We come to rest and prepare ourselves internally for the practice. We open our hearts to the light, the mantra and the ceremony. We never practice in a hectic environment or do something else at the same time. This practice requires a sincere and respectful attitude in the heart. Since the eternal light is the deepest source of our life, it is important that we approach it with respect and appreciation.
Before the ceremony we brush our teeth. In addition, if you feel sweaty or not clean, wash yourself (e.g. take a shower). We ensure that during the ceremony we will not be disturbed (we inform roommates and family members, unplug the telephone and turn off the mobile phone). We do not interrupt the ceremony; we always practice until the end in peace. A single run-through of the ceremony takes about one hour.
Before we begin, we let some air into the room and/or light a pleasant incense stick. If you like, you can set up a candle and fresh flowers. We place the sun mandala or a picture of a beautiful sunset in the west part of the room if that is not possible, we imagine in our heart that the West is where we put the picture. In the heart we orient ourselves towards the West and feel connected with the eternal light.
If you wish, you can remember the golden light of a beautiful sunset. During the ceremony, we do not have to hold this idea in our mind; it is enough to have a basic feeling in our heart. Our eyes are looking relaxed into the sun mandala. We gently keep contact with the eternal light.
The ceremony has eight steps. Each step is to prepare for the following one. Therefore, no step should be omitted and the order is not to be changed. This method is not a modern invention, but is based on an ancient tradition of Dzogchen Buddhism. From ancient times until the present day, this tradition has been passed down in an unbroken lineage from masters to pupils and over centuries, it has proven itself in depth.
Nine steps of the ceremony
1. The opening mantra ‘wàn yǒu fēi zhēn, wéi yǒu běn zhēn’ supports our practice and protects us from disturbances. ‘Wàn yǒu fēi zhēn, wéi yǒu běn zhēn‘is my personal mantra and the key mantra of my path, the `Living Dao´. I show the way into freedom, into the true reality, into the all-embracing existence, very directly and beyond any religion. Nevertheless, I use the ancient knowledge of my tradition, the Dzogchen.
The Mantra wàn yǒu fēi zhēn, wéi yǒu běn zhēn works like a password to Dao, to the true reality, to the all-encompassing being. Literally translated wàn yǒu fēi zhēn, wéi yǒu běn zhēn means: ‘Nothing is true, only Dao is true’ (only our true nature is true). In the moment, in which we enunciate this truth, we open ourselves for the whole existence, for Dao, and we are supported and protected by it. We do not have to repeat the mantra very often, three to ten times is enough. It is important to say the mantra with absolute trust and with all openness. Only then it can work deeply.
2. The prayers of this ceremony serve to open us to a deep aspect within ourselves. They help us to go beyond our consciousness, to open our hearts and to connect to the universal being, the true reality deep within ourselves. This connection has always been there. It was only blocked by the activities of our ego; by emotions, thought patterns, thought carousels, physical desires, etc. The opening, which happens by means of the prayers, can let us experience that we are connected to the all-encompassing being. This experience affects our consciousness and changes it from deep within.
Therefore, we do not pray to an external God. We do not feel small and needy. We enunciate a truth that has always been there, to which we just did not have access. An example: We want to open ourselves to the light, so we say: ‘I open myself to the eternal light’. If we need help, we say: ‘Please help me to open to the eternal light’. We say it and the result is immediately there. The precondition is our honesty and sincerity in the heart.
During these prayers, it is also important to understand what it is that we open ourselves to: firstly, for reality and secondly, for the light of Amitābha. This is important! If we open ourselves just to everything, it would be as if we connect to the Internet without an antivirus program and firewall. The prayers of the ceremony are set up in such a way that the mantra Namo Amitābhaya can unfold even deeper within us.
3. Dalibai: Dalibai are bows, prostrations. We do not bow to an external entity, such as a God, heaven or a special power. With the bows we show our deep respect for Dao, the eternally true reality. We withdraw from our ego, our emotions, thoughts and problems and we devote ourselves completely to the one true reality. We throw our problems into Dao, let go and enter into the all-embracing vitality of existence. We get up refreshed, feel new and fulfilled. Dalibai shows a deep acceptance of Dao.
Dalibai in practice: We stand upright. We raise the arms sideways above the head and put the hands together into prayer position. In this posture we lead the hands down along the body and touch lightly 1. the third eye, 2. the throat, 3. the centre of our chest. Then we let the hands sink down and lay down stretched out on the ground. The forehead touches the floor, the arms stretch out above our head, the palms lie on the floor. After a moment, we turn the palms towards the sky and remain lying relaxed. Then we bend the elbows, lead the hands to the neck and put the palms together. We place the palms on the side of the chest, push up the upper body so that it is stretched at the front side. We get on our knees and place our upper body relaxed on the thighs, the forehead touches the floor and the arms are stretched forward. We rest for a moment in this position. Then, we sit up, put our hands beside our body on the ground and get on our feet (with a little jump!). We stand again upright and relaxed. We repeat the Dalibai eleven times or more (in steps of eleven / 22, 33, 55).
