The Dalai Lamas on Tantra
Translated, edited, and introduced by Glenn H. Mullin
Over the past two decades I have published almost a dozen books with Snow Lion on the lives and works of the early Dalai Lamas. As most readers will know, the present Dalai Lama, who was born in 1935, is the fourteenth in this line of illustrious reincarnations. When I first started this project, almost nothing was known in the West about these extraordinary men. Coverage of them had been limited to a paragraph or two, or a page or two at best, in academic books on Tibetan cultural and political history. Even though many of these incarnations had written dozens of works on Buddhist philosophy, meditation, mysticism, and other enlightenment-related topics, and had also written hundreds of songs and poems, no signi - ficant text by any of them had ever been translated into English.
With each of these books I usually incorporated a traditional biography and a selection of their most accessible writings. Usually the selection would be on diverse subjects, in an attempt to convey the range and depth of these Buddhist teachers, from mystical poems to works on philosophy and tantric practice. Most of these titles have been out of print for over a decade now. Sidney Piburn, my editor at Snow Lion, thought that it would be useful to bring out an anthology of some of the tantric works that I had used in that series. Tantric Buddhism is becoming better known in the West these days, but there is still a paucity of authentic translations from classical sources. The great popularity achieved by the early Dalai Lamas was due in part to the clarity and power of their tantric writings, so Sid’s suggestion did not seem unreasonable. This volume is the result.
On the technical side, I have tried to keep footnotes to a bare minimum so as to allow the reader to enjoy the mood of the originals, rather than create the distraction of a constant barrage of “whispered asides.” Moreover, I have also presented any Sanskrit and Tibetan terms that are used in a simplified “phonetic style” for ease in reading. For example, “Khedrup” looks far more palatable to me than does “mKhas-grub,” and “Lobzang” seems more accessible than “bLobzang.” Scholars should be able to easily reconstruct the more formal spellings if they wish to do so, whereas these formal spellings are irrelevant to the general enthusiast.
With Tibetan text titles, however, a system of easy phonetics would be inadequate. Therefore here I have used the formal system of transliteration.
Most Dalai Lamas wrote extensively on Tantric Buddhism. The material chosen for this anthology is intended as a mere sampling of their contribution, with the intent to give the reader a sense of the authentic tradition.
The Legacy from Buddha Shakyamuni
Buddha traveled and taught widely for some forty-five years after his enlightenment, and his audiences were diverse. Even though India at the time was a highly literate society, nothing of what he said was written down during his lifetime. Instead, various individuals were entrusted with memorizing the gist of each discourse. The work of transcribing his words took place only with the passage of generations.
Tibetans believe that this reluctance on the part of the Buddha and his immediate followers to commit the enlightenment teachings to paper, and instead to preserve them as oral traditions, was a purposeful strategy gauged to maintain the maximum fluidity and living power of the enlightenment experience. It only became necessary to write things down when the darkness of the changing times threatened the very survival of the legacy. An oral tradition becomes lost to history should its holders pass away without first passing on their lineages. This intended fluidity, and the according safeguard against the establishment of an “enlightenment dogma,” is perhaps best demonstrated by a verse that the Buddha himself said shortly before his death:
Do not accept any of my words on faith,
Believing them just because I said them.
Be like an analyst buying gold, who cuts, burns, And critically examines his product for authenticity. Only accept what passes the test
By proving useful and beneficial in your life. This simple statement empowered future generations of Buddhist teachers to accept and reject at will anything said by Buddha himself as well by his early disciples. If something that was said by them did not pass the test of personal analysis, one could simply discard it as being limited in application to particular times, people, or situations, and therefore as only contextually valid. 1. Buddha’s Legacy of Exoteric and Esoteric Transmissions
In his A Brief Guide to the Buddhist Tantras (translated in Chapter One of this volume) the Thirteenth Dalai Lama quotes two verses from the writings of the incomparable Lama Tsongkhapa: There are two Mahayana vehicles
For traveling to complete buddhahood:
The Prajnaparamitayana and the profound Vajrayana. Of these, the latter greatly surpasses the former. This is as well known as the sun and moon. There are many people who know this fact
And pretend to carry the tradition of the sages, Yet who don’t search for the nature of the profound Vajrayana. If they are wise, who is foolish?
To meet with this rare and peerless legacy And yet still to ignore it: How absolutely astounding! 2 : the dalai lamas on tantra
As readers familiar with Tibetan spiritual culture will know, Lama Tsongkhapa (1357-1419) was the root guru of the First Dalai Lama (1391-1475). These verses, therefore, are relevant to the approach to Buddhism taken by all subsequent Dalai Lamas. And because the Dalai Lamas became Central Asia’s foremost incarnation lineage, ascending in 1642 to the throne of combined spiritual and temporal leadership of Tibet, it could be said that the approach outlined above by Lama Tsongkhapa is now a hallmark of all schools of Tibetan Buddhism. The term Prajnaparamitayana literally means “Perfection of Wisdom Vehicle,” and refers to the ordinary, or exoteric, path to enlightenment as taught by the Buddha. Vajrayana literally means “Diamond Vehicle,” and refers to the esoteric path.
The present volume brings together various works by the Dalai Lamas on the latter of these two paths.
The former of the two is sometimes also referred to as the Sutrayana, or “Way of the Public Discourses,” and the latter as the Guhyamantrayana, or “Way of Secret Mantra Practice.” Here the words “mantra” and “tantra” have the same meaning. Thus in a general sense these two aspects of the Buddha’s transmissions can also be referred to as “the Sutra Way” and “the Tantra Way.” The Thirteenth Dalai goes on to say, “The Vajrayana is to be practiced in secrecy and is not to be revealed to the spiritually immature. Therefore it is also known as ‘the secret path.’” Thus the Vajrayana lineages are generally taught in secret and only to those disciples who are sufficiently mature. This means that the disciples should have a high spiritual status achieved through trainings in previous lifetimes, or else should have ripened their minds in this lifetime by means of the preliminary trainings, as discussed by the Seventh Dalai Lama in his verse work of instruction in the Heruka Chakrasamvara tantric trainings (translated in Chapter Two of this volume).
introduction : 3
The Thirteenth Dalai Lama continues, “There is no difference between the exoteric Prajnaparamitayana and esoteric Vajrayana in terms of the buddhahood that is attained, the bodhisattva attitude used as the basic motivating factor, nor the nature of the view of emptiness that is experienced. In these respects the terms ‘superior’ and ‘inferior’ do not apply. Nonetheless, the Vajrayana is superior in four ways.”
He then lists the four as follows:
(a) Its manner of generating the experience of emptiness is implemented by the peerless means of inducing the wisdom of semblant mind isolation which arises through working with the coarse and subtle energies of the body and causing them to enter into, abide, and dissolve within the central channel. Thus the Vajrayana method of cultivating insight into emptiness is uncontrived.
(b) It has a more vast reservoir of methods, such as the meditation on a causal form that is in accord with the nature of the Rupakaya to be attained.
(c) Its path is quickly accomplished without hardship. On the Prajnaparamitayana many lifetimes of intense effort are required in order to attain the state of enlightenment, whereas on the Vajrayana full enlightenment can easily be achieved within this one short life.
(d) Finally, it is fashioned especially for those of sharpest capacity, who are able to make quick progress along the path. We will see later just what he means by these statements.
2. The Exoteric Sutra Path
As said above, the Buddhist legacy can be spoken of as having two facets: the Sutra Way, which is based on Buddha’s public teachings; and the Tantra Way, which is based on his secret or restricted transmissions. This twofold classification was made in India during the early days of the Buddhist experience, and was adopted wholeheartedly by the Tibetans when Buddhism became the national spiritual tradition of the Land of Snows in the mid-seventh century. Although some Indian masters chose one as opposed to the other of these two, most masters integrated both facets within their own continuum of practice. When this was the case, the Sutra Way was seen as a preliminary to and preparation for the Tantra Way. In the early days of Buddhism in Tibet, the Tibetans seem to have held a stronger interest in the latter, perhaps because of Tibet’s shamanic and somewhat esoterically-inclined past, and the more shamanic and esoteric language of the tantras. By the mid-eleventh century, however, the Indian model of the one being used as a preparation for the other had taken deep root, and during the fourteenth century became the official approach of all Tibetan schools.
Sometimes the Sutra transmissions are divided into three categories, known as the Tripitaka, or “Three Baskets,” in accordance with the three essential trainings of the spiritual path: the Vinaya Pitaka, which has self-discipline as its focus; the Sutra Pitaka, which mainly addresses meditation; and the Abhidharma Pitaka, which addresses the subject of wisdom and the philosophy of enlightenment. These three trainings are the principal means whereby the practitioner works toward the goal of nirvana, which is freedom from karma and delusion. Their subjects are the three higher trainings: discipline, meditation, and wisdom. These three are the practical essence of all the exoteric teachings. The path comprises study, contemplation, and meditation—a threefold application that is pursued systematically introduction : 5 both in terms of a daily regime and occasional lengthy meditation retreats.
In general it can be said that the Sutra Way views the human spiritual situation as being somewhat linear. For this reason the Sutra approach as discussed above is also known in Tibetan literature as gyu gyi lam, or “the path of causes.” In the Sutra approach one looks at one’s shortcomings and inner weaknesses, and works on the methods for systematically eradicating them; and one looks at one’s lack of enlightenment, and engages in the spiritual practices that cause the enlightenment experience to arise. In brief, one sees oneself as an unenlightened person afflicted with the inner factors of the three emotional and cognitive distortions or poisons—anger, attachment, and ignorance of the true nature of the self—and regards the spiritual practices such as meditation and so forth as being the medicines for systematically curing these afflictions, until eventually full enlightenment is attained. In the Sutra view, many lifetimes of practice are required to accomplish this state of inner perfection.
3. The Tantra Path
The tantras take a radically different approach. Rather than accept the conventional appearance of both one’s own imperfections and those of the world, one instead sidesteps the conventional appearances altogether, and replaces them with the practice of lhayi naljor, or “deity yoga,” with the word “deity” meaning “buddha.” In brief, one cultivates the vision of oneself as a deity/buddha, others as tantric deities/buddhas, and the world as a sacred mandala. The process begins with receiving tantric initiation. The First Dalai Lama puts it as follows in his Notes on the Kalachakra yogas (translated in Chapter Six):
One should first refine the mind by means of the ordinary Sutrayana methods. In specific, cultivate a definite understanding of the pure view of emptiness. Then seek out the complete initiations that ripen the mind and permit one to enter into the extraordinary Vajrayana path. Thereafter, as intensely as one cherishes one’s life, one should cherish the disciplines and commitments of the Tantric path, as elucidated at the time of initiation.
And the Seventh Dalai Lama puts it like this in his poem on the practice of the Heruka Chakrasamvara Tantra (translated in Chapter Two):
Having first trained in the foundation practices, Seek out a tantric master, embodiment of Buddha Vajradhara, Lord of the Sphere Beneath None;
Gain the four ripening initiations
And enter into the mystic mandala.
The body transforms into a great vajra-mandala, And, in the inconceivable mansion of joyful repose, The real deity—the subtle mind held between the kiss of the male and female drops—
Manifests as the blood-drinking Male/Female in Union. The dakas and dakinis dance a blissful dance In the mystic channels and secret drops;
Mundane perception is severed from consciousness And all emanations become ultimately pure. For this reason the Tantra Way is sometimes called trebu gi lam, or “The Path of the Result” (in sharp contrast to the Sutra appellation introduction : 7
“The Path of Causes”). Here, rather than think of oneself as needing to generate the causes of enlightenment within oneself, one identifies immediately with resultant buddhahood.
In other words, on the Tantric path one adopts an attitude and lifestyle that borrow the essence of enlightenment, and proceeds accordingly. Deity yoga is the application used in order to make this approach successful. One tells oneself, “I am a buddha, you are a buddha, the world is playful theater, and all activity is enlightened exchange.” A bit like the “I’m ok, you’re ok” pop psychology of the sixties, albeit with a bit more of a yogic tradition to support it. As the Thirteenth Dalai Lama puts it in A Brief Guide to the Buddhist Tantras:
It is a special method for protecting the mind from the subtle instincts of the three appearances, in which one meditates in the mode of the resultant stage. This means that in the Vajrayana one conceives of oneself and all others as sharing in the four pure qualities of a fully accomplished buddha: perfect body, perfect speech, perfect mind, and perfect activities. Therefore it is also called “the resultant vehicle.”
Another passage in this text by the Thirteenth Dalai Lama reveals another unique facet of tantric practice: Its manner of generating the experience of emptiness is implemented by the peerless means of inducing the wisdom of semblant mind isolation which arises through working with the coarse and subtle energies of the body and causing them to enter into, abide, and dissolve within the central channel. Thus the Vajrayana method of cultivating insight into emptiness is uncontrived.
In other words, a unique aspect of the tantric tradition is that it works with the chakras, nadis, subtle bodily chemistry, and subtle energies in order to induce extraordinary states of consciousness. Meditation is then performed on the basis of these exalted dimensions of body and mind.
The Seventh Dalai Lama puts it like this in his poem in Chapter Two:
The outer consort, in nature fire,
Melts the life-drops that course
Through the seventy-two thousand channels, Bringing them into the central channel,
Giving rise to the four ineffable joys.
Outside, all sensory movement of mind and energy ceases; Inside, mundane views, ignorance, and darkness disperse. Thus, by yoga even sleep is transformed
Into the nature of Dharmakaya’s clear light. And also elsewhere in the same poem:
By mentally reciting the secret mantras of the vajra dharmas Of entering, resting, and dispersing energy at the heart While controlling the life-drop made of five clear essences, The knots of ignorance are easily untied. The tip of the vajra is placed firmly in the lotus And mind as the syllable HUM is brought into the central channel;
One drinks and drinks the essence of nectar's And goes mad with innate joy unmoving.
introduction : 9
By thus settling the mind in the subtle vajra letter And bringing the drop to the four chakras and sensory gates, One directly sees all aesthetic objects
Found throughout the three worlds.
And the First Dalai Lama puts it like this in his Notes on the Two Yogic Stages of Glorious Kalachakra (translated in Chapter Six): First the vital energies passing through the four petals of the four intermediate directions at the heart chakra—the rupel, tsangpa, lhachin, and norlegyal energies—are successively arrested, beginning with those of the southeast channel and moving around to the northwest “petal.” From this one experiences the four signs: those of smoke, a mirage, flickering (like that of) fireflies, and a butterlamp. Then beginning in the east and moving around to the west, the energies flowing through the channels of the cardinal directions are arrested. These are the equally-abiding, upward-flowing, all-pervading, and lu energies.
One perceives the signs that are like (the appearance in the sky of the planet) kalagni, the moon, the sun, and (the planet) rahu.
