The Meaning of the Prayer
Perhaps the most thorough explanation of the Seven Line Prayer available in English is from the great Jamgon Mipham Rinpoche entitled Pema Karpo, or White Lotus: An Explanation of the Seven-Line Prayer to Guru Padmasambhava. In this short but extremely rich work, Mipham Rinpoche presents the many layers of meaning, from its outer, literal meaning to the hidden meanings related to the path of liberation, the path of skillfull means including the Perfection stage and Dzogcchen, and finally pith instructions related to these. He concludes with an explanation of how to use the commentary itself as a practice.
Regarding the origin of this incredible commentary, the translators also add “Mipham refers in the colophon to an event that triggered the abrupt appearance in his mind of the hidden meaning of the prayer. We shall probably never know what it was that provoked this sudden epiphany, but it is interesting to note that the language Mipham uses suggests that the commentary itself is not an ordinary composition but a treasure teaching, specifically a “mind-treasure,” or gongter. If that is so, the text is itself a teaching by Guru Rinpoche himself, concealed long ago within the mind of his disciple, from which it was destined to reemerge when the right circumstances presented themselves, without the need for the discovery of the traditional yellow scrolls or some other material support”
This book also includes a Guru Yoga based on the prayer, entitled Rain of Blessings which is performed by many practice groups throughout Asia and the West. Recently Orgyen Chowang Rinpoche taught a full weekend at Shambhala Publications on this practice.
In Enlightened Journey Tulku Thondup Rinpoche devotes a 22 page chapter on the meaning of the prayer which is based on Mipham Rinpoche’s White Lotus. It can be used almost as a crib-sheet reminder after reading the full account by Mipham Rinpoche.
He presents the history, as described above. He also adds. “when Guru Rinpoche came to Tibet in the eighth century, he gave it to the king and his subjects. Intending it for future disciples capable of training, he concealed it in many Ters. Later, The Vajra Seven-Line Prayer was revealed in the Ters of most of the one hundred great Tertons of the last ten centuries of the Nyingma lineage, again and again, as the heart of the prayers, teachings, and meditation.”
In Guru Yoga: According to the Preliminary Practice of Longchen Nyingtik, Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche explains the Guru Yoga based on the Seven-Line prayer from the Longchen Nyingtik tradition.
“The Seven-Line Prayer is to be found in all of the teachings of Guru Rinpoche revealed by the hundred and eight major and one thousand minor tertons, or treasure-discoverers. So it is a prayer that is most extraordinary, easy to practice, and replete with immense blessings.
To invoke the Lotus-born Guru, we recite the Seven-Line Prayer three times. At the same time, in the sky before us, we visualize the paradise of Zangdopalri with Guru Rinpoche and his retinue of vidyadharas, 4akas, and 4akinis. Then, what we visualize in the sky dissolves into the visualization we have already created. The buddhafield dissolves into the buddhafield, Vajrayogini dissolves into Vajrayogini, Guru Rinpoche dissolves into Guru Rinpoche, and the retinue of deities, 4akas, and 4akinis into the corresponding retinue. In this way, the jiiiinasattva,the wisdom deities invited from the buddhafields, and the samayasattva, which is our initial visu¬ alization, merge indivisibly into one.
Do not ever think that the buddhafields are far away, or doubt whether the buddhas may or may not come. For as Guru Rinpoche said:
I am present in front of anyone who has faith in me,
Just as the moon casts its reflection, effortlessly, in any vessel filled with water.
In Gypsy Gossip and Other Advice, Kyabje Thinley Norbu Rinpoche explains the prayer’s outer and inner meanings in the course of six pages. He introduces the background of the prayer here:
“The Seven-Line Prayer originated directly from the speech of a Dakini. It came to this world during a debate at Nalanda when heretics were defeating Buddhist scholars. Shiwa Chok, the Dakini called the Great Excellent Peaceful One, appeared to the scholars in their dreams, say-ing,’You will never be able to defeat the heretics by yourselves. I have a brother, Dorje Töthreng Tsal, who stays in the darkness of the grave¬yard. If you invoke him there, he will come to your aid.’ But the Bud¬dhist scholars said they did not know how to find Guru Töthreng Tsal.
So, the Dakini taught them the Seven-Line Prayer and then said, ‘It is not necessary to go to the graveyard, because Guru Rinpoche has a rainbow body and will come to your aid if you recite the Seven-Line Prayer.’
The scholars prayed, and Guru Rinpoche came to them. They were able to win the debate, glorifying the Buddha Dharma and helping it to prosper.
Later, when Guru Rinpoche went to Tibet, he taught the prayer to his twenty-five disciples and it benefited them greatly. Afterward, as it was included in many termas,6 tertöns7 found it in many of the hidden texts they discovered. The first tertön to discover it was Guru Chöwang.”
Rinpoche also devotes an entire book dedicated to the prayer in The Sole Panacea: A Brief Commentary on the Seven-Line Prayer to Guru Rinpoche That Cures the Suffering of Sickness of Karma and Defilement.
In this work, rather than jumping right in to the meaning of the prayer itself, the first half of the book lays the foundation and view that are necessary for effectively reciting the prayer, namely: showing the inherent problems in the extreme views of of nihilism and externalism; why trying to understand the nature of mind is a futile exercise; clearing misunderstanding about who Guru Rinpoche was; a presentation of various Buddhist doctrines and how the Triple Gems of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha are recognized; and finally a look at the Buddha as well as peaceful and wrathful deities in the Vajrayana system.