4. Mudra: We cross the fingers of both hands at the top joints. It does not matter which hand is on top. The fingers are stretched but relaxed. The fingertips point to the sky. Wrists and hand sides touch each other. The space between the palms remains void. The hands do not touch the body. Elbows and shoulders are relaxed. This mudra is a symbol for ‘oneness’. We hold the mudra during all prayers and the chanting of the mantra. It enhances the effect of the mantra and the prayers. We open and close the mudra above our head.
5. Prayer to enter into the light. This prayer lets us return to a natural, original order. To be able to connect with the light, we need this natural order. When the ego causes too much confusion, it is very difficult to open the gate to the light in our heart.
How to pray correctly? We do not say or read the prayers while bored or uninterested. Instead we understand what we say and we speak the words from the depths of our heart. We feel the power of the prayer and how it unfolds from within. Nevertheless, we should avoid becoming emotional. That would be exaggerated and unnatural. We are stable, open our hearts and begin to pray. Dao carries on the prayer and completes it. The prayer flows out of our hearts relaxed and natural. The essence of the prayer is our trust and the sincerity in our hearts.
6. Prayer of the 12 lights: By calling all 12 qualities of the light, the eternal light can manifest deeper within us. It permeates us and works within us. This way it can dissolve old barriers and deep patterns. If we have only a short amount of time, we can call just upon one light, the ‘immeasurable light (representing all the lights) instead of all 12 lights. The prayer of the twelve lights will let us obtain a deeper understanding of the light of Amitābha and change our practice. This prayer is very deep and effective.
7. Chanting the mantra: We chant the mantra Namo Amitābhaya for at least ten minutes, but it is better to chant for twenty minutes and if possible, even longer. At the beginning, we are looking for the correct pronunciation and the right tone. When we found both, we enter into the natural flow. We speak the mantra deep from the heart, from an inner connectedness. We never let it become a job. We never feel empty while chanting or the effect will remain empty. Then, even an hour-long practice will not change anything. Only when the light appears in our practice, it will have a profound quality and will change us.
At the beginning, when chanting the mantra some side effects or obstacles may arise. For example, there can be strong emotions, heavy fatigue or thought patterns. Whatever happens, we do not allow them to disturb us and continue to chant the mantra, stable and unperturbed. This is very important! Only if we do not allow ourselves to become disturbed, can we overcome the first, often chaotic phase. After a while the practice becomes steadier, the mantra and the light quality more stable. More and more, the light will appear by itself, it will permeate us and carry us through the practice.
For beginners: Initially, too much discipline can be counterproductive. Do not force yourself to chant the mantra and do not torture yourself for hours. Chant the mantra, when it comes with joy, for example, on your way home or while working in the kitchen. Say the mantra, when you feel a connection to the light. Feel happy, relaxed and open. Feel the freedom in the heart. Don’t think too much. It is not a job! Of course, it is good to practice every day, but do not force yourself to do so. Namo Amitābhaya means that you enjoy life. Dao and its vitality will help you to further unfold the mantra. Your life will be easier, happier and with less effort. Whoever wants to extend the ceremony to two or three hours, should alternate between chanting the mantra for 20-30 minutes and sitting in Anxi for 5-10 minutes, chanting the mantra for 20-30 minutes and sitting in Anxi for 5-10 minutes and so on.
8. Anxi is an absolute rest. We have nothing to do. We have no idea. We have a break. Our ego has a break! We do not attend to anything that is happening inside and outside (thoughts, feelings, etc. We do not want to change anything. We let everything pass by like the clouds in the sky.
Our objective is not to enter into a silence. Much more importantly, it is to arrive in the heart. To know and to experience that there is nothing to do and everything is already perfect. In Anxi we do not want to change our state or regulate it positively, we go back into a basic state of being, where we are connected with life and its vitality. We return to the existence of a simple being.
Anxi is not a meditation. In meditation, we want to change our condition, relax more deeply. A meditation has always a purpose. Anxi has no goal. We do not have to accomplish anything, reach anywhere. It is already done. Everything is already there. You are absolutely sure. From this certainty a sense of having arrived arises. Therefore, you can relax and be calm.
With Anxi you show your devotion to the all-encompassing being, to Dao, to God, to the reality. In Anxi your heart enters into the basic quality of the all-encompassing being. When you dwell in this quality, the Amitābha mantra can deeply reverberate within you and establish itself in your heart. Five to ten minutes of Anxi are enough. In longer time periods of Anxi the quality often changes. There is a risk that you nod off or slip into a meditation.
The practice: We sit upright on a chair or stool. Traditionally, the ankles are crossed. The body is straightened up effortlessly, without leaning to the back of the chair. The back of the hands are on your thighs, the palms are open toward the sky. The eyes are open but do not focus on anything. We are clear and awake, yet completely undisturbed and stable. We have a break from everything. We do not care about anything, not even about ourselves. Anxi has nothing to do with us. Neither with our name, nor our history, nor our feelings! We just need to know that we are alive, – that we are life. In this quality, we are entering into a pause.
9. The concluding prayer completes the ceremony. We say: ‘Please let the light of Amitābha appear to me truly. Let me truly experience the light of Amitābha’ and thereby, we express our heart’s deepest desire. In the moment we say it, we let it become true. This result we do not keep to ourselves, but share it with all living beings. That way we show our love and compassion for all living beings. We become a gateway to the eternal light for all other living beings. This of course includes ourselves.