One then cuts off the flow of the life-sustaining and downward-moving energies that course above and below, thus experiencing the signs of lightning and the drop. This phase of the completion stage yogas, which gives rise to the experience of these signs of controlling the ten energies in the production of the (substitute) empty body, is made possible by the foundations that were laid earlier in the generation stage yoga. This involved the meditation on the eight shaktis, who were contemplated as being in the nature of the knots in the channels at the heart and navel, 10 : the dalai lamas on tantra
together with the petals of the chakra of bliss at the navel. In the generation stage yogas (these eight become ten by counting them together with) Kalachakra and Consort, (thus symbolizing the control over all ten energies). Here Kalachakra represents the element of space, and the Consort symbolizes primordial awareness. Their sexual union is the joining of the upper and lower apertures, and the union of the two principal energies.
4. Tantra and Mantra
The word “tantra” literally means “stream” or “thread.” Although different tantras present slightly different epistemologies, a common threefold approach is taken from the perspectives of basis, path, and result. When this is done, “basis” refers to the primordial thread or stream of reality that is present in both mind and matter at every moment of existence. That is to say, the thread of perfect being is always present. “Path” refers to the method for attuning to that primordial thread or stream of reality; and “result” refers to the complete integration or fulfillment that is the utter harmony of the radiance of the mind (selwa) and the presence of the experiences that arise within the mind (nangwa). Put in terms of Highest Yoga Tantra, enlightenment is the complete and unobstructed flow of awareness of the dance of bliss (dewa) and infinity (tongpa). The Tantra Way is sometimes termed the Guhyamantrayana in Sanskrit, or “Vehicle of Secret Mantras.” When this is done, the word “mantra” has the same referent as “tantra,” although it is given a different etymology, with man meaning “mind” and tra meaning “to protect.” The idea is that the tantric method comprises a yogic technology (tra) for protecting the mind (man) from the distorting influences of ordinary appearances. This allows the practitioner to rest within the natural perfection of uncontrived being in every sitintroduction : 11
uation, rather than get twisted into knots with the conventional appearances of things.
In a more simple sense, as anyone familiar with Indian-based traditions will know, a mantra is also a formula of syllables or words that is recited as part of a particular meditation technique. Every tantric deity has his or her own mantras, and the practitioner recites and meditates upon these at length, as a means of establishing a link with the primordial stream of inner being (i.e., “tantra”). Each tantric system has a series of strict retreats associated with it, in which hundreds of thousands or even millions of the various mantras are recited. In the tantric retreat of the female buddha Arya Tara, for example, it is most common to recite four hundred thousand of the main mantra. This is, however, only the outer meaning of the usage of the term “mantra.” In a deeper sense, “mantra” refers to a yogic process that involves bringing together the subtle bodily energies until a state of bodily silence is achieved, a silence almost identical to the stillness of bodily functions at the time of death. This gives rise to an extremely subtle state of consciousness, similar to the moment-of-death consciousness and the experience of the after-death state. This subtle mind is then blended with the primordial stream of being, or tantra in its basis aspect, giving rise to the state of enlightenment, which is tantra in its resultant meaning.
The Second Dalai Lama writes in his The Two Yogic Stages of the Vajrabhairava Tantra (translated and with a commentary in Chapter Eight):
May I untie the knots at the heart,
The knots in the central channel
At the chakra called “wheel of truth,” By means of the supreme Mantra Yoga
In conjunction with the vase-breathing
And vajra-recitation techniques,
introduction : 13
Thus experiencing the mystical intoxication Of the innate great bliss.
May I engage in the sacred Samaya Yoga
And the stages of the involution compression process, To unite skillfully with one of the two mudras And by absorption be led to ultimate mind isolation. May I dissolve all vital energies into the heart, Just like at the time of death the energies Dissolve into clear light.
And may I perfect the absorption of illusory manifestation Of a form having the net of signs of perfection. Then by the Yoga of Pure Wisdom
May that radiant form, immaterial as a rainbow, Be dissolved like a cloud into space, so that The actual clear light (which is) reality may be known And the seeds of grasping
For true existence be extracted.
5. Tantra and Mandala
As the Thirteenth Dalai Lama explains in A Brief Guide to the Buddhist Tantras, the Buddhist tantras are arranged into four categories. Each of these four categories has numerous tantric systems. Moreover, every tantric system has its own Mulatantra, or root tantric text, as well as subsequent and supplementary tantras, and commentaries by later masters. Each also has its manuals for daily practice and recitation, as well as retreat manuals, manuals for various “activities” (such as fire rites, etc.), and manuals for ritual application (such as healing, prosperity, etc.).
Moreover, each tantric system has its own lineage of transmission, descending through the generations through lines of masters who practiced, accomplished, and then transmitted it. In brief, every system represents a complete yogic path, and contains complete methodology for the attainment of enlightenment in one lifetime. Every tantric system also has its own mandala. These are said to be of two aspects: supported, which refers to the mandala deity (or deities, when the mandala is more complex); and supporting, i.e., the cosmogram or residence that supports the deities. The former is the real nature of living beings, which refers to self and others, whereas the latter is the real nature of the environment or outer world in which self and others live.
Usually a tantric system is known by the name of the central deity of its supporting mandala.
6. Tantra and the Doctrine of the Three Kayas
A doctrine central to both the Mahayana sutras and tantras is that of the three kayas: Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya, and Nirmanakaya. This important idea discusses the mystery of what happens to a person’s santana, or “stream of being,” after he or she attains enlightenment. This aspect of the Buddha’s teachings also accounts for the vast numbers of buddhas and bodhisattvas encountered in the literature, art, and iconography of the Tantric and Mahayana Sutra traditions. Here the term Dharmakaya literally means “Reality Body,” Sambhogakaya literally means “Body of Complete Enjoyment,” and Nirmanakaya means “Emanation Body.” These three are sometimes made into two by combining the second and third into the Rupakaya, or “Form Body.” When this is done, the first of the three, or Dharmakaya, is sometimes termed Arupakaya, or “Formless Body.” The concept is that mind and matter remain as separate, albeit 14 : the dalai lamas on tantra
cooperative, entities until enlightenment is achieved. At the moment of enlightenment, however, they become of one nature. At that time the stream of the person’s being utterly dissolves into the Dharmakaya, or formless sphere of infinity, becoming “of one indistinguishable taste” with all beings who have ever achieved enlightenment. The metaphor is of a drop of water flowing into the ocean. The individual being dissolves into the universal Dharmakaya like a drop of water into the ocean. Just as the drop of water then becomes indistinguishable from the rest of the ocean’s water, the individual here becomes indistinguishable from the ocean of universal buddha mind. Perhaps Christians would call this sphere of pan-cosmic consciousness the Godhead.
However, the being that is resting in the Dharmakaya can only be perceived by other fully enlightened beings. Not even tenth-level saints (Skt. arya), let alone ordinary mortals, have direct access to the Dharmakaya. For this reason the Dharmakaya aspect eventually comes around to an awareness of the vow taken long ago to be of maximum benefit to living beings. The impetus of the universal love and compassion of the bodhichitta aspiration comes into play. Because there are two kinds of living beings—those who have attained the arya status of the ten levels of sainthood and those who have not—and because the degree of the powers of perception in these two is dramatically different, the enlightened being therefore sends out two levels of “emanations,” known in Tibetan as trul-pa. These two are the Sambhogakaya and Nirmanakaya aspects. The Sambhogakaya emanations reveal themselves to the living beings in the arya states, and inspire them to evolve toward complete enlightenment; the Nirmanakaya emanations reveal themselves to the ordinary living beings, to inspire and guide them. Sometimes these two are grouped together as the Rupakaya, or Form Body. The Thirteenth Dalai Lama used this term in a passage quoted above at the end of Section 1, in which he speaks of the four introduction : 15
ways in which Tantric practice is superior to its Sutra counterpart. As he puts it, “It (i.e., the Tantric path) has a more vast reservoir of methods, such as the meditation on a causal form that is in accord with the nature of the Rupakaya to be attained.” Tantric practice is intimately connected to identification with these three kayas, and we will see repeated use of the terms throughout the translations that follow. For example, in his text on Vajrabhairava practice the Second Dalai Lama writes: By meditating in four daily sessions
Upon the profound generation stage yogas
That open the net of the hundreds of lights And totally dispel the darkness of birth, Death, and the in-between state,
May I ripen my stream of being
And plant the seeds for the accomplishment Of the powerful completion stage yogas.
And Lama Chinpa comments:
The two main practices in the generation stage yogas are clear visualization and the cultivation of divine pride. By applying these to the various phases of the generation stage meditation, one becomes familiar with the meditations of taking death as a path of Dharmakaya, taking the inbetween state as the Sambhogakaya, and taking rebirth as the Nirmanakaya.
Firstly one accomplishes coarse clear visualization by meditating on the entire mandala. Then one visualizes the mandala in the mystic seed, which is drawn into the lotus of the consort. This is subtle clear visualization. 16 : the dalai lamas on tantra
Meditating upon the mandala in this way strengthens the seeds of the three buddha kayas and thus opens a net of light to dispel darkness from death, the bardo, and the rebirth process.
Through meditating in this way upon the generation stage yogas in four daily sessions—predawn, late morning, afternoon, and evening—one quickly lays the foundations upon which the completion stage yogas can be engaged and the state of enlightenment quickly won. This is the general nature and function of the generation stage methods.
7. The Two Stages of Tantric Practice
As stated earlier, there are four classes of tantras, and each class has various individual tantric systems within it. Each of these tantric systems is represented by a tantric deity, and also by its own mandala. In fact, each of the individual systems is a complete recipe for enlightenment, a complete Way in and of itself.
All these Buddhist tantric systems hold a number of features in common with one another. They all have rimpa nyigi naljor, or “two stages of yogic application]].” The first of these two stages mostly concerns itself with establishing two inner qualities, known in Tibetan as lhayi ngagyal and selnang. These translate respectively as “divine pride” and “[[visio] of radiance]].” The practitioner of any tantric system has to make these two qualities firm within himself or herself. The first quality, as explained above, refers to training oneself in the habit of always seeing oneself as a buddha, in the aspect of the principal deity of the mandala into which one has received initiation; the latter quality refers to training oneself in the habit of always seeing other people and things as being radiant manifestations of the primordial, playful wisdom of the mandala of enlightenment energy. As introduction : 17
for the second stage of tantric application, the various systems here provide their own individual techniques.
The Second Dalai Lama explains it as follows:1 One must learn to relinquish the habit of grasping At the mundane way in which people and things are perceived, And to place all that appears within the vision Of supported and supporting mandalas.
This is the essence of the generation stage yogas. In the so-called lower tantras (i.e., the first three classes of tantras: Kriya, Charya, and Yoga), the first stage of application is called “the stage of symbols” and the second is called “the stage beyond symbols.” This first stage mostly involves the cultivation of meditative powers that are then engaged in the two practices mentioned above, divine pride and vision of radiance. The second stage mostly deals with turning the powers of highly attuned concentration, now infused with a constant spiritual joy, to observation of the various levels of the radiant mind.
With the fourth class of tantras, the first stage is called “the stage of creative imagination” and the second called “the completion stage.” Here the first stage utilizes the practices of divine pride and the vision of radiance, in conjunction with highly attuned meditative concentration, for blending the three essential moments—sleeping, dreaming, and waking—to eliminate the ordinary appearance of the three occasions of death, in-between, and rebirth. Spiritual powers such as clairvoyance, supramundane physical abilities, and so forth, are here generated as side effects. The basis of the meditation process is, of course, the supported and supporting mandalas, with the practice of mantra recitation.
The second stage mostly involves yogic application involving manipulation of the bodily energy centers (chakras), energy pathways 18 : the dalai lamas on tantra
(nadis), and subtle bodily chemistry (bindus) in order to arouse paranormal states that allow access to the most subtle and primordial mind states, the most primitive of which is simply known as “the clear light consciousness.”
The Second Dalai Lama describes this in verse:2 Next one stimulates the vajra body
And directs the energies flowing in the side channels Into dhuti, the mysticchannel at the center, Thus gaining sight of the clear light nature of the mind, And giving rise to wisdom born together with bliss. Cherish meditation on these completion stage yogas. As said earlier by the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, one of the four superior features of the Tantra over the Sutra Way is that the former has a richer array of methods. This includes practices for every experience in life, including sleep and dream yogas, eating yoga, death yoga, sex yoga, and so forth.
There is even a killing yoga, so that policemen and soldiers can stay spiritually centered while performing the difficult duties occasionally demanded of their vocations.
8. Tantric Activities
An initiate who has achieved some degree of maturity in the above two stages of tantra can then engage in the trinley chopa, or “enlightenment activities.” This refers to the shamanic aspect of Tantric Buddhism, and to the rituals that are used for purposes such as healing, increasing prosperity, exorcism of negative energies, purifying sites of ghosts, and so forth.
The lion’s share of the income of most Tibetan monasteries comes through performance of rituals of this nature. In general it can be said introduction : 19
that monk children should study, monks in their early twenties should do meditation retreats, and mature monks should either teach or perform rituals. Most monasteries live and die by this formula. The offerings that a monastery receives from sponsors of tantric rituals are its primary source of support. Almost all other activities are sponsored by it.
Many monasteries maintain a body of monks solely dedicated to the performance of these rituals. Some monasteries establish this body by drafting adult monks into it on a rotating basis, the period of the draft often being two or three years. Of course monks showing a special talent for tantric ritual will dedicate more time to it, and many of the best will become professional ritualists for much of their lifetime.
In this book I have only included one work dealing with this subject. This is the work found in Chapter Seven: the Hayagriva- Sealed-in-Secrecy Methods for Healing. It is a method for empowering medicines and healing by means of a technique born from the visions of the Fifth Dalai Lama.
Most Tibetans rely upon Dharmapalas, “Truth Protectors,” for many aspects of their secular lives. These are a class of deity invoked for accomplishing tantric activities. The various Dalai Lamas have written extensively on these Dharmapala practices, and these writings certainly make for fascinating reading. However, because this topic can be somewhat controversial, I have decided not to include any in this work.
The Thirteenth Dalai Lama’s
A Brief Guide to the Buddhist Tantras3
Gyalwa Tubten Gyatso (1876-1933)
Mandala of the Five Buddha Families
Readers unfamiliar with the structure, literature, and terminology of the Tibetan tantric tradition are perhaps best off to skip over this chapter for the moment, and come back to it after reading the remainder of the book. For although the Thirteenth Dalai Lama’s text is not long—roughly ten thousand words in length—it contains summaries of all the principal Tibetan Buddhist tantric systems found in all four categories of tantras: Kriya, Charya, Yoga, and Anuttarayoga. Thus it is both technically dense and content intensive. Moreover, in addition to outlining the essence of each of the tantric transmissions, he gives the names of the original tantras spoken by the Buddha that serve as the foundation of each system, and also gives the names of the principal Indian commentators in the early lineages of transmission.
