Long life practice: White Heruka and Red Vajrayogini: Annutarayoga meditational deity prolongs life

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    Buddha Weekly White Heruka and Vajrayogini Buddhism 1
    White Heruka and Vajrayogini long life deities.

    The uplifting and radiant White Heruka – Red Vajrayogini practice is among the most popular Highest Yoga Tantra practices for serious students. Although there are different forms, White Heruku’s most popular form is focused on longevity practice.

    White Chakrasamvara is a complete practice, an Annutarayoga requiring initiation — and is very popular among most traditions: Sakya, Kagyu, Gelug and Jonang. There are also practices of solitary White Chakrasamvara, although the long-life practice is usually associated with the Yabyum aspect (embracing consort Vajrayogini, the “Sarva-Buddha-Dakini” the Dakini Who is the Essence of all Buddhas). This form as practiced by most traditions:

    “…Sahaja Shri Heruka [Chakrasamvara] has a body colour white like an autumn moon, one face, two hands holding a vajra and bell embracing the consort. The left leg is bent pressing down on black Bhairava, the right leg extended on red Kalaratri. With three eyes and bared fangs, the hair is a topknot adorned with a wish-fulfilling jewel and a half-vajra. In the lap is the consort Vajravarahi, with a body red in colour, one face, two hands, three eyes, the hair loose, a crown of five dry skulls, a necklace of fifty fresh heads, the five mudras [bone ornaments], holding a curved knife in the right [hand] and a blood-filled skullcup in the left. The right leg is bent and left straight, embracing the partner. Both are fierce, attractive and youthful.” — Chophel Legden [1]

    [NOTE: White Heruka’s actual practice requires empowerment, initiation and instruction from a qualified teacher.]


    Buddha Weekly White Heruka Vajrayogini Blessful Feast of Immortality Chakrasamvara beautiful with gilt Buddhism 1
    White Heruka with consort Vajrayogini is a long-life Vajrayana practice. It is a Highest Yoga Tantra practiced by senior practitioners.



    Benefits of practice

    “White Heruka is a special treasure, a practice of long life which combines Heruka practice — the blessings of this Highest Yoga deity — with self-healing practices. Through White Heruka practice we can attain long, happy and meaningful lives dedicated to compassion for all sentient beings. This practice is recommended for serious and experienced students for the removal of life’s obstacles and the blessings of long-life. Often students offer this practice for the long life of the precious teacher.” — Gaden Choling event description for a White Heruka empowerment.


    Buddha Weekly White Chakrasamvara with Red Vajrayogini Umapa Tradition 1800 1899 Gelug Buddhism
    White Chakrasamvara with Red Vajrayogini in the Umapa Tradition from a Thangka dated between 1800-1899.


    Although long-life is the best-known benefit of practice, as a Highest Yoga practice, the benefits are vast and complete. By definition, only senior students of any tradition can practice this visualization and meditation. The meditation is somewhat less involved than other Highest Yoga practice since most forms do not have an elaborate mandala or accompanying deities. Even in the Shakyashri Badra form, the standing deity in union with Vajrayogini, there is no retinue.


    Buddha Weekly Royal Ontario Museum White Heruka and Vajrayogini Ulmapa tradition Buddhism 1
    White Heruka and Vajrayogini in the Almapa tradition.


    Gelug long-life tradition

    In the tradition of Lama Umapa — who was one of the teachers of Lama Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelug tradition, White Heruka is explicitly focused on long-life practices. As a long-life deity, Heruka is white, and holds two long-life vases in the right and left hands. He embraces his consort Red Vajrayogni, who holds two skull cups in the right and left hands. Some traditions may have different visualizations, although this is the simplest one.

    “…Cakrasamvara, white like the reflection of the sun on a crystal mountain, stainless and radiant, one face, two hands, three eyes, hair in a topknot, adorned with beautiful ornaments, holding two long-life vases in the hands, embracing the consort, seated in vajra posture. In the lap is Vajrayogini, red in colour, with one face, two hands and three eyes, seated, holding a skull cup filled with nectar in each hand, embracing the Lord around the neck, the two legs embracing the waist, beautifully dressed.” — Gyaltsab Yeshe Lobzang Tanpa’i Gonpo (1760-1810) [2]


    [NOTE: White Heruka’s actual practice requires empowerment, initiation and instruction from a qualified teacher. ]

    [1] yi dam rgya mtho’i sgrub thabs rin chen ‘byun gnas. Volume 1, folios 129-134
    [2] bde mchog dkar po’i tshe sgrub bdag mdun dang bcas pa, by rta tshag 08 bstan pa’i mgon po. Volume 2, folio 13-22. Gyaltsab Yeshe Lobzang Tanpa’i Gonpo, 1760-1810.

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    Lee Kane

    Author | Buddha Weekly

    Lee Kane is the editor of Buddha Weekly, since 2007. His main focuses as a writer are mindfulness techniques, meditation, Dharma and Sutra commentaries, Buddhist practices, international perspectives and traditions, Vajrayana, Mahayana, Zen. He also covers various events.
    Lee also contributes as a writer to various other online magazines and blogs.

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