um útero na forma de palácios celestes. Não seja atraída por eles. Esteja certa disso! Mantenha-se livre de esperança e medo! Eu juro que não há dúvida de que você irá, em seguida, tornar-se iluminada sem mais renascimentos.
        Quando isto acontece, não é que você seja ajudada por um buda, porque a sua consciência é primordialmente iluminada. Não é que você possa ser prejudicada por um inferno, porque a fixação é naturalmente eliminada, o medo do samsara e esperança no nirvana são cortados pela raiz. Tornar-se iluminada pode ser comparado a água limpa de sedimentos, a ouro purgado de impurezas ou a um céu limpo de nuvens.

        Tendo realizado o vasto dharmakaya para o benefício de si mesma, você vai alcançar o bem-estar dos seres sensíveis até onde houver espaço. Tendo atingido o sambhogakaya e o nirmanakaya para o bem-estar dos outros, você vai beneficiar os seres sensíveis, até onde a sua mente permear os fenómenos.

        Se esta instrução for dada três vezes mesmo a um grande pecador, como aquele que matou o seu próprio pai e mãe, ele não cairá no samsara mesmo que para lá seja enviado. Não há dúvida sobre alcançar a iluminação. Mesmo que você tenha muitos outros ensinamentos profundos, sem uma instrução como esta, você permanecerá longe da iluminação. Dado que você não sabe para onde vai a seguir, pratique isto com perseverança.

        Você deve dar esta instrução a recipientes de grande fé, forte diligência e inteligência, que sempre recordam o seu professor, que têm confiança nas instruções orais, que se esforçam na prática, que são mentalmente estáveis e capazes de desistir de preocupações mundanas. Dê-lhes isto com o selo de atribuição do mestre, o selo de secretismo do yidam, e selo de atribuição do dakini de atribuição.

        Embora eu, Padmakara, tenha seguido muitos mestres durante 1800 anos, tenha solicitado instruções, recebido ensinamentos, estudado e ensinado, meditado e praticado, não encontrei nenhum ensinamento mais profundo do que este. Estou a partir para domar os rakshas. Você deve praticar desta forma. Senhora, você vai alcançar a iluminação nos reinos celestiais. Portanto, persevere nesta instrução.

        Tendo falado, o mestre precioso montou-se nos raios do sol e partiu para a terra dos rakshas. Depois disso, a Senhora Tsogyal alcançou a libertação. Ela escreveu esse ensinamento e escondeu-o como um profundo tesouro. Ela fez esta aspiração: no futuro, possa ele ser dado a Guru Dorje Lingpa. Que possa este ensinamento, então, beneficiar muitos seres.

        Isto completa a Instrução da Essência Pura Sagrada, a resposta a perguntas sobre auto-libertação no momento da morte e no bardo. Samaya, selo, selo, selo.

        1. Erik Pema Kunsang Author

          Thank you very very much, André. I hope it will benefit many people in the Portuguese speaking parts of the world.

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          Incomensurável Gratidão, André Pais! _/\_

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    Simply enlightening !

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    What a karmic serendipity! What a wonderful translation!
    Thank you for sharing this marvelous gift. Thank you!

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    Thank you for sharing this profound teaching.

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    Thank you for sharing this. Its short and yet so profound!!!

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    The Supreme Truth, infinitely breath taking and the most important tantric teaching of fearless dissolving.

  26. Douglas Penick

    Thank you so very much for this translation. I’ve kept it always nearby and have often read it aloud to dying friends and to my mother as well. I’ve shared it wish many who have also used it in that context. It has proved of incalculable value to many. Thank you so much. -Douglas

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    “The most vital point is therefore to sustain your practice undistractedly from this very moment.”

    Once upon a time there was a third (actually the first) practice in Dzogchen that used the “thunderous and ringing sounds” and the “rainbow lights” as its support. They are accessible even in the Natural Bardo of this Life, although in an attenuated form. It is said that most people faint dead away when confronted by those sounds and lights, after dying, in the Luminous Bardo of Dharmata, because they don’t recognize them as the natural manifestations of mind.

    It seems to me that the important understanding to be taken from Guru Rinpoche’s “Sacred Refined Essence Instruction, the reply to questions on self-liberation at the moment of death and in the bardo” is to start practicing now to recognize them so that we escape the cycle of samsara. Isn’t that what he says in this teaching?

    Om Ah Hung Vajra Guru Padma Siddhi Hung

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    Me gustaria mucho recibir tds las noticias, reportajes y td sobre Budismo.
    Lamentablemente no comprendo ingles, si español, italiano, portugues,
    frances y alemán.
    Hay possibilidad de tradución?
    Me haria mui feliz en contatar aquí.
    Muchas Gracias.

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    Wonderful! Remaining is the ground, unaltered is the path, non attaining is the fruit, hope and fear are the demons. may we all accomplish that dearest Erik!
    Pray for us!

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    The final instruction key practice point summary:
    1. Body- “rest free and relaxed as you feel comfortable”
    2. Speech- “stop speaking and rest like a mute”
    3. Mind- “simply letting it rest in its natural state, free and easy, without fabrication”

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    Que maravilla poder tener una enseñanza así en nuestros días, la muerte llegará sin duda y debemos prepararnos.

    Que gran joya de enseñanza!

    Translation: How wonderful to have a teaching and in our day, death will surely come and we must prepare.

    What a great gem of teaching!

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    Very nice. Thank you for sharing.

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    Thanks for the Padmasambhava post

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    thank you very much,these last words of padmasambhava is very precious and sacred may all sentient being blessed and received this precious benza guru pema siddhihung.

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    Thank you oh great master, devine god for being and bestowing your blessing to all the sentient beings.

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    Om ah hum vajra guru pema siddhi hum.

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    Most precious one those are the precious words that you have bestowed for the all sentient beings and i would like to be grateful for being an ardent devotee of buddhism. Venerable master may i always be you ardent devotee to inculcate in myself your teachings and help other sentient beings to propagate your teachings. Bless me oh great master/devine god to practice and follow your path of dhamma.

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    Thank you for these instructions! May all beings be free!

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    Thank you – beautiful teaching i am now carying with me always.

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    Thank you soooo much for this piece of precious information

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    Thank you. Such a GREAT teachings 🙂

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