These lists may render the text somewhat obscure to the casual armchair traveller in the world of Tibetan Buddhism, but they are very useful to those with some exposure to the tradition and who want a perspective on how the various tantric systems fit together within the overall tantric schema. In this sense the Thirteenth Dalai Lama’s treatise is a true jewel of tantric knowledge, and reveals the depth and breadth of his mastery of tantric knowledge. Those well versed in Tibetan Buddhism will find it to be a most amazing guide to the esoteric legacy, a well-cut diamond for the delight of the wise. Somewhat surprisingly, it is not listed separately in the Thirteenth’s Sungbum, or Collected Works, and I chanced upon it somewhat serendipitously.
The year was 1985, and I was working on the study of the Thirteenth’s life and teachings that was published a few years later as Path of the Bodhisattva Warrior. My approach to all my books in that series on the lives and teachings of the early Dalai Lamas was to first present a summary of the subject’s life, and then follow this with a selection of translations of his writings in order to illustrate the quintessential character of his teachings. With the Great Thirteenth I chose the transcriptions of his annual sermons at the Monlam Chenmo, or “Great Prayer Festival.” The Thirteenth frequently delivered a public discourse at the full moon celebration on the first full moon of the new year, which was the highlight of this festival. In that anthology I also included the Thirteenth’s collection of spiritual poems and a number of his manuals on meditation.
Nothing else in the catalog of his works seemed appropriate to my purposes there, being either too long, too esoteric, or too technical for a collection, and thus requiring a separate book in and of itself. Yet his Collected Works was seven thick volumes in length and contained several hundred titles. I had a feeling that something from within this vast corpus was calling out to be included. I pored over the seven volumes for several days, but could not find anything that seemed to fill the gap. Then I decided to use an extraordinary strategy. First I recited several rosaries of the name mantra of the Great Thirteenth for awhile, as well as the mantras of the principal mandala deities of Tantric Buddhism. After this I recited some rosaries of mantras associated with Palden Lhamo, the Oracle Goddess. That done, I closed my eyes and picked up and put down the various volumes of the Collected Works one at a time, until the volume in my hands seemed to hold promise. At that point I randomly opened it at a page somewhere toward the center, and began reading. The volume I had chosen by means of this method contained the 24 : the thirteenth dalai lama
Thirteenth’s biographical account of one of his most revered teachers, Kyabjey Purchokpa by name. I had opened the book to side b of page 179, where the Thirteenth is just about to describe how Purchokpa had received and mastered all the various lineages of the Sarmai Gyu, or “New Tantras.” Here he first explains that he will elucidate in general the tantric trainings that his teacher had received; he then goes on to provide an account of everything that is included under the category of “New Tantras.” It is this section from the Thirteenth’s biography of Purchokpa that I have extracted and translated here, giving it the name A Brief Guide to the Buddhist Tantras. It might be useful to point out that the term “New Tantras” (used above) does not refer to a group of tantras that were taught by Buddha at a later period in his life, as opposed to a group called the “Old Tantras” that he had taught earlier. Rather, the expression refers to the period that the transmissions came from India into Tibet, and also to the style of the translations of the canonical literature that were made from Sanskrit into Tibetan.
Tibetan sects are generally divided into two classes: Old and New. This division is made on the basis of the time of the transmission and the language used in the translations. The Old Schools refer to those sects that emerged in Tibet between ad 650 and 1000. They all used the Tibetan technical terminology established by the Tibetan translators of King Songtsen Gampo (mid-seventh century), King Trisong Deutsen (mid-eighth century), and King Tri Ralpachen (mid-ninth century). The “Old Tantras” is said in reference to tantras translated during that period and using the linguistics and terminology in vogue at that time.
However, several movements began in Central and Western Tibet in the early eleventh century, with many Tibetans going back to India and retranslating everything anew, or bringing great scholars from India to Tibet in order to revise the old translations. Here these lama scholars mainly followed the linguistic approach of the emerging a brief guide to the buddhist tantras : 25 great translators of Ngari, Western Tibet, of whom Lotsawa Chenpo Rinchen Zangpo was the most revered. The versions of the tantras that appeared in Tibetan during this period are what is referred to as the “New Tantras.”
Numerous schools of Buddhism emerged in the eleventh and twelfth centuries from this work. They became known as the “New Schools,” because they were based on these new transmissions of lineages from India, as well as upon the revised system of Buddhist terminology. The seven most important of these New Schools were the Sakya, the Kadam, the Kagyu, the Shangpa, the Zhalu, the Rva Luk, and the Zhichey.
All seven existed as independent entities for several hundred years. However, in the fourteenth century the great Tibetan master Lama Tsongkhapa (1357-1419) appeared on the scene. He gathered the essence of all seven traditions, as well as numerous other minor lineages, absorbing them by means of study and practice. Afterwards he made retreat for five years and achieved realization. Then toward the end of his life he created Ganden Monastery as an institute where the contents of all could be studied and practiced. Lama Tsongkhapa’s eclectic approach eventually evolved into what has become known to history as the Geluk, or “Creative Way,” School of Tibetan Buddhism, the order in which all Dalai Lamas traditionally receive their monastic ordination. The first Dalai Lama was a direct disciple of Lama Tsongkhapa. Within a century the Gelukpa had become the largest school of Buddhism in Tibet, and by the sixteenth century was as large as all the other schools combined. In A Brief Guide to the Buddhist Tantras, the Thirteenth Dalai Lama draws from an autobiographical poem written by Lama Tsongkhapa himself, in which Tsongkhapa outlines the source of the many lineages he had gathered together.4
By quoting this poem the Thirteenth is indicating that his great guru Purchokpa fully accomplished and 26 : the thirteenth dalai lama embodied the Tsongkhapa legacy, coming to equal that venerable master himself.
On a somewhat different note, even though here the Great Thirteenth limits his discourse to the New Tantras, it should be noted that all Dalai Lamas from the time of the First have combined Old and New Schools within their trainings. We will see more on this issue in a later chapter of this book (Chapter Seven). I originally studied the Thirteenth Dalai Lama’s text with Ven. Amchok Tulku of Ganden Shartsey Monastery. At the time, Rinpochey had just completed a tenure as abbot of Tashi Khyil Monastery, and had come to Dharamsala at the request of the Dalai Lama to evaluate the large collection of uncataloged Buddhist scriptures at the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, where I was studying. Rinpochey’s deep learning and years of practice made him an ideal tutor for the reading of this terse yet panoramic text. a brief guide to the buddhist tantras : 27 The Thirteenth Dalai Lama’s Text
General Introduction to the Buddhist Path The incomparable Lama Jey Tsongkhapa wrote, There are two Mahayana vehicles
For traveling to complete buddhahood:
The Prajnaparamitayana and the profound Vajrayana. Of these, the latter greatly surpasses the former. This is as well known as the sun and moon. There are many people who know this fact
And pretend to carry the tradition of the sages, Yet who don’t search for the nature of the profound Vajrayana. If they are wise, who is foolish?
To meet with this rare and peerless legacy And yet still to ignore it: How absolutely astounding! The Vajrayana is to be practiced in secrecy and is not to be revealed to the spiritually immature. Therefore it is also known as “the secret path.”
It is a special method for protecting the mind from the subtle instincts of the three appearances, in which one meditates in the mode of the resultant stage. This means that in the Vajrayana one conceives of oneself and all others as sharing in the four pure qualities of a fully accomplished buddha: perfect body, perfect speech, perfect mind, and perfect activities. Therefore it is also called “the resultant vehicle.” On this path one applies the yogas of nondual method and wisdom in order to achieve the transcendental results of the secret mantra. Thus it is known as “the path of secret mantra.” This is the nature of the esoteric Vajrayana, the Diamond Vehicle that brings quick and easy enlightenment.
There is no difference between the exoteric Prajnaparamitayana and the esoteric Vajrayana in terms of the buddhahood that is attained, the bodhisattva attitude used as the basic motivating factor, nor the nature of the view of emptiness that is experienced. In these respects the terms “superior” and “inferior” do not apply. Nonetheless, the Vajrayana is superior in four ways: (a) Its manner of generating the experience of emptiness is implemented by the peerless means of inducing the wisdom of semblant mind isolation which arises through working with the coarse and subtle energies of the body and causing them to enter into, abide, and dissolve within the central channel. Thus the Vajrayana method of cultivating insight into emptiness is uncontrived.
(b) It has a more vast reservoir of methods, such as the meditation on a causal form that is in accord with the nature of the Rupakaya to be attained.
(c) Its path is quickly accomplished without hardship. On the Prajnaparamitayana many lifetimes of intense effort are required in order to attain the state of enlightenment, whereas on the Vajrayana full enlightenment can easily be achieved within this one short life.
(d) Finally, it is fashioned especially for those of sharpest capacity, who are able to make quick progress along the path. a brief guide to the buddhist tantras : 29 The Vajrayana teachings appear only very rarely in this world. They are more rare than even the buddhas themselves. The nature of the Vajrayana path is fourfold, the division being made according to the four classes of the tantras. This fourfold classification is symbolized by the four levels of engaging in passionate communication with the mystical Knowledge Consort as methods of achieving the path to enlightenment.
The four Tantra classes are named as follows: Kriya, Charya, Yoga, and Anuttarayoga.
In the first of these, great emphasis is placed on external rituals, such as washing and physical purification. In the second tantra division there is an equal balance of external activity and inner yoga. In the third division the inner yogas take precedence over the outer activities. Finally, in the fourth tantra division, the emphasis is always on the inner yogas.
The Kriya Tantras
Concerning the Kriya tantras, Lama Tsongkhapa wrote, One may say that the Anuttarayoga tantras Are supreme amongst the four tantra classes; But if when saying this one does not understand The paths of the three lower tantra divisions, One’s words fade into meaninglessness.
Understanding this to be the case,
I first familiarized myself with the Kriya tantras, Both general and specific, of the three Kriya families. These included The General Tantra of Secret Knowledge, The Tantra of Susiddhi,
The Tantra of Questions by Subabu, And The Subsequent Absorption Tantra.
30 : the thirteenth dalai lama
The three families of tantras in the Kriya division are: the supreme family of Vairochana, also called the Tathagata family (which includes mandala deities such as Manjushri, Ushnisha Vijaya, and Sitatapatra, etc.); the intermediate Padma family (which includes Avalokiteshvara, Tara, etc.); and the fundamental Vajra family (e.g., Vajrapani, Vajravidarana, etc.).
One should enter into whichever of these is suitable to one’s personal karmic predispositions, receiving initiation into either a powder (i.e., sand), cloth, or meditation mandala. The initiation begins with the claiming of the place of the rite. The mandala deities are invoked, the initiation vase is empowered, the disciples are enhanced, and so forth. Then follows the flower garland, water, and crown initiations, together with the concluding procedures.
The disciples are thus ripened and matured by these processes, and are authorized to enter into practice of the Kriya yogas. Concerning the actual yogas, firstly there is the dhyana of four branches of recitation:
(a) The self-basis, or generation of oneself as a mandala deity. This involves meditation upon the six deities (or stages of arisal as a deity): suchness, mantric sound, mantric letters, emanated forms, mudras, and symbol (i.e., the actual deity). (b) The other-basis, which means generating the supporting and supported mandala and deities in front, sending forth praises and offerings, etc.
(c) The mental basis, in which one meditates that one’s mind rests on a moon disc at one’s heart.
(d) The audial basis, wherein one concentrates upon the seed syllable and mantra rosary on that moon disc, and then does the mantra recitation.
a brief guide to the buddhist tantras : 31 Next there is the dhyana of abiding within fire. Here one visualizes oneself as the chief mandala divinity, and envisions that at one’s heart is a radiant, blazing fire in the nature of the wisdom of emptiness. One fixes the mind upon this fire.
The sound of the mantra emanates from within the fire. Focusing the mind upon this is the dhyana of sound. These are the practices known as “the yoga with symbols,” the first stage of the Kriya Tantra yogas.
These methods are complemented by “the yoga without symbols,” in which one engages in the shamatha (inner stillness) and vipashyana (higher insight) meditations propelled by physical and mental ecstasy. This is the dhyana bestowing liberation at the end of sound. By relying on these various dhyanas in conjunction with the yoga with symbols and the yoga without symbols, one gains highest, intermediate, or basic siddhis, and by becoming a knowledge holder of life achieves supreme accomplishment.
The tantric systems in the lower division are of two types: general and specific. In total there are said to be thirty-four thousand of them in number. Of these, Lama Tsongkhapa and his immediate disciples accepted the following as being the most significant. The most important of the specific Kriya Tantra treatises include: The Tantra Establishing the Three Pledges5 in nineteen chapters; The Healing Discourse in Eight Hundred Themes;6 The Inconceivable Mansion of Vast Jewels;7 A Hundred Thousand Enlightenment Ornaments;8 The Secret Relics;9 and so forth.
As for general Kriya Tantra treatises, the most important of these are: Fundamentals of the Empowerments of the Three Families;10 The General Tantra of Secret Knowledge,11 which explains in detail the mandala constructions in the four tantra classes; The Tantra of Susiddhi, 12 which mainly deals with retreat procedures, rituals, and commitments of the Kriya Tantra mandala of Susiddhi; The Tantra of Questions by Subahu,13 which deals with topics left unclear in the 32 : the thirteenth dalai lama above two treatises, and teaches in detail the knowledge mantras and especially the retreat procedures of the Kriya system; the final section of The Vajra Ushnisha Tantra,14 which elucidates the four dhyanas common to both Kriya and Charya Tantra divisions; and The Subsequent Absorption Tantra,15 of which there are four fundamental versions. The two great Indian elucidators of the tantric treatises in the Kriya and Charya divisions were Acharya Buddhaguhya and Acharya Vajrabodhi. They are as well known as the sun and moon. From amongst their writings, The Commentary to the Subsequent Absorption Tantra,16 A Summary of the Tantra of Questions by Subahu,17 and so forth are superb.
The Charya Tantras
Concerning the Charya Tantra division, Lama Tsongkhapa writes, The second tantra class is called Charya. The principal Charya Tantra system
Is the Vairochana Abhisambodhi Tantra.
By training in that system I gained definite experience In the supreme points of the Charya tantras. The Buddha, manifesting in the Akanishta Pure Land, took the form of Tathagata Vairochana Abhisambodhi and expounded this supreme Charya tantra.
The path of the Charya tantras begins with receiving initiation. Here one enters into the mandala from the western gate, which is the direction in which the main mandala divinity is facing. There are various names for the four vase initiations and the bases of purification associated with this process. In brief, one partakes of the water, headdress, vajra, bell, and name initiations, together with the concluding a brief guide to the buddhist tantras : 33 procedures, and thus is authorized to take up practice of the Charya Tantra yogas.
As in the Kriya division, the actual practice of the Charya tantras is twofold, consisting of the yoga with symbols and the yoga without symbols.
