Empowerment (Skt. abhiṣeka or abhiṣiñca; Tib. དབང་, wang; Wyl. dbang) is the initiation that transmits or awakens primordial wisdom (Tib. ཡེ་ཤེས་, yeshe), the power or realization in the mind of the disciple.
Tulku Thondup explains that among the different ways of categorizing empowerments:
- empowerments given to disciples who have not been initiated before are called causal empowerment;
- the empowerment given to students for developing their maturation or restoring the broken precepts are classified as empowerment of the path; and
- empowerments given to those who are ready to achieve the final attainment and which cause the disciple to attain the ultimate fruition are classified as empowerments of result because they bring the final result.
See also the four empowerments.
The Function of Empowerment
Empowerment is to ripen or mature our buddha nature. Even though all beings possess the buddha nature, without receiving empowerment it is not possible to receive blessings and accomplishments through a particular practice, just as it will never be possible to get oil by pressing sand.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama says:
- "When an empowerment is conferred on you, it is the nature of your mind—the buddha nature—that provides a basis upon which the empowerment can ripen you. Through the empowerment, you are empowered into the essence of the buddhas of the five families. In particular, you are ‘ripened’ within that particular family through which it is your personal predisposition to attain buddhahood."
Two Causes & Four Conditions
- The associated cause (mtshung ldan gyi rgyu) is the presence of the buddha nature
- The cooperative cause (lhan cig byed pa'i rgyu) is the use of various substances (rdzas) during the empowerment, such as the vase, image cards and so forth.
- The causal condition (rgyu'i rkyen) is the disciple who has faith and intelligence
- The dominant condition (bdag rkyen) is the teacher who is fully qualified
- The objective condition (dmigs rkyen) is the teacher's knowledge of the empowerment, deities, and mantras, and samadhi
- The immediate condition (de ma thag rkyen) is the previous phase or empowerment, since each phase prepares the student for what follows, and that is why empowerments must be given in the proper sequence
Empowerments Given to the Rigpa Sangha
Many great masters have bestowed the most important empowerments needed for our practice upon the Rigpa sangha over the years, in particular, Kyabjé Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche in 1987 and 1990, Kyabjé Penor Rinpoche in 1988 and 1995, Kyabjé Dodrupchen Rinpoche in 1999, and Kyabjé Trulshik Rinpoche in 1999, 2003, and 2005.
- Tulku Thondup, Enlightened Journey, Shambala, 1995. p113.
- Based on Tulku Thondup (1995) pages 115-6 and Khenpo Namdrol, oral teaching January 2012
Teachings Given to the Rigpa Sangha on the Topic of Empowerment
- Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Journey Without Goal, The Collected Works of Chögyam Trungpa, Volume Four (Boston & London: Shambhala, 2003), Ch. 10 'Abhisheka'.
- Herbert V. Guenther, The Dawn of Tantra, The Collected Works of Chögyam Trungpa, Volume Four (Boston & London: Shambhala, 2003), Ch. 9 'Empowerment and Initiations'.
- His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Pure Appearance (Halifax: Vajravairochana Translation Committee, 1992, 2002—restricted title), pages 1-14.
- Jamgön Kongtrul, The Treasury of Knowledge, Book Six, Part Four: Systems of Buddhist Tantra, translated by Elio Guarisco and Ingrid McLeod (Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2005), Ch. 12 'Initiation'.
- Padmasambhava & Jamgön Kongtrul, The Light of Wisdom, Vol. Two, translated by Erik Pema Kunsang (Boudhanath: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 1999), Chapter 16.
- Thinley Norbu, The Small Golden Key (Shambhala Publications, 1999), '12. Empowerment'.
- Tsele Natsok Rangdrol, Empowerment and the Path of Liberation, Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 1993.
- Tulku Thondup, Enlightened Journey: Buddhist Practice as Daily Life (Boston: Shambhala, 1995), 'The Empowerments and Precepts of Esoteric Training', pages 106-133.