What are Empowerments?

On Receiving A Buddhist Empowerment

The term ‘empowerment’ is a literal translation from the Tibetan ‘wang’. In Sanskrit, it is called ‘abhisheka’ which can also be translated as initiation.

It refers to a ceremony in which a lama, on the basis of his own spiritual attainments and understanding of the proper rituals that have been handed down in an unbroken lineage for hundreds and even thousands of years, places a recipient in connection with a particular Tantric deity or deities. The result of this teaching “empowers” a recipient to visualize that deity and recite the deity’s mantra.  While a teaching centers on a particular deity, in the Tantric or Vajrayana tradition, all deities are mere aspects of the Buddha.  So the empowerment empowers a recipient to seek to realize the non-duality between their own mind and that of the deity – a merging of essences – then, by definition, connecting one to that aspect of the Buddha.

Lama’s preparation for the empowerment

Prior to the actual empowerment the lama, who will be giving the empowerment must perform certain rituals.  The lama should not be disturbed during this period of preparation.

Recipient’s preparation for an empowerment

One should prepare yourself for an empowerment as if you were going to receive a consecration from the Buddha.  Throughout the empowerment one should think of the lama as not different from the deity of the empowerment.  The empowerment is much more effective if one cultivates a firm belief that one is receiving the empowerment directly from the deity.

While waiting for the empowerment to begin you should reflect upon your reason for being there.  It is important to cultivate the right attitude.  This means that you should reflect upon the nature of your life. Your hope and aspiration should be that you are receiving and practicing the empowerment will help you to alleviate suffering and confusion and make for greater happiness in this life for yourself and others.

The empowerment

The Lama will carefully explain the different stages and parts of the empowerment.

After the empowerment

This is a quiet and reflective time. After the empowerment you can make an offering to the lama, if you wish, and then retire quietly from the area to allow the lama to perform the concluding rituals without distraction.

This is also a time to start thinking about practicing the empowerment’s meditation and how to incorporate it into your everyday life.