The body of the Charya path, together with the results attained, is much the same as in the Kriya systems. However, here in the practice of the generation of the mandala of oneself as the divinity it is not necessary to have the complete six deity stages (as was the case in the Kriya yogas explained above). Also, here the dhyana of four branches of recitation is applied in both inner and two outer aspects (which was not the case in the Kriya tantras).
The two principal texts in the Charya tantra tradition are The Vairochana Abhisambodhi Tantra,18 which is in twenty-six chapters, and The Subsequent Tantra of Vairochana Abhisambodhi19 in seven chapters.
The text entitled Tantra of the Vajrapani Empowerment,20 which belongs to the Vajra family, is also said to be of great significance, but unfortunately it was never translated into Tibetan. We only know of it through the many references to and quotations from it that appear in the treatises of the later commentators. Buddhaguhya’s Abbreviated Commentary to the Vairochana Abhi-sambodhi Tantra 21 is perhaps the most important of the commentaries by later Indian masters.
The Yoga Tantras
The third division of the tantras is that known as “the Yoga Tantra class.” Lama Tsongkhapa refers to this division as follows: Foremost amongst the principal traditions of The third tantric division, known as the Yoga tantras, 34 : the thirteenth dalai lama
Are the Glorious Compendium of Principles And the Vajra Highest Peak Explanatory Tantra. By training in systems such as these,
I experienced a Yoga Tantra feast.
In the Yoga tantras it is said that the four elements arise with the strength of the four basic delusions—the three root delusions of attachment, aversion, and ignorance, together with self-centeredness. These are transformed into the resultant four pristine wisdoms— distinguishing wisdom, the wisdom of equanimity, the accomplishing wisdom, and the mirrorlike wisdom. The principal means is reliance upon the yoga of combined nondual profundity and radiance, which integrates with the Mahayana bodhi-mind and the perfections of generosity, discriminating awareness, and joyous energy. These four pristine wisdoms manifest in the four buddha family aspects: Tathagata “Diamond Sphere” (vajradhatu); Vajra “Victory over the Three Worlds” (trilokavijaya); Padma “Tamer of the Living Beings” (sakalajagadvinaya); and the Amoghasiddhi nature of “Accomplishing Feats” (sarvarthasiddhi), which unites both Ratna and Karma families.
One gains initiation into whichever of these five buddha families is appropriate to one’s individual character. The basis of the initiation ceremony can be a chalk, cloth, or meditation mandala.
The preparatory stages are much the same as in the two lower tantra classes. As for the actual initiation itself, here one takes the bodhisattva vow, the pledges of the five buddha families, the pledge of secrecy, and the five knowledge initiations together with also the acharya initiation. One concludes with the verses of appreciation, etc. When the disciple is thus ripened and matured by means of receiving initiation, he/she is authorized to enter into the yogas of the two stages—those with symbols and those without symbols. a brief guide to the buddhist tantras : 35 By means of the mandala and the supremely victorious activities being performed in either extensive, medium, or abbreviated forms, one cultivates the coarse yoga with symbols. Firstly one visualizes oneself as the mandala divinity and then generates the divinity in front, incorporating both supporting and supported mandalas in the meditation.
After this has been accomplished, the subtle mandala is generated at the tip of the nose of oneself envisioned as the divinity. The signs and symbols of the family with which the mandala is linked are similarly visualized. The mind is then held on this subtle image, and by forcefully engaging the methods common to all three lower tantra classes one accomplishes the subtle yoga with symbols. Next one engages in the yoga without symbols by absorbing the mind in the sphere of purification in emptiness. The objects purified include the self-generation and frontal generation mandalas, the mandala deities, the mantras, and so forth. In this way the ordinary aspects of body, speech, mind, and activities gradually acquire the visible and tangible characteristics of the supported and supporting divinity forms. This is “the body mahamudra.” The sound of the mantra is spontaneously heard. This is “the speech dharmamudra.”
The wisdom of nondual profundity and radiance is maintained by shamatha and vipashyana combined. This is “the mind samayamudra.” The appearance of impure activities automatically ceases, and the four tantric activities of pacification, increase, power, and wrath are accomplished merely by means of dhyana. This is “the activity karmamudra.”
In our tradition it is said that when the seal of these four mudras is applied by a bodhisattva holding the form of a buddha and who is a knowledge holder on the tenth level abiding near the end of cyclic existence, the all-pervading buddhas are inspired to arise from their 36 : the thirteenth dalai lama
samadhi. They then reveal the empowerments and knowledge mantras, by means of which the bodhisattva experiences the five actual purifications and achieves final enlightenment. As for the precepts that are taken by the trainee who enters into practice of the Yoga tantras, generally these are much the same as those taken in the Anuttara Tantra division (to be explained later), wherein there are fourteen root and eight secondary (branch) downfalls to be guarded against. However, there are some differences. For example, here the thirteenth root downfall is incurred by not relying upon tantric dance and hand mudras. Also, the fourteenth root downfall is incurred by underestimating the importance of the practice of the four mudras.
As for the textual traditions of the Yoga Tantra class, the most important of these are as follows.
Firstly there is The Glorious Compendium of Principles,22 which is in four sections and reveals the purpose of maintaining the samaya of the Yoga tantras. Then there is The Very Nature23 in five chapters. To this latter work there is A Subsequent Tantra24 and also A Later Subsequent Tantra.25
Other important texts include The Vajra Highest Peak Explanatory Tantra;26 The First Supreme Glory;27 Victory over the Three Worlds;28 and The Tantra Which Purifies the Realms of Misery 29 in both the original form 30 and the reorganized form .31
The three greatest Indian elucidators of the Yoga Tantra systems were Acharya Buddhaguhya, Acharya Anandagarbha, and Acharya Shakyamitra.
Buddhaguhya’s main treatise in this area was his The Extensive Avatarana Commentary,32 which unpacks the meaning of The Root Tantra, known as The Glorious Compendium of Principles. Anandagarbha’s An Extensive Treatise 33 elucidates the meaning of The First Supreme Glory. Finally, ppShakyamitra’s[[ most significant text here is his A Silken Ornament.34
a brief guide to the buddhist tantras : 37 The Anuttarayoga Tantras
A General Survey
Lama Tsongkhapa then describes the Anuttarayoga tantras as follows: Amongst the sages of holy India,
The two Anuttarayoga Tantra systems
Famous as the sun and moon
Were the male tantra of Guhyasamaja and
The female yogini tantra of Heruka Chakrasamvara, Both of which have root tantras, explanatory tantras, and so forth.
The causes which accordswith the nature of a buddha’s form body, or Rupakaya, are the impure and pure illusory bodies. The principal sources explaining the methods for realizing this illusory body are the male tantras, foremost of which is the Guhyasamaja tantric tradition. The causes which accord with the nature of a buddha’s reality body, or Dharmakaya, are the semblant and actual clear light consciousnesses. The principal sources explaining the methods for realizing this clear light are the female tantras, foremost of which is the Heruka Chakrasamvara tantric tradition.
The trainees who wish to engage in these profound paths must first complete the according generation stage yogas. After these have been accomplished they must gain the common paranormal attainments such as the eight siddhis (i.e., the ability to levitate, walk through walls, etc). For this they should rely upon one of the four types of ordinary sexual consort—red lotus, white lotus, utpala, and sandal. Otherwise, in order to achieve supreme siddhi in this very lifetime they must rely upon the supreme jewel-like consort. 38 : the thirteenth dalai lama
The door to Anuttarayoga Tantra practice is the receiving of complete initiation from a qualified vajra master. To be more specific, to enter into the path of the Anuttarayoga tantras one must receive initiation using one of four types of mandala as the basis: chalk, cloth, dhyana, or body mandala.
The initiating master should be endowed with the ten inner qualities, and should have a mindstream that has been purified by accomplishing the retreat and maintaining the samaya of the system being transmitted.
The disciples receiving the initiation should have completed the preliminary trainings of the Sutrayana and thus have prepared their mindstreams by laying a firm spiritual basis. Only then can the tantric yogas be successfully approached.
All of the Anuttarayoga Tantra initiations begin with the master analyzing, claiming, and purifying the place of the rite. He then establishes protection and consecration. This is followed by the rite for the earth divinity, the mandala divinities, consecration of the initiation vase, enhancement of the disciple’s stream of being, and so forth. As for this last phase (i.e., enhancement of the disciple), this in - cludes the instruction on establishing correct motivation, taking the inner initiation, the disciple’s act of making requests and asking to be cared for until enlightenment is attained, establishing the pledges, blessing the three doors (body, speech, and mind), tossing the divination stick, drinking of the vase waters, being given the kusha grass and mystical armband, giving birth to appreciative joy, and being instructed on how to observe one’s dreams. Concerning the methods for entering into the mandala, there are three basic forms of doing this: performing self-generation and frontal generation separately but entering in one movement; performing self-generation and frontal generation nonseparately but entering separately; and, lastly, performing the self-generation and frontal generation separately and entering separately. a brief guide to the buddhist tantras : 39
Following whichever system is appropriate to the specific tradition, one enters into the mandala and takes the initiations. The disciple here makes the request to be granted initiation. One is given a blindfold, the deity costumes, and a flower garland. Next one is asked about his character and purpose, takes the bodhisattva vow and the precepts of the five buddha families, is instructed to generate the all-encompassing yoga mind, and is given the oath of secrecy. This all occurs outside the mandala curtain. One then enters inside the curtain. To establish external merit one circumambulates the mandala, offers prostrations, and is placed in the samaya. For inner merit one meditates on receiving a rainfall of wisdom nectars. The master pronounces the words of truth, and the disciple throws the prophetic flower into the mandala. One is then given the flower garland initiation.
This is the stage of entering the mandala while still blindfolded. Next the disciple is instructed to remove the blindfold. One has now acquired the spiritual maturity necessary in order to be allowed to see the supporting and supported mandalas. One now proceeds to receive the four initiations: vase, secret, wisdom, and sacred word.
The first of these is the vase initiation. This includes the five common initiations of the (five) buddha families, and also the exclusive vajra acharya initiation. As each of these stages are completed with the sprinkling of water from the initiation vase, they are all called “vase empowerments.”
Almost all the Anuttarayoga Tantra systems contain these six fundamental stages of the vase initiation (i.e., the initiations of the five buddha families and of the vajra acharya). However, some Anuttara initiation manuals further subdivide these processes, and in these alternative traditions the vase initiation sometimes includes as many as nine, and even eleven, phases.
By receiving these six, nine, or eleven vase initiations, the disciple 40 : the thirteenth dalai lama
experiences purification of all coarse and subtle bodily obscurations, such as grasping at mundane appearances. One is empowered to meditate upon the generation stage yogas and to perform the various mandala activities, etc. The potency for accomplishing the Nirmanakaya of a buddha is established.
Then follows the secret initiation. Here the disciple relies upon the use of the special secret substance, and experiences purification of all coarse and subtle speech obscurations, such as grasping at energy and mantra as being separate. One is authorized to cultivate the illusory body, the conventional reality, and to meditate upon the yogas that accomplish this body, namely the yogas of isolation of body, speech, and mind. The potency for accomplishing the Sambhogakaya of a buddha is established.
The third of the four Anuttarayoga Tantra initiations is called “the wisdom initiation.” By means of it the mind is purified of all coarse and subtle obscurations, especially the obscuration hindering the perception of all appearance (i.e., all reality) as arising as the sportive play of bliss and emptiness. One is authorized to meditate on the semblant and actual clear light yogas, the highest reality. The potency of the Dharmakaya of a buddha is established. Fourthly is the sacred word initiation. Here the wisdom of the third initiation is used as a tool to point out the nature of the state of yuganaddha, or Great Union. All coarse and subtle stains of the body, speech, and mind are simultaneously purified. Especially, the in stincts of the distortion caused by grasping at duality are removed. One is authorized to meditate upon the completion stage yogas of the inseparable two levels of truth, i.e., the inseparable nature of the illusory body and clear light. The potency is established to actualize the state of Buddha Vajradhara, wherein one becomes a revealer of the festival of great bliss.
Once one’s continuum has been matured by these four initiations, one should carefully protect the root and branch precepts of the a brief guide to the buddhist tantras : 41 Tantric path and should enter into the generation and completion stage yogas that mature and liberate the mind. This is the general picture of the overall structure of the Anuttarayoga Tantra systems. However, here it would also be useful to say something about each of the principal individual Anuttara traditions. Guhyasamaja:
A Male Anuttarayoga Tantra System
Concerning the Guhyasamaja system Lama Tsongkhapa wrote, The Anuttarayoga tantras are
The highest teachings given by the Buddha. From amongst these the most profound is
That of glorious Guhyasamaja, the king of all tantras. And also elsewhere,
Understanding the sublime path of Guhyasamaja Bestows fearless, confident understanding Of all the teachings of the Buddha.
As said above, once one understands the Guhyasamaja Tantra, this comprehension can be used as an infrastructure for the understanding of all other tantric systems.
The Guhyasamaja Generation Stage Yogas
Here, by relying upon a mind mandala, a most wondrous field of merit, one is empowered to enter into the practices that purify the mind by means of engaging in the activities that accumulate vast stores of merit.
The mandala meditations, or generation stage yogas, proceed as follows.
To symbolize the time when the universe previously was destroyed and became nothing, one meditates with wisdom on the emptiness of the three doors of liberation.
Later the universe again began to reform, and the elements once more began to reappear. This process is symbolized by the arisal of the protection wheel, the dharmodaya “source of phenomena,” the four elemental mandalas, the crossed vajra, the inconceivable mansion, and so forth.
After our universe had once again become developed, the sentient beings began to reappear in it. This was a golden age on earth, and the sentient beings at that time took birth miraculously. To symbolize this, the thirty-two deities of the mandala are visualized as suddenly manifesting simultaneously in a single moment. Then there are the activities of emanating out from and withdrawing back into the mandala, and the invoking of the Wisdom and Commitment Beings.
There is the entering from above the mandala: the Wisdom Vajra Being enters; the entering from below: Vajra Strength enters; the unhindered simultaneous Vajra Being entrance from above, below, and both the cardinal and intermediate directions; and the entering of the Vajra Disciple from the eastern gateway. These are the four manners of entering.
Next follows the invocation beginning with Vairochana and culminating in Sumbharaja. These tantric divinities are arranged on the body of the principal figure in the mandala. One meditates that they become inseparable in nature from the skandhas, elements, and so forth.
This establishes the basis of the deity visualization. The sentient beings with the karma to experience birth from a womb on this planet and whose bodies are composed of the six impermanent substances must eventually meet with death. At the time of death they experience the dissolution of the twenty-five a brief guide to the buddhist tantras : 43 coarse substances: the five skandhas, such as form and so forth; the five basic wisdoms, such as the mirrorlike wisdom, etc.; the four elements; the six gates of perception; and the five sensory objects. At each phase of this dissolution there is the external sign of the respective sensory power losing its capacity of apprehension, and also the according element failing in strength.
