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Buddhism Chenrezig Deity Religion Paper

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Rusy Riggs


Religion 101


Buddhism:  Chenrezig Deity

I attended a Buddhist religious service at the Gampopa Center in Annapolis, Maryland.  The service I attended was a Compassion Buddha Practice, based on the teachings of Chenrezig, one of the Buddhist deities.  Chenrezig is considered the embodiment of compassion in Tibetian Buddhism, and is one of the most popular Buddhist deities after Buddha himself.  I chose Buddhism because I wanted to understand why Buddhists follow the Buddha even though they do not consider him to be a god.  I attended a Tibetan Buddhist Temple in Annapolis to get a visual understanding of how Buddhists practice their religion and what they do in their service.  At the event I attended, we practiced the Chenrezig deity, the Buddha of Compassion.  Chenrezig is considered the patron Bodhisattva in Tibet.  In Tibetan Buddhism, the Chenrezig is considered to be the embodiment of the compassion of all Buddha’s.   For this event we used the Chenrezig text, which is a small packet of texts.  This is a very common practice in Buddhism that Tibetans use for meditation.  In the Chenrezig, everything was and still is written in Pali, which is the original language in Buddhist culture.  To understand what happened at the Buddhist Temple one must first understand the Chenrezig deity, the images used in the worship practice, and the ways in which Buddhism tries to educate its followers.

        The Gampopa Center is upstairs in a small office building in Annapolis.  I arrived there at 7 pm for the Compassion Buddha Practice service, which was an hour and a half long.  The service was conducted by Karen, who was friendly and happy to have me there as a guest.  She explained that they often have students attend services to learn about Buddhism.  Karen began by describing some of what we saw around us in the room.  There was a sort of altar on which was a statue of Buddha.  In front of Buddha was seven bowls of water, called water offerings.  Behind Buddha were seven more bowls of water.  Going from left to right the bowls are water for washing, water for drinking, water for flowers, water for incense, water for light, water for perfume, and water for music.  In the Seven Branch Prayer these vessels of water are verbally offered.  The most important object in the temple is the statue in the center of Siddhartha Gautama, also known as the Buddha.  Siddhartha attained enlightenment under a fig tree at a village in Northern India.  He sat for forty nine days with demons and devils trying to stop Siddhartha from achieving enlightenment.  He taught what is known in Buddhism as the “Middle Way”, a path of moderation between extremes.  What I saw was just one of many eminations of the Buddha.  Another statue in the room was the Chenrezig statue.  Its four arms and hands represent the four immeasurables:  loving kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity.  Karen explained that the Buddhist ceremony is regimented, much in the same way a Catholic Mass is structured and follows an order.  There are specific steps that must be followed for the Chenrezig deity.  I sat on a mat and a pillow with the Chenrezig text in front of me.  To read the text you must follow by reading to the bottom, then flipping the page up and read to the bottom again and so on.  

We began by taking Refuge Bodhisattva, which was repeated three times.  Next, we generated a visualization, then we said prayers.  We only did two prayers in the Chenrezig text. The two are the Seven Branch Prayer which is the offering prayer and Om Mani Padme Hung.  The prayers were said first in English, then repeated in the native language of Buddhism.  Afterwards we had a ten minute meditation.  Meditation in Buddhism is everything.  The reason we meditate with the Chenrezig deity is to become more compassionate.  There is a certain way to meditate to achieve enlightenment.  You first sit cross-legged with your back straight and your right palm resting on your left palm.  Your eyes are kept open to teach you to meditate through distractions.  The last step is dedication.  Tibetan Buddhists often end their prayers with the dedication prayer.  This dedication prayer generates merit.  The merit is the key to a better next life or to seek enlightenment.  One term that the teacher kept repeating was Om Mani Padme Hung. The Om Mani Padme Hung is part of the four-armed Shadakshari. These are the steps to do the Chenrezig deity.  The teacher said that whenever we are compassionate we experience our own connection with Chenrezig.  The goal for meditation is also to calm the mind, and can fulfill one’s wish for happiness.

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