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Buddhist Empowerment

The Buddha Nature is within us as a natural attribute. All of us have the Buddha Nature, every single one of us. It means that we can attain enlightenment and become Buddhas.

The meaning of empowerment is to draw the potential out and allow our Buddha Nature to develop fully.

Through the empowerment, you are empowered into the essence of the buddhas of the five families. You receive empowerment from a teacher from the linage you are following. In particular, you are “ripened” within that particular family through which it is your personal predisposition to attain Buddhahood.

Empowerment is a ceremony that awakens the special capacity for primordial wisdom to arise in the mind of the disciple. But it is not merely a ritual. Three circumstantial factors support this—the ritual objects that are employed on the outer level, the mantras that are repeated by the vajra master, and the vajra master’s own samādhi, or meditative absorption. When these three factors come together, they form a basis on which the mind can focus, and so become ripened.

What is actually happening when we receive empowerment?

According to Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche:

“The term “empowerment” has two primary meanings. In Tibetan, we refer to these two meanings with the words torwa and lugpa, which can be translated as dismantling and pouring, respectively. In this case, “dismantling” refers to dismantling the cocoon, or shell, of ignorance. “Pouring,” on the other hand, refers either to pouring the blessings, or pouring/discovering buddha nature.

In being empowered, one is being introduced to something within oneself, albeit something that has gone unrecognized. Activating this recognition is what we mean by the term “empowerment.”

There are various empowerments with numerous divisions, yet according to the highest yoga tantra, there are four main types. Each of these four referred to as the “four empowerments,” is designed to dismantle one of the four defilements. These four are the defilements of nadi, which relate to the veins, chakras, or channels; the defilement of prana, which coincides with speech, or wind-energy; and the defilement of bindu, which is a defilement of the mind. There are two ways to explain the fourth defilement: one is to say it is the residue of the three combined or, in other words, something similar to alaya. Alternatively, it can be described as “the ground of everything,” but this second way of explaining it is quite difficult to understand.

The empowerment ritual utilizes symbolic implements and substances. First, the guru will place a vase on your head and then pour some liquid into your hand, saying, “Drink this saffron water.” Next, the guru will use a kapala, which is traditionally filled with nectar. This substance is actually a mixture of the father and mother consort’s essence.

These days, however, most of the lamas use Bordeaux or Chianti if the empowerment is given in Europe, or tequila if it is being given in America. With the third empowerment, the substance is related to the consort. Nowadays, lamas will flash a picture of a Dakini or something similar. Finally, for the fourth empowerment, which is referred to as the word empowerment, a substance like crystal is sometimes used, though technically speaking this is no longer a necessity. The crystal symbolizes the nature of the mind”


According to Tenshin Reb Anderson in his book Being Upright: Zen Meditation and the Bodhisattva Precepts:

“Empowerment took seven days. In dharma transmission, you are given a robe, a bowl, and other ceremonial objects, and receive teachings that illuminate the practice of enlightenment. Through dharma transmission, you become an ancestor of the tradition. You come to represent buddha’s body. In precepts transmission, you are entrusted not only with practicing and protecting the precepts but also with continuing the bodhisattva precepts lineage. Through precepts transmission, you become the blood of buddha.”


Dzogchen transmission is divided into a direct transmission, symbolic transmission, and oral transmission. Direct transmission means Mind-to-Mind communication between Lama and a disciple.

This can happen at any moment and according to any circumstances. Symbolic transmission means that some essentially potent object (such as a crystal sphere, mirror, or faceted crystal) is displayed along with cryptic oral indications, which incite understanding. Oral transmission means that a verbal clarification is given of the primordial nature of the individual.


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