Four empowerments

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Four empowerments (Tib. དབང་བཞི་, wang shyi; Wyl. dbang bzhi) — in general, and according to the inner tantras, there are four levels or stages within any empowerment:

  1. the vase empowerment (Wyl. bum pa'i dbang; Skt. kalaśābhiṣeka)
  2. the secret empowerment (Wyl. gsang ba'i dbang; Skt. guhyābhiṣeka)
  3. the knowledge-wisdom empowerment (Wyl. shes rab ye shes kyi dbang; Skt. prajñājñānābhiṣeka)
  4. the precious word empowerment (Tib. tsik wang rinpoche; Wyl. tshig dbang rin po che)

The Function of the Four Empowerments

The Vase Empowerment

The Secret Empowerment

  • purifies all the negative karma accumulated through negative actions of the speech
  • grants the blessings of vajra speech
  • unblocks and re-balances the prana
  • authorizes the student as a receptive vessel for mantra recitation
  • sows the seed for the attainment of the state of a ‘vidyadhara with power over life
  • enables the student to attain the sambhogakaya level of realization.

The Transcendent Knowledge-Wisdom Empowerment

  • purifies all the negative karma accumulated through negative actions of the mind
  • grants the blessings of the vajra mind
  • purifies and enhances bindu
  • authorizes the student as a receptive vessel for the chandali practices of bliss and emptiness (i.e. tsa-lung and tummo)
  • sows the seed for the attainment of the state of a ‘mahamudra vidyadhara
  • enables the student to attain the dharmakaya level of realization.

The Precious Word Empowerment

Further Reading

  • His Holiness Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Pure Appearance—Development and Completion Stages in the Vajrayana Practice (Halifax: Vajravairochana Translation Committee, 2002), pages 1-14. restricted publication
  • Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, Guru Yoga: According to the Preliminary Practice of Longchen Nyingtik (Ithaca: Snow Lion, 1999), pages 63-70.
  • Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse, Not for Happiness (Boston & London: Shambhala, 2012) Ch.13 'Abhisheka and the Four Empowerments in Guru Yoga'.
  • Thinley Norbu, The Small Golden Key (Shambhala Publications, 1999), pages 60-63.
  • Tulku Thondup, Enlightened Journey (Boston: Shambhala, 1995), Chapter 12 'Receiving the Four Empowerments of Ngöndro Meditation'.