Simultaneously there occur inner signs, such as the miragelike vision, smoke, fireflies, and the flickering of light like that of a butterlamp. When the elements have thus dissolved there is the threefold phase of absorption of the vital energies. These three are “appearance,” “increase,” and “near attainment.” The signs of these occur, and the “near attainment” experience melts into the clear light. A sense of luminosity arises, like the vibrant radiance of a clear dawn free from the three obstructions just before sunrise. With this clear light level of consciousness acting as a simultaneously- present condition, and the flowing energy which is the vehicle of this consciousness acting as the substantial cause, the dying person emerges from the clear light experience and prepares to enter into the bardo, or “in-between” state.
The three phases (mentioned above) of appearance, increase, and near attainment, as well as the visions of mirage, smoke, and so forth now once again arise. However, this time their order of appearance is reversed. In this way the dying person leaves the clear light and enters into the bardo, acquiring a bardo body.
To symbolize the above process, the sadhana now presents five phases of unfoldment. These are known as “the five clear enlightenments”: suchness, seat, symbol, syllable, and complete deity body. By means of these five unfoldments one arises as a Sambhogakaya deity. The bardo being then enters into a womb and eventually takes rebirth. To symbolize this the Sambhogakaya deity transforms into the Nirmanakaya deity Vajrasattva.
The meditations on the processes of formation, disintegration, birth, death, bardo, and so forth of the world and its inhabitants as described above and symbolized by the various phases beginning with purification in suchness until the offering of suchness are known as “the perfect accomplishment of one’s own purpose.” It is the samadhi of the first application.
To symbolize the physical deeds of the resultant stage of buddhahood, the deities of the space mandala, together with the consorts of their individual families, are summoned to the heart. Clouds of emanations are sent forth and withdrawn in order to purify the world and its inhabitants.
The stage from emanating via the seven doors until the emergence of the wrathful deities is known as “the perfect accomplishment of the purpose of others.” It is also called “the supremely victorious mandala.” The mental deeds of the resultant stage of buddhahood are symbolized as follows. To arrest mental wandering and torpor one visualizes mystical hand implements, tiny in size, at the tip of the nose. Alternatively, one generates a coarse single-pointed recollection of a drop the size of a mustard seed, within which is envisioned the complete deity mandala. This is performed together with the processes of emanation and absorption, and is known as “the yoga of subtle realization supported by shamatha.”
The buddahood deeds of speech are symbolized by mental and also verbal mantric recitation. This latter has six aspects: pledge, cyclical, flowing, forceful, wrathful, and diamond. The main steps in the process are as follows. The principal mandala deity melts into clear light. The four indescribable goddesses offer songs of inspiration, and the deity reappears from the light. Then there is the offering, the praise, the ex perience of blissful ambrosia, and so forth.
In brief, from the phase of meditating on the mystical hand implements at the upper door until the phase of establishing siddhi there are forty-nine steps to be cultivated.
a brief guide to the buddhist tantras : 45 There are the three samadhis, such as that called “the first application”; the four branches, known as “propitiation,” “proximate attainment,” “attainment,” and “great attainment”; four yogas to be cultivated, called “yoga,” “beyond yoga,” “intense yoga,” and “great yoga”; four vajra stages, known as “emptiness enlightenment,” “seed absorption,” “form completion,” and “mantric syllable placement”; and so forth.
These are the processes of the Guhyasamaja generation stage to be cultivated as a preliminary to entering into the completion stage yogas. The Guhyasamaja Completion Stage Yogas
The subjects taken as the focal points in practice of the completion stage yogas are the general and individual natures of the body and mind on coarse, subtle, and extremely subtle levels. Here the three topics of energy channels, vital energies, and mystic drops become very important.
By understanding these topics well, one can successfully enter into practice of the various completion stage yogas: body isolation, speech isolation, mind isolation, illusory body, the clear light, and great union.
The yoga of body isolation is explained as follows. The basis of this isolation comprises the aggregates, elements, entrances, and sensory objects. Each of these is fivefold, making a total of twenty factors. The five buddha families are then applied to each of these twenty, making a total of one hundred supreme natures to be explored.
Here the four elements, together with consciousness, constitute the “five thatness natures” to be meditated upon. Body, speech, and mind, envisioned as being deities of the three vajras, are the three secret natures. Finally, the practitioner possessing the three doors is envisioned as being Buddha Vajradhara, which is “the great secret solitary nature” to be meditated upon.
One seals these various factors with the mark of bliss and void, and isolates them in the nature of a devarupa, or “deity body.” Moreover, when one meditates on the yoga of the subtle drop at the tip of the jewel—an element possessing the four factors of substance, time, energy, and object—mind and energy flow together into the central channel. Signs arise to indicate that the vital energies enter, abide, and dissolve at the heart. The yogi achieves absorption in the sphere of bliss and void, and attains the samadhi of the vajra body isolation in which the hundred natures and so forth (as described above) appear as devakaya.
The basis of the second isolation, or that of speech, involves the root and branch energies in coarse and subtle aspects, and especially the life-sustaining energy at the heart, together with the undying mystic drop.
This, the basis of all expression, abides as a short syllable AH, symbol of the ultimate profundity. The yogi engages the vajra recitation while appreciating the inseparability of energy and mantra, and experiences yogic isolation in the nature of the illusory body. He moves the undying drop to the various places of the body, such as heart, head, secret place, and so forth. Also, one engages in the vase breathing yoga, taking as objects of concentration the undying drop, together with the mantra wheels, the energies in the nature of five radiances, the substances of white and red (i.e., male and female) sexual fluids brought to mystical union and formed into a drop the size of a mustard seed, and so forth.
In this manner all the root energies, with the exception of the allpervading energy, are brought under control.
The yogi then applies the vajra recitation methods and ignites the mystic heat. The vital energies are absorbed into the undying drop, and the knots in the channels at the center of the heart are released. This is the process of the yoga of speech isolation, the samadhi of vajra speech.
a brief guide to the buddhist tantras : 47 The basis of the third isolation comprises the three appearances and the eighty conceptual minds. By relying upon the two dhyanas as well as upon conducive inner and outer conditions, the yogi isolates (i.e., withdraws) into the sphere of semblant clear light that sees all as emptiness. He relies upon the external condition of a karmamudra and/or a jnanamudra (i.e., actual or visualized sexual consort) to induce the four joys of downward-showering and upward-rising energies. As an inner condition one focuses the vajra recitation method upon the all-pervading energy.
One then dissolves his body from above and below into the clear light at the heart. The entire world and its inhabitants are in the same manner gradually dissolved into the vision of clear light. In this way the yogi performs the absorption by means of the two dhyanas. The dissolution of the eighty natural conceptual minds is experienced: thirty-three in the nature of appearance; forty in the nature of increase; and seven in the nature of near attainment. These eighty natural conceptual minds that are carried by the coarse and subtle contaminated energies thus dissolve just as at the moment of death. The wisdoms of the three appearances arise, leading the mind to the experience of the semblant clear light. This is the process of the yoga of mind isolation, the samadhi of vajra mind.
When these three isolations have been taken to fulfillment, the yogi is given the actual precept on how to generate the illusory body, and also the oral instructions of the nine points in blending and transference. The basis for producing the illusory body is explained as follows. The semblant clear light acts as a simultaneously-present condition, and the vital energy of five radiances which is the vehicle of that clear light acts as the substantial cause. It is this (vital energy) that produces the illusory body described by the twelve similes and having the fifteen qualities, the form which substitutes for the merit generated in the exoteric Sutrayana by means of three aeons of practice. Such is the completion stage yoga of the illusory body, which in the Vajrayana represents the conventional level of truth.
The clear light yoga is explained as follows. The external time for the experience of clear light is dawn, when neither sun nor moon is in the sky and yet darkness has passed. The internal time is after the subsiding of the three appearances (i.e., appearance, increase, and near attainment), just as at the moment of death. These are the two moments for the manifestation of clear light consciousness.
At a time when these two are possible, the yogi relies upon inner (i.e., energy control) and outer (i.e., a sexual consort) conditions to manifest the clear light, which in the Vajrayana represents the ultimate level of truth and is the remedy that eliminates at once the nine circles of obscurations to knowledge.
The final completion stage yoga is that of great union. It is described as follows.
The yogi reverses the processes whereby he entered into clear light consciousness, pulling back into the consciousness of near attainment and so forth. Simultaneously he experiences the path of freedom, the “great union of transcendence” which is produced from noncontaminated mind and energy.
Arising from that absorption one realizes the inseparable nature of the body and mind. This is the “great union of a trainee.” That practitioner then intensifies his experience by engaging in the three methods known simply as “contrived,” “uncontrived,” and “utterly uncontrived.” Training in this way he experiences the clear light at the fulfillment of training, thus eliminating all obscurations to omniscience and attaining the “great union of no-more-training” which is enriched by the seven mystical qualities. a brief guide to the buddhist tantras :
The Guhyasamaja Five Stages of the Enlightenment Path
How are these various Anuttarayoga Tantra practices linked to the categories of the five stages of the path to enlightenment: accumulation, application, vision, meditation, and no-more-training? “The path of accumulation” comprises the period beginning with the time when one acquires the four complete initiations until by the power of meditation one achieves a glimpse of emptiness through dissolving the vital energies into the central channel. “The path of application” is experienced from then until the attainment of the impure level of the illusory body yoga that directly perceives emptiness by means of the wisdom of great bliss. From the first experience of the actual clear light until the attainment of the great union of a trainee is “the path of vision,” the first bodhisattva bhumi.
“The path of meditation” comprises the period beginning with the moment after that until the first moment of the attainment of the stage of the ultimate clear light of the great union at the end of training. The yogi then crosses the tenth bodhisattva bhumi, and in the second moment of that experience achieves complete enlightenment, “the path of no-more-training.”
Everything that has been said above about the Guhyasamaja system can be abbreviated into the mystical syllable E-VAM, which is spoken of in terms of path, fruit, and signs. It can also be abbreviated into the threefold category of the tantras of basis, path, and fruit.
The Three Types of Male Anuttarayoga Tantras The Anuttarayoga tantras are of two main types: male and female. Of the male Anuttarayoga tantras there are three basic types: those that work with lust, those that work with anger, and those that work with ignorance.
The principal male Anuttarayoga tantra working with lust as the basis of the path is that of Guhyasamaja, the yogas of which have been described above.
The Indian textual traditions of the Guhyasamaja system are as follows.
Firstly there is The Root Tantra35 in seventeen chapters. Then there are The Six Great Explanatory Tantras.36 The first of these is The Subsequent Tantra37 in eighteen chapters, which explains the six facets of The Root Tantra by means of the four modes. These six facets are direct, indirect, obvious, nonobvious, literal, and alternative. The four modes are meaning of the words, the general ideas, the hidden meanings, and the ultimate significance. The remaining five explanatory tantras include The Vajra Rosary Tantra,38 Revealing the Intent of the Buddhas,39 A Synopsis of Vajra Wisdom, 40 Questions of the King of Celestials,41 and Questions of the Four Goddesses.42
Numerous commentarial traditions appeared later in India, in - cluding those of the Aryas (i.e., Nagarjuna and Aryadeva), Jnanapada, Anandagarbha, Shantipada, and so forth. Of these, the first two are the most complete (i.e., that of the Aryas and that of Jnanapada). The Indian commentary most clearly elucidating the generation stage yogas of the thirty-two-deity Guhyasamaja mandala of Aksho bhya is Nagarjuna’s The Summary43 and also his A Brief Synopsis.44
Some of the more important Indian commentaries elucidating the completion stage yogas are: Nagarjuna’s The Five Stages45 and also his A Commentary to the Bodhi-mind;46 Aryadeva’s Stages of the Self- Blessed Illusory Body47 and also his A Compendium of Practices,48 which is a commentary to Nagarjuna’s The Five Stages; Nagabodhi’s Steps in the Generation Stage,49 his Twenty Mandala Rites,50 and also his Explanation of the Completion Stage Activities;51 Shakyamitra’s Supplement to the Two Stages;52 and Shrichandra’s Generation Stage a brief guide to the buddhist tantras : 51
Vajrasattva Method,53 his Six Applications on the Completion Stage,54 and also his A Lamp to Illuminate the Tantric Scriptures.55 As for how these lineages came to Tibet, it is said that Manjushrimitra, an incarnation of the bodhisattva Manjushri, once appeared to Acharya Simhabhadra’s disciple Buddhajnana. He manifested in the form of the lord of the Manjushrivajra mandala, initiating Buddhajnana into the dhyana mandala and also bestowing upon him the complete instructions. Eventually the venerable Atisha received this secret lineage, brought it to Tibet, and in turn passed it on to his chief Tibetan disciple, Lama Dromtonpa.
Another important lineage of instruction is that of the translator Go Lotsawa, who collected the various Indian traditions listed above and brought them to Tibet, passing them on to the Sakya and Zhalu lineages.
A third important lineage was brought to Tibet by Marpa the Translator and passed on through the order of Kagyu gurus. Lama Tsongkhapa collected together these various lines of transmission and united them into one stream. Later he went into retreat at the Olkha Mountains for a number of years, where he achieved realization. Here he received numerous direct visions of Manjushrivajra and was given special oral instructions. These included the instruction of the three samadhis of the generation stage practice of the nineteen-deity mandala. They also included the completion stage precepts such as the instruction on the body isolation yoga involving the undying drop at the heart, the speech isolation yoga involving the secret drop at the jewel, the mind isolation yoga involving the mantric drop, and also the three higher yogic stages of illusory body, clear light, and great union, which are linked to the drop of suchness.
The yogic stages of these four drops—undying, secret, mantric, and suchness—are the subject of numerous treatises by Buddhajnanapada. Included here are his The Four Hundred Points Concerning the Mandala Rite;56 The Always Sublime Generation Stage Method;57 The Liberating Drops in the Completion Stage Yogas;58 and The Sacred Instructions of Manjushri,59 which explains both generation and completion stage yogas.
Lama Tsongkhapa collected and united all of these oral and scriptural lineages, thus preserving them for future generations. It is due to his kindness that the Guhyasamaja tradition still exists today in such completeness.
The Vajrabhairava Tantra
The principal male Anuttarayoga tantra using anger as the basis of the path is that of Vajrabhairava, also known as Yamantaka. The complete root tantra of this system, or the Vajrabhairava Root Tantra,60 is known as The Three Hundred Topics.61 However, it was never translated into Tibetan. Only those sections dealing with the methods of accomplishing enlightenment and those dealing with the activities of the wheel of emanation were translated. The sections dealing with the methods for accomplishing enlightenment were translated in two different forms: The Seven Topics62 and The Four Topics.63 As for the sections dealing with the methods of engaging in the activities of the wheel of emanation, these were compiled into The Three Topics.64
Other important Indian classics in the Vajrabhairava tradition include Vision of the Practitioner Teulopa,65 Tantra of the Black Warrior66 in eighteen chapters, and The Tantra of the Red Opponent67 in nineteen chapters.
Three basic forms of the mandala are presented in these various texts: red, black, and extremely fierce. Of these, the last is the most important in general practice.
The Vajrabhairava generation stage yogas usually consist of cultivating the three samadhis on one of the mandalas associated with this last form of Bhairava: the forty-nine-deity mandala, the seventeena brief guide to the buddhist tantras : 53
deity mandala, the thirteen-deity mandala, the mandala of eight vitali deities, and the mandala of the Solitary Hero. As for the completion stage yogas, the Vajrabhairava system arranges these into four categories. Here the phases of body isolation and speech isolation combine as Mantra Yoga. Mind isolation becomes Commitment Yoga. Both impure and pure phases of the illusory body trainings combine as Form Yoga. Finally, semblant and actual clear light phases become the Wisdom Yoga. The principal Indian commentators on these four completion stage yogas were the mahasiddhas Lalitavajra, Shridhara, Amoghavajra the First, and Amoghavajra the Second.
The various Indian lineages of the Vajrabhairava system were brought to Tibet by yogis such as [[Rva [otsawa]], Nyo Lotsawa, Kyo Odjung, and so forth.
The most authoritative early Tibetan commentaries are those by Rva Lotsawa and the Drikung Kagyu master Paldzin. The Tantra of Vajra Arali
The third type of male Anuttarayoga tantra—that working with ignorance as the basis of the path—is known as Vajra Arali. The root tantric scripture of this system is known simply as The Tantra of Vajra Arali.68 Other important related texts are The Peerless Miracle Net 69 and The Vajra Essence Ornament.70
A Female Anuttarayoga Tantra
As for the Anuttarayoga tantras that belong to the female category, Lama Tsongkhapa writes,
It is said that the female Anuttarayoga tantras Are inconceivably numerous;
But of all of these the central and supreme 54 : the thirteenth dalai lama
Is that of Heruka Chakrasamvara,
A tantra like the ornament
On the very tip of a victory banner.
The essence of all the female Anuttarayoga tantras is that of Heruka Chakrasamvara, “the Blood-Drinking Lord of the Wheel of Supreme Bliss.”
The canonical sources of this tradition are The Concise Samvara Tantra 71 in fifty-one chapters, The Peerless Expression,72 Source of the Mystic Bond,73 Tantra of the Vajra Space Warrior,74 and so forth. Three principal Indian lineages of transmission of the Heruka Chakrasamvara system developed, namely those of the mahasiddhas Luipada, Krishnacharya, and Ghantapada.
In the first of these three systems (i.e., that of Luipada), the generation and completion stage practices are applied by means of the four daily sessions of yogas.
Here the generation stage of practice consists of the five puri - fications, which are associated with the threefold process of yoga, beyond yoga, and intense yoga (as listed earlier). As for the completion stage practices, here the yogi fixes his mind at the sound cluster (i.e., seed syllables) at the navel. The karmic energies are brought into the central energy channel and the four downward- showering and upward-rising joys are induced. One then relies upon the meditations of the dhyanas of vajra recitation and systematic absorption. In this way, on the emptiness side he gains an inconceivable experience of semblant and actual clear light; and on the appearance side he achieves the impure and pure levels of the wondrous illusory body. He then manifests the inconceivable state of great union, both that of a trainee and that beyond training. As for the lineage of Ghantapada, in the generation stage practices the outer and inner mandalas are cultivated by means of the three yogas.
a brief guide to the buddhist tantras : 55 In the completion stage practices (of the Ghantapada tradition), the yogas of the three isolations, the illusory body, the clear light, and great union are collected into five stages of yogic application. These five are called “self-consecration,” “crossed vajra,” “the filled jewel,” “jalandhara,” and “the inconceivable.” The fundamental commentaries in these various Heruka lineages are the two generation stage manuals by Luipada, known as The Great and The Small. Then there are The Seven Treatises by Ghantapada, and the six texts of Krishnacharya.
The Hevajra Tantra
Another very important tradition in the Heruka cycle of mandalas is that known as Hevajra.
Here there is The Root Tantra,75 also known as The Tantra in Two Forms;76 The Explanatory Tantra,77 which is also known as The Vajra Tent;78 The Subsequent Tantra,79 which is also known as The Drop of Mahamudra ;80 and The ppLater Subsequent Tantra[[ ,81 also known as The Essence of Wisdom.82
All of these principal lineages of root, explanatory, and subsequent tantras in the Hevajra cycle, as well as the commentarial traditions, were transmitted in the form of the “Path and Fruit” (Lam Drey) line of transmission (coming into Tibet through the early Sakya masters). Lama Jey Tsongkhapa praised this transmission as being supreme. Kalachakra:
A Clarified Anuttarayoga Tantra
Another important Anuttarayoga Tantra system is that known as the Kalachakra, a tradition that presents the Anuttara path in a manner markedly different than the presentation found in all the other Anuttarayoga systems.
Concerning the Kalachakra system Lama Tsongkhapa wrote,
Another important Anuttarayoga Tantra system With a quite unique manner of presenting the path Is that of Kalachakra, “The Wheel of Time,” Which is based upon The Abbreviated Tantra Together with its commentary, The Stainless Light. The clarified tantra of the Kalachakra tradition is usually mentioned separately from the other Anuttarayoga systems, for its infrastructure is considerably different than those of the mainstream traditions such as Guhyasamaja, Vajrabhairava, Heruka Chakrasamvara, and so forth.
Kalachakra, or “The Wheel of Time,” is spoken of in three aspects: Outer, Inner, and Alternative.
“Outer Kalachakra” comprises the six elements of earth, water, fire, air, space, and wisdom; the world of Mt. Meru, the four continents, and the eight subcontinents and so forth, together with everything above, below, and in all the directions; and also all objects of smell, sight, taste, touch, sound, and dharma.
“Inner Kalachakra” includes the topics of the three realms of living beings, the sixteen worlds, the ten planets, the twenty-eight principal heavenly bodies, the five places of rebirth, the six types of living beings, the time cycles of years, months, and days, the six energy centers of the body, the ten vital energies, the eight drops that carry the instincts of the two obscurations, and so forth. In other words, included here (i.e., in both Outer and Inner) are the living beings and the world as understood in an astrological context. “Alternative Kalachakra” is the actual practice of the yogas of the Kalachakra system whereby the world and its beings are purified. The actual basis of the purification is the person possessing the six elements with the karma to be born from a human womb here in this world.
a brief guide to the buddhist tantras : 57 The process begins by taking initiation into a mandala made from colored powders.
This initiation begins with the nine preliminary steps of invoking the earth deva, consecrating the vase, the conch of great victory, the action lines, vajra, bell, enhancing the disciple, establishing the seat, and the analysis of the divinity.
The seventh of these preliminary steps above involves placing the disciple within the six families, invoking Vajrasattva, and so forth. The actual initiation process is constituted of three phases: the seven called “entering like a child,” the four higher initiations, and the four higher-than-higher initiations.
When a child is born into this world he undergoes seven experiences: being washed, having his hair cut, having his ears pierced, learning to laugh and speak, using the sensory objects, being given a name, and learning to read and write.
Accordingly, the Kalachakra initiation begins with seven processes that are likened to these seven steps in childhood. To receive these the disciple in turn stands before each of the four faces of Kalachakra—white, red, black, and yellow in color—and is given the seven initiations: water, headdress, silk ribbon, vajra and bell, activity, name, and permission.
By means of these initiations the disciple experiences purification of the five aggregates, ten energies, right and left energy channels, ten sensory powers and their objects, the activities of the five bodily functions, the three doors, and the element of wisdom. As for the samaya taken during this process, there are seven root vows in common (with other Anuttarayoga Tantra systems), together with seven further root vows exclusive to Kalachakra.
In addition, there are the twenty-five special precepts of the Kalachakra system, relating to the five abandonments, the five misdeeds, the five murders, the five types of anger, and the five attachments.
During this phase of the initiation ceremony these are introduced and one is advised to guard against them. Next one receives the four conventional higher initiations, also known as “the four worldly initiations.” Here the disciple is established in the path of the four joys by means of the vase waters, tasting the secret substances, experiencing melting and bliss, and being introduced to the innate bliss and void.
Finally there are the four higher-than-higher initiations, also known as “the four beyond-worldly initiations.” Here the disciple is introduced to the consciousness which directly perceives emptiness while abiding in supreme unchanging great bliss, a consciousness that is of one taste with the empty body arising in the form of Kalachakra and consort in sexual union.
By gaining these initiations the disciple is introduced to the real meaning of being a layman, a novice, a fully ordained monk, a Sangha elder, and a leader of living beings.
Also, during the rite the significance of each of the steps in initiation is pointed out.
Thus, by receiving the empowerments of the three vajras, being shown the commitments, and gaining the initiation of a great vajra acharya, the mindstream of the disciple is ripened and is prepared for entrance into the actual yogic practices of the Kalachakra tradition.
As for the various mandalas that can be used as the basis of the generation stage yogas, The Root Tantra83 speaks of the mandala of glorious moving stars containing 1,620 divinities. The Abbreviated Tantra 84 speaks of 722 divinities in the mandalas of body, speech, and mind.
Other alternatives are the mind mandala of thirty-six divinities and the mind mandala of thirty-two divinities. Then there are the smaller mandalas of twenty-five, twenty-three, nineteen, thirteen, a brief guide to the buddhist tantras : 59 and nine divinities. Finally, there is the mandala with only Kalachakra and Consort, and also the mandala of Solitary Kalachakra. In the generation stage the yogi contemplates one of these various mandalas by means of the three samadhis, engaging in the fourbranched propitiation, maintaining the four vajra points, and cultivating the four enlightenments.
In the completion stage the meditator engages in the six yogas: sense withdrawal, meditative stabilization, energy concentration, retention, postrecollection, and samadhi. These six abbreviate into the four branches: the branch producing form, the branch producing energy, the branch producing bliss, and the branch of great accomplishment. The first branch is linked to the first two yogas, and the second branch to the third and fourth yogas. Finally, the third and fourth branches are linked to the fifth and sixth yogas.
By means of these six yogas the disciple achieves the mahamudra of the empty body.
The energies enter the central channel, and the drops of red and white sexual forces flow down from the crown chakra above and flow up from the chakra at the secret place below. 21,600 of each of the two sexual drops (male and female) are gathered together in this way, giving rise to an experience of great bliss understanding emptiness. Each occasion of experience of this great bliss dissolves an according amount of karmic wind and atomic bodily matter. The obscurations of the four occasions, such as the waking state and so forth, are thus destroyed, and one travels to the twelfth stage of attainment, the enlightened state of Kalachakra’s great bliss. This is the system of the Kalachakra initiations, generation stage yogas, and completion stage yogas that produce the four kayas of a fully enlightened being.
Buddha Shakyamuni originally taught this tradition at the Great Rice-Heap Stupa in Southern Jambudvipa. The teaching had been requested by King Suchandra of Shambhala, who was an actual emanation of the bodhisattva Vajrapani. Emissaries from six different kingdoms were also present.
On that occasion Buddha transmitted The Root Tantra in twelve thousand lines, and shortly thereafter King Suchandra composed his great commentary in sixty thousand lines. However, the only section of The Root Tantra to survive is that known as The Treatise on the Initiations .85 Later Manjushrikirti, who was the first of the twenty-five knowledge- holder kings of Shambhala, wrote a summary of The Root Tantra that came to be known by the title The Abbreviated Tantra,86 which is in five chapters. Two different translations of the commentary to this, Essence of the Abbreviated Tantra,87 exist in the Tibetan canon.
Another important text is The Great Commentary to the Abbreviated Tantra 88 by the second of Shambhala’s knowledge holders, Acharya Pundarika. This is perhaps better known in association with the Three Commentaries on the Mind.89
Also of significance is the bodhisattva Vajragarbha’s Commentary to the Vajra Essence.90 This work unpacks the themes of The Tantra of Two Forms,91 which is regarded as the root tantra of the Hevajra system. However, Vajragarbha’s Commentary to the Vajra Essence speaks in a manner consistent with the Kalachakra presentation, so often it is read in conjunction with a study of the Kalachakra tradition. Acharya Vajrapani’s Commentary to the Song of Vajrapani,92 which explains the essential points of The Root Tantra of Heruka Chakrasamvara93 in terms compatible with the Kalachakra system, is also important.
Then there is The Subsequent Tantra of Guhyasamaja,94 which presents the path in a manner consistent with the Kalachakra structure and therefore is often read in conjunction with the Kalachakra literature. Kalachakrapada’s extensive and abbreviated commentaries to the a brief guide to the buddhist tantras : 61 Kalachakra generation stage yogas are also fundamental reading, as are the writings of the two Dro brothers. Also of relevance to the Kalachakra are works such as The Three Rosaries95 by Acharya Abhayakara: The Vajra Rosary,96 which contains forty-two mandala rites from all four classes of tantras; The Rosary of Complete Yoga,97 which is a sadhana collection; and A Rosary of Sunbeams, 98 which is a collection of fire-rite practices. Finally, there is A Compendium of Purification Practices 99 by Acharya Jagaddarpana.
The Tantric Precepts
In the Resultant Vajrayana—even more so than in the Causal Sutrayana— it is said to be extremely important to train under the guidance of a qualified tantric master, to avoid wrong attitudes toward him/her, to cultivate positive attitudes, and to remain within the framework of the vows and commitments of the Tantric path. In order to be able to do this it is useful to know the beneficial effects of conducive attitudes and the shortcomings of faulty attitudes, how to regard the guru’s entourage and possessions, the nature of correct and incorrect practice, and so forth. All of these topics are discussed in detail in The Root Tantra of Guhyasamaja, The Peerless Miracle Net, The Tantra of Two Forms, The First Supreme Glory,100 and other such texts. The general themes on how to correctly rely upon the vajra guru were gleaned from these early source works and collected into fifty quintessential verses entitled Fifty Verses on the Guru1 01 by Acharya Vira, who was also known by the names Aryasura and Ashvaghosha. Although all four classes of tantras involve some type of samaya, the two lower tantra classes do not require the taking of the nineteen samayas of the five buddha families.
The method for acquiring these samayas is expounded in The Vajra Space Warrior, The Perfect Union,102 and so forth. The general samaya of the Anuttarayoga tantras includes topics like the commitment of consumption, such as the vow to rely upon consumption of the five meats and five drinks; the commitment to uphold the sacred materials, such as vajra, bell, the six tantric ornaments, and so forth; the commitment of protection, meaning the samaya to protect the root and branch vows; and so forth. The root vows are fourteen in number, and transgressing them is known as “the root downfalls.” By understanding their individual natures, what constitutes each, and being apprehensive of the shortcomings of transgression, one guards against the stains of a root downfall.
Should a root downfall occur, there are numerous methods of restoring the strength of one’s disciplines. These are expounded in The Tantra of the Red Opponent, The Tantra of the Black Warrior, The Vajra Essence Ornament, and so forth.
In brief, based on these numerous canonical works Acharya Ashvaghosha compiled the list of fourteen root tantric downfalls, and Acharya Nagarjuna compiled the list of the eight secondary precepts. The tradition of Lakshmikara emphasizes a number of alternative precepts. Here it is said that engaging in the various mandala activities without first completing the formal retreat is a root downfall. Also, included in the secondary precepts are the three commitments to cut off self-interest, arrest attraction to mundane appearances, and abide within the three vows (pratimoksha, bodhisattva, and Vajrayana). This tradition also lists as a secondary tantric precept the commitment to respect holy images, tantric implements such as vajra and bell, tantric substances such as even old and discarded ritual materials, and so forth. As well, it mentions the commitments to engage six times a day in the practice of recollecting the mind of spiritual detera brief guide to the buddhist tantras : 63
mination, to meditate four times daily upon the yogas of the tantric system into which one is initiated, to make a food offering (torma) during the last daily session of meditation, and to strive between meditation sessions to maintain the special tantric attitudes (such as seeing oneself as a mandala divinity, the world as a mandala, all sounds as mantra, all thoughts as the interplay of bliss and void, etc).
Practitioners of the female Anuttarayoga tantras are instructed to observe a number of additional precepts, such as beginning all activities with the left side of the body, performing a tantric feast (tsok) on the tenth day of each lunar cycle, and so forth. Should either the root or secondary tantric precepts be transgressed, the strength of the disciplines can be restored by means of taking the initiation again, or else by means of performing the selfinitiation practice.
To prevent negative effects arising from any downfalls that have been created it is useful to practice the meditations and mantric recitations associated with the tantric systems of Vajrasattva or Samayavajra, and also to engage in the Vajradaka fire rite. These methods of purifying transgressions of the tantric precepts are taught in the various scriptures listed earlier. Conclusion
The omniscient (Zhalu) master Buton Rinpochey, who understood and elucidated all the teachings of Buddha, greatly contributed to the preservation and dissemination of the vast range of the Buddhist tantras here in Tibet. Lama Tsongkhapa and his immediate disciples continued his legacy.
My own root guru Purchokpa received the complete tradition coming from them, analyzed it with pure reason, and internalized its meaning through intense meditation. He thus crossed the vast ocean of study, contemplation, and meditation in the tantric tradition. 64 : the thirteenth dalai lama
It was under his kind guidance that I myself ventured into the Vajrayana. And although I cannot boast of spectacular personal accomplishments, I must say that I feel very honored to have trained in this vast and profound system under the guidance of such an accomplished master.
Thus is complete my brief presentation
Of the main points in the Vajrayana system Of four classes of tantras,
The essence of Buddha’s teachings,
As collected by the omniscient Buton Rinpochey, Elucidated by the incomparable Lama Tsongkhapa, And (given to me by) my kind root guru Purchokpa. May any small merits that it possesses
Be dedicated toward the cause of enlightenment; May the Vajrayana teachings last for long, And may living beings continually abide
Within the golden rays of peace and joy.
a brief guide to the buddhist tantras : 65
The Seventh Dalai Lama’s
Instructional Poem on the Stages in Practice of the Heruka Chakrasamvara Tantra103
Gyalwa Kalzang Gyatso (1708-1757)
The following mystical poem by the great Seventh Dalai Lama (1708-1757) puts forth in verse form the quintessential points in the practice of the Heruka Chakrasamvara Tantra. We saw a reference to this tantric system in the previous chapter, wherein the Thirteenth Dalai Lama quotes Lama Tsongkhapa as saying, Amongst the sages of holy India,
The two Anuttarayoga Tantra systems
Famous as the sun and moon
Were the male tantra of Guhyasamaja and
The female yogini tantra of Heruka Chakrasamvara, Both of which have root tantras, explanatory tantras, and so forth.
Thus, Lama Tsongkhapa identifies the Chakrasamvara system as being the chief of all the yogini, or “female energy,” tantras. Later in the same text the Thirteenth again quotes Tsongkhapa to reinforce this same idea:
It is said that the female Anuttarayoga tantras Are inconceivably numerous;
But of all of these the central and supreme Is that of Heruka Chakrasamvara,
A tantra like the ornament
On the very tip of a victory banner.
The Thirteenth then goes on to explain, “Three principal Indian lineages of transmission of the Heruka Chakrasamvara system developed, namely those of the mahasiddhas Luipada, Krishnacharya, and Ghantapada.”
In other words, three different lineages of the Chakrasamvara Tantra had come to Tibet, each of which had unique Indian sources. Of note, all three still exist within the Tibetan refugee community in India, as well as with the great lamas who remained in Tibet. The main difference in the three, for practical purposes, is the complexity of the mandala used as the basis of meditation in the first stage of practice, known as “the generation stage.” The completion stage yogas are largely the same, albeit with different experiential commentaries descending from the lineage masters.
The name of this tantric system reveals its approach to the spiritual path: “Chakrasamvara” literally means “wheel of bliss.” The Seventh elucidates the meaning as follows in his opening verse: “. . . Heruka Chakrasamvara, Male/Female in sexual union, / The wheel composed of all objects of knowledge, / Whose essence is great bliss clear as the autumn sky.” The idea is that the meditations and yogas of the Chakrasamvara system take all objects of knowledge, and all the various facets of experience, and cause them to arise within the sphere of bliss conjoined with the radiant wisdom of emptiness.
In the above verse, “clear as the autumn sky” refers to the shunyata clear light nature of mind, within which the great bliss of experience flows. The above etymological comment on the meaning of the name “Chakrasamvara” applies to all three lineages or forms of the tantra listed above.
The following poem by the Seventh Dalai Lama, however, is 70 : the seventh dalai lama
inspired by the last of the three, i.e., that of the Indian mahasiddha Ghantapada, who is known in Tibetan as Tilbupa, “the Bell Master.” This lineage is still important today with all the new schools of Tibetan Buddhism, but particularly within the Kagyu and Geluk.
Of the three lineages, that of Luipada is mostly used by monasteries and communities, whereas that of Ghantapada is mostly used by individual practitioners and people in meditation retreat. Ghantapada is celebrated in Tibet not only in literature and history, but also in art. He has been the source of inspiration of hundreds of paintings over the centuries. One of the most famous images of him depicts him flying blissfully through the sky while copulating with his tantric consort. It is based on a famous story that perhaps best captures the mood of Chakrasamvara practice. According to the tale, Ghantapada began his spiritual career as a monk. He was living in meditation deep in the forest of a small kingdom when the local king requested him to come and live in the town, offering to build him an elegant temple and comfortable residence. Ghantapada declined the offer on the grounds that city life would not agree with his meditations, and replied that the forest had all the elegance and comfort he needed.
This infuriated the king, who decided to disgrace him. To this end the king sent a beautiful courtesan to visit Ghantapada in his forest hermitage and seduce him, thus causing him to break his monastic vow of celibacy. The woman failed, but Ghantapada fell in love with the prostitute’s daughter. The two eventually became tantric partners, and the young lady took up residence with him in the forest. Rumors of the two lovers drinking wine (another no-no for a fully ordained Buddhist monk) and engaging in intense sexual encounters became the talk of the town and further infuriated the king. He de - cided to go with his chief minister and a body of soldiers to the hermitage and personally punish the two lovers for disgracing his kingdom. However, after the king had chided Ghantapada and the soldiers practice of the heruka chakrasamvara tantra : 71 were about to seize him, Ghantapada kicked over his jug of wine, took his tantric partner in his arms, and sat in sexual union with her. The two then levitated off into the sky, from where they sang tantric songs down to the amazed royal contingent. The overturned jug of wine, meanwhile, turned out to be bottomless, and so much wine flowed forth from it that a great river formed, threatening to sweep away and drown the king and his men.
Perhaps needless to say, the king offered his humble apologies, asked to become a disciple, and all turned out well. Such is the legend associated with the Ghantapada lineage of Chak - ra samvara, famed in Tibet as Demchok Tilbu Lha Nga, or “Ghantapada’s Five-Deity Mandala.” It is somewhat paradoxical that Tibetan monks, who put so much emphasis upon monasticism and the celibate life, find such profound and long-lasting inspiration from the sexy life of Ghantapada. It has remained a top ten favorite with Tibetans for a thousand years, and its star is not showing any sign of diminishing. Indeed, I received the Ghantapada initiation from the Dalai Lama in the Kulu Valley some two decades ago, on a site where Ghanta himself was once said to have lived. Thousands of people attended the ceremony, an indication of its continuing popularity. The Seventh wrote the poem for his principal disciple and Dharma heir, the Mongolian master Changkya Rolpai Dorjey, who is regarded as the third incarnation of the Changkya tulkus. The second had been the chief guru to the Manchu emperor and his family, and thus was one of the most powerful monks of Central Asia.
Under the patronage of Emperor Chenlung, Changkya Rolpai Dorjey put together several enormous translation committees composed of hundreds of great lama scholars from the various regions of Central Asia, where Tibetan Buddhism prevailed, and oversaw the translation of many of the central Tibetan texts of the Gelukpa School into Manchu, Mongolian, and Chinese. Some ten thousand texts were translated into these three languages under his supervision during this period. 72 : the seventh dalai lama
The Seventh Dalai Lama’s poem is a classic in structure and tone. He begins it with verses dedicated to the general meditations that should be used to mature the mind prior to taking up the tantric trainings, and then goes on to the actual tantric methods. The preliminaries include subjects like the tremendous spiritual opportunities afforded by human rebirth; death and impermanence; the nature of karmic law; the shortcomings of attachment and importance of inner freedom; the three higher trainings of discipline, meditation, and wisdom; the transformative powers of universal love and compassion; and so forth.
Only when he has made clear the importance of the Sutrayana trainings does he address the actual subject of his poem, i.e., the stages of tantric experience on the Heruka Chakrasamvara path. Readers will find the work to be an excellent introduction to the Second Dalai Lama’s treatise on the Six Yogas of Niguma that follows in Chapter Three, for the tummo, or “inner fire” technology, from the Chakrasamvara is the source of the tummo teaching in the Six Yogas.
Moreover, the generation stage yogas, with the mandala meditations and mantra recitations, that are to be accomplished as a prelude to engaging in the Six Yogas, which are all completion stage practices, are usually drawn from one of the three Chakrasamvara traditions, with the Ghantapada lineage being the most popular. I originally read this work by the Seventh Dalai Lama back in 1978 with the very learned Geshey Tenpai Gyaltsen of Ganden Shartsey Monastery. Geshey-la was in the Tibetan hospital in Dharamsala at the time, recuperating from an illness, and kindly accepted my request that I visit him for a few hours every afternoon and read the Seventh Dalai Lama’s collection of mystical songs and poems; I came to his bedside almost daily over the months to follow. My very dear friend Lobsang N. Tsonawa of the Tibetan Institute in Sarnath, who had just arrived in Dharamsala to work at the Tibetan Library, assisted me in the preparation of the English translation. practice of the heruka chakrasamvara tantra : 73
The Seventh Dalai Lama’s Text
Homage to Jey Rinpochey, a second Buddha, Manifestation of Vajradhara, lord of all buddhas, In whose body reside the awakened ones, past, present, and future, As well as their retinues and buddhafields. Homage to the feet of my own root guru,
Who is in real nature inseparably one
With Heruka Chakrasamvara, Male/Female in sexual union, The wheel composed of all objects of knowledge, Whose essence is great bliss clear as the autumn sky. In the hands of one’s spiritual masters Lie the roots of every mystical experience. All happiness and suffering from now until enlightenment Come solely from relying upon them.
See the physical world as the guru’s body; Take sounds as the guru’s teachings;
Mix thoughts and memories with his bliss and insight; Rely on this practice, king of all paths. Fortunate are they who meet with the doctrine Of all-kind incomparable Tsongkhapa,
Who showed as precepts all sutras and tantras. Fortunate indeed; an opportunity obtained but once. Yet breath, like mist, is delicate;
And life, seemingly strong, is ever near to passing. Quickly pluck the essence of Dharma,
For definite it is you will die at the hands of the great enemy Death. Have not the three doors stood open to negativity? Then the inconceivable misery of the lower realms Certainly will fall upon you;
And, if still weak, you will not be able to bear them. Some look, and see; in the innermost way they turn To a guru-deva, an embodiment of Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. With attentive concentration they focus
On cultivating the white and dispersing the black. Reveling in objects of greed and attachment Is drinking poison mistaken for nectar.
The luxuries, securities, and comforts of the world Are like dramas enjoyed in a dream.
No lasting happiness can be found
In any samsaric position,
And how foolish to sit complacent
In a hole filled with misery.
Turn the horse of the mind upward,
Rein him with the three higher trainings, Strike him with the iron whip of fierce effort, And cut unto the open road of liberation. practice of the heruka chakrasamvara tantra : 75 All beings, mothers who lovingly have nurtured us, Are floundering in the seas of confusion. The son who cares not for their anguish,
Are the waters of his heart not bitter?
Wholly discarding selfish thoughts,
Hold close the ways which better the world And strive to live the six perfections,
Which yield buddhahood, ultimate benefit for all. Sever the mind from chaotic wandering;
Fix it firmly on its object with mindfulness, Without falling prey to agitation or dullness: Train in meditation blissful and clear.
The manifold things we perceive
Are deceptive projections of deluded thought. When we search for their ultimate essence, Emptiness free of an essence appears.
The things that manifest also fade
And only footprints of names remain;
The other side of this is called dependent arising. What else need be known?
Having first trained in these foundation practices, Seek out a tantric master, embodiment of Buddha Vajradhara, Lord of the Sphere Beneath None;
Gain the four ripening initiations
And enter into the mystic mandala.
The body transforms into a great vajra-mandala And, in the inconceivable mansion of joyful repose, The real deity—the subtle mind held between the kiss of the male and female drops—
Manifests as the blood-drinking Male/Female in Union. The dakas and dakinis dance a blissful dance In the mystic channels and secret drops;
Mundane perception is severed from consciousness And all emanations become ultimately pure. Visualize yourself as Heruka with Consort, Luminous yet void, body empty,
Energy channels of three qualities vibrating within; At your heart a Dharma wheel with eight petals Bears the indestructible drop in the form of HUM Between the sun of method and the moon of wisdom: Mind firm on this, tremulous misconceptions are cut, And the clear light, sheer as the autumn sky, arises. The outer consort, in nature fire,
Melts the life-drops that course
Through the seventy-two thousand channels, Bringing them into the central channel,
Giving rise to the four ineffable joys.
Outside, all sensory movement of mind and energy ceases; Inside, mundane views, ignorance, and darkness disperse. Thus, by yoga even sleep is transformed
Into the nature of Dharmakaya’s clear light. practice of the heruka chakrasamvara tantra : 77 By cultivating these yogic methods,
We can in general see through all distorted appearances And in particular know the body as dreamlike, Thus building the dancing form of an endowed deity And maintaining the according emanations. By mentally reciting the secret mantras of the vajra dharmas Of entering, resting, and dispersing energy at the heart While controlling the life-drop made of five clear essences, The knots of ignorance are easily untied. The tip of the vajra is placed firmly in the lotus And mind as the syllable HUM is brought into the central channel;
One drinks and drinks the essence of nectars And goes mad with innate joy unmoving.
By thus settling the mind in the subtle vajra letter And bringing the drop to the four chakras and sensory gates, One directly sees all aesthetic objects
Found throughout the three worlds.
Thus one opens the windows of the six miraculous powers, Sees the faces of innumerable deities,
Masters the meanings of the words of the teachings, And gains the delightful company of an immortal lover. In the tip of the vajra between the eyebrows The light of the sun, moon, and stars swirls in the drop. By bringing mind and energy to that point, The white bodhi-mind is forever increased. 78 : the seventh dalai lama
Then with the fine brush of samadhi paint A masterpiece incorporating all beauties of life; One gains the aid of a fully qualified consort And one’s experience of the blisses blazes higher and higher. Mind fixed on the bliss and mudra of the consort, A rain of innate joy pours down.
Again and again seducing the beautiful one, Symbol of the mind embracing reality itself, One melts into the sphere of spontaneous bliss. From the center of the navel chakra where meet the three energy channels
Shine lights from white and red pyramids. Looking through the nucleus of five drops therein, The mind’s nature is seen as five buddhas. White and yellow energies shape into a vase And the all-destroying fire rages.
The letters AH and HAM flare, fall, and vibrate, Transporting one to the end of the primordial path of great bliss and wisdom combined.
Lights from the mystic fire flash into the hundred directions, Summoning the blessings of buddhas boundless as space. Once again the five natures of mind arise as sounds, Releasing a rain of ambrosial knowledge.
The apparitions of people and things
Dissolve into light, and the waves
Of misconception are stilled.
No longer is the radiance of clear light obscured. Even postmeditation mind maintains immaculate view. practice of the heruka chakrasamvara tantra : 79 In the sphere of semblant and innate mahamudra Empty images appear as rainbows.
Flawless method emanates phantom circles, Erecting the perfect mandala of deities and abodes. The illusory body merges with clear light Like clouds dissolving into space.
The fires of innate wisdom arise
And consume the seed of grasping for self. This great union of the radiant vajra body With the vast clear light of mind
Is called “the samadhi moving magnificently,” A stage not touched by the ordinary intellect. This consciousness, purified of all transient stains, Gazes clearly and directly at the sphere of truth. Like a magic gem it manifests the Beatific Body Of Heruka Chakrasamvara for the sake of others And sends out countless emanations,
Each in accord with the needs of the world. Thus, in this age of short lifespan
Buddhahood is swiftly and easily attained By turning lust for sensual objects
Towards the friend who instills great bliss. Think, “By studying, contemplating, and meditating Upon the flawless Vajrayana teachings,
The highest path, the esoteric way of all tantric adepts of the past, May I in this very lifetime attain with ease That point most peerless and supreme.
80 : the seventh dalai lama
And if in this life ultimate power is not found, At my death may the dakas and dakinis protect me And lead me to the rainbow palace of Vajrayogini In the Pure Land Kajou Shing, there to enjoy clouds of transcendent offerings.
May I and all practitioners of this tantra Soon complete the esoteric path of secrets And, within ourselves ever perfecting the practices Of the sutras and tantras taught by the Buddha, May we master this mysterious way.
Until then, may the mighty dakas and dakinis Who dwell in the twenty-four Heruka grounds Care for us in every time and situation
As a mother watches over her only child.” The (Seventh Dalai Lama’s) Colophon: The great Changkya Rinpochey, a supreme illuminator of the Dharma, a master of unsurpassed knowledge and wisdom, wrote to me with the request that I compose a spiritual song, easy to comprehend and that would ex - press the essence of the two stages of Tantric practice in accordance with the dakini visions of the Indian mahasiddha Ghantapada and the five completion stage yogas lineage of his (Ghantapada’s) Heruka Chak rasamvara lineage. In response I, the Buddhist monk Kalzang Gyatso, wrote this song entitled “The Essence of All-Beneficial Dakini Nectars.”
practice of the heruka chakrasamvara tantra : 81
The Second Dalai Lama’s
Treatise on the Six Yogas of Niguma104
Gyalwa Gendun Gyatso (1475-1542)
As we saw in Chapter One, Buddha taught a large number of tantric systems, each of which is a complete system of meditation and practice in and of itself. In general these are divided into four classes, with Anuttarayoga Tantra being regarded as the highest class. In the early centuries of the Indian Buddhist experience these various tantric systems were transmitted individually and were kept as completely unique and separate traditions. By the eighth and ninth centuries, however, a number of “cross-fertilized” systems emerged. These systems took yogic elements from a number of different tantric transmissions and put them together in revised structures intended for easy practice.
Perhaps the two most famous of these “cross-fertilized” systems in Tibet were the Six Yogas of Naropa and the Six Yogas of Niguma. Both of these lineages came through Naropa, although the latter was further developed and refined by Naropa’s female disciple Niguma.
Today Tibetan sects like the Karma Kagyu often use a blend of these two as the basis of the three-year three-month meditation retreat. The names of the actual six yogas in the two systems is similar, with one major difference. The Naropa system lists the six as follows: (1) inner fire yoga, (2) illusory body yoga, (3) clear light yoga, (4) bardo yoga, (5) consciousness transference yoga, and (6) forceful entry yoga. Interested readers can learn more about these from my two books on the Naropa system: The Six Yogas of Naropa (Ithaca, N.Y.: Snow Lion Publications, 2005) and The Practice of the Six Yogas of Naropa (Ithaca, N.Y.: Snow Lion Publications, 2006). The former of the two discusses in some depth the particular sources of each of the six yogas, and how they function as a cohesive whole.
The sixth yoga in the Naropa system, known as “forceful entry,” is a highly esoteric method for projecting consciousness out of the body and directing it into the body of a recently deceased person, as a method of reviving and rejuvenating him/her. The Niguma system does not incorporate this yoga, and instead replaces it with dream yoga. Thus the list of the six becomes: (1) inner fire yoga, (2) illusory body yoga, (3) clear light yoga, (4) dream yoga, (5) bardo yoga, and (6) consciousness transference yoga. The meaning of each of these terms, as well as the meditations and yogic applications associated with them, is made clear in the Second Dalai Lama’s treatise. Thus “dream yoga” appears in Niguma’s list, but not in Naropa’s. That said, in fact the Naropa system also has dream yoga, but not in as elaborate a manner as the Niguma transmission. In the Naropa system it is instead classified as one of the “illusory body” yogas. The idea is that one accomplishes the power of conscious or lucid dreaming by first becoming aware of the illusory nature of all experience during the waking state, and then maintaining this “awareness of objects as being illusory” into the dream state.
This is the logic for teaching it under the “illusory body” category. Although both of these “Six Yogas” traditions shared or passed through some of the same gurus in ninth- and tenth-century India, and also have much the same language and structure, they came to Tibet in separate lines. Moreover, their essential teachings were translated from Sanskrit into Tibetan by different masters, giving each of them something of a unique flavor. The transmission of the Six Yogas of Naropa was imported and translated into Tibetan by Marpa Lotsawa, who received them directly from Naropa, while the transmission of the Six Yogas of Niguma was imported and translated by 86 : the second dalai lama
Khyungpo Naljor a generation later, who received them directly from the Indian female mystic Niguma.
The Marpa lineages eventually evolved into the the Dakpo Kagyu School, because of the monastery that Milarepa’s disciple built at Dakpo in order to house them; the Khyungpo Naljor lineages evolved into the Shangpa Kagyu School. Here it should be noted that the Dakpo Kagyu and Shangpa Kagyu Schools share the same word “Kagyu,” or “Instruction Lineage,” in their names, but in fact were separate and completely independent sects, at least in the early days of their history. Later the Dakpo Kagyu split into the famed “four older” and “eight younger” sub-sects because of the great distances between the monasteries and retreat hermitages established by the generations of lineage masters. As for the Shangpa Kagyu, which held the Six Yogas of Niguma as its principal doctrine, its lack of administrative infrastructure caused it to slowly become absorbed by the other schools. It no longer exists as a separate entity, and instead today its lineages are transmitted mainly preserved within the Gelukpa and also the Dakpo Kagyu Schools.
As was said earlier, these “Six Yogas” systems are fusions of various elements extracted from various Buddhist tantras. The Second Dalai Lama gives the source of the six in the Niguma system as follows: The body practice is Hevajra,
Speech is Mahamaya,
Mind is Heruka Chakrasamvara,
Activity is Vajrabhairava (Yamantaka),
And the essential nature is Guhyasamaja.
These are the methods taught
For the sake of future generations. . . . The yogi who expresses respect in this system Should be taught these five tantric methods. treatise on the six yogas of niguma : 87
In other words, the Niguma system blends elements from five Buddhist tantras: Hevajra, Mahamaya, Heruka Chakrasamvara, Yamantaka, and Guhyasamaja. As the Second Dalai Lama then goes on to explain, it is good to get initiation into all five tantric systems as a preliminary to engaging in the Six Yogas.
As said earlier, every Buddhist tantra is symbolized by a mandala, as well as a principal mandala deity, or buddha form. These five Buddhist tantras therefore each has its own mandala and principal deity. Often the Niguma system is artistically symbolized by a thangka in which these five Buddha forms appear. Recently when teaching in Ulaanbaatar I discovered one such representation. Made as a silk applique thangka, it depicts the five tantric systems from which the Niguma yogas are drawn. (Of note to art fans, Tibetans and Mongolians alike consider applique thangkas as being higher art forms than their painted counterparts.)
Of note, the Second Dalai Lama also wrote a brief commentary to the Six Yogas of Naropa. However, it is not as pass
ionate or exciting as his Niguma commentary, largely because of his background. He had been born into a Shangpa Kagyu family, and thus received training in the Niguma yogas from a young age. His autobiography states that he first received the five Niguma initiations when only six years old, and began the practice at the age of eight. Moreover, his father was the head of the Shangpa Kagyu School in Tsang, as much as this school was sufficiently organized to have a head.
One of the main duties of his father in this regard was to oversee the three- and sixyear meditation retreats of yogis engaged in the Niguma trainings, and he spent much of his time wandering around to the remote mountain caves and hermitages where the retreatants under his supervision lived. He usually took his young son with him, and the two frequently stopped in these retreat hermitages for prolonged periods of time. Thus from childhood the Second Dalai Lama became deeply involved with the Niguma practice. 88 : the second dalai lama
As readers familiar with Tibetan culture will know, the boy was not at that time regarded as a reincarnate lama, nor was the name “Dalai Lama” in use.
Lama Tsongkhapa had not included the Tibetan secular tradition of reincarnate lamas in his newly established Gelukpa School, probably because the tradition contradicts the pure vinaya, or Buddhist monastic code. According to this code, a monk should only possess a very small and very particular number of possessions, such as robes, sleeping roll, eating bowl, water filter, walking staff, and so forth. Any material wealth above and beyond those on this list of allowed possessions that were offered to him on a given day should be distributed, and thus disposed of, by the end of the day. On his death his possessions should all without exception be distributed among his monastic community.
However, in Tsongkhapa’s time several of the older schools had developed a tradition in which a famous monk could establish a labrang, or “lama estate,” for himself, thus accumulating and retaining for himself whatever wealth he accrued. On the monk’s passing, part of the accumulated liquid assets would be distributed among his related monastic community, with the request for prayers for the lama’s quick return, i.e., reincarnation. The remaining part of the liquid assets would then be used to establish a committee to search for a child to be identified as the official reincarnation, and then later also used to support the boy in his education until he became mature. At the time of the Second Dalai Lama’s birth this tulku, or “reincarnate lama,” tradition had not yet been accepted among the Ge - lukpa. However, as a young child the Second clearly remembered his previous life as the First Dalai Lama, and frequently spoke of these memories when only two and three years old. Later when his father took him to Tashilhunpo, the monastery that had been established by the First, the boy addressed all the old monks by their correct names, even though he had not met any of them in his young life. treatise on the six yogas of niguma :
His behavior was so convincing that the Tashilhunpo elders decided to break the taboo on tulkus, and asked his father for permission to enthrone him as the officially recognized reincarnation. Later, after the boy moved to Lhasa for higher training in Drepung Loseling, and also completed his studies and retreats, the king of the Lhasa region had a labrang, or “lama estate,” built for him in Drepung. This became known as the Ganden Potrang, or “Palace of Pure Joy,” and is still in Drepung today.
At the time the Second Dalai Lama was known by the name Jey Tamchey Khyenpa, or “All-Knowing Master.” This name had been given to the First Dalai Lama by his Jonangpa guru, Bodong Chokley Namgyal, after a series of initiations and teachings in which the young First Dalai Lama deeply impressed the elderly Bodong with his great intelligence and wisdom. “Jey” simply means “master” or “chief,” “Tamchey Khyenpa” literally means “all-knowing,” and Bodong gave the name as a prophecy that the First Dalai Lama would fully accomplish the Buddhist path. The First became known by this name for the remainder of his life. References to him in historical and biographical writings of the period generally use it, rather than his ordination name, Gendun Drubpa.
Thus when the Second Dalai Lama became enthroned as the First’s official reincarnation, the name Jey Tamchey Khyenpa immediately came into popular usage.
As for the story of how “Jey Tamchey Khyenpa” became “the Dalai Lama,” we will leave that for the chapter in which I include a text by the Third Dalai Lama, for it was during his lifetime that the epithet “Dalai Lama” came into usage.
I originally studied the Second Dalai Lama’s Niguma text with my teachers Doboom Tulku and Khamtrul Yeshe Dorjey Tulku, and prepared the translation in accordance with their commentaries. 90 : the second dalai lama
The Second Dalai Lama’s Text
Homage always to the lotus feet of the holy guru. Homage to the holy Guru Heruka Chakrasamvara, The wheel of all objects of knowledge bound in the nature of great bliss
Emanating as the ecstatic dance of a tantric hero Skilled in the act of union with the beautiful dakini. Homage to the teachers of the lineage:
Niguma, Queen of the dakinis, whose nature is illusory integration; The yogi Khyungpo Naljor, he possessed of eight powers; And all those upholding the Dakini’s transmission. And homage from the depths of my heart
To Lama Tsongkhapa, he famed as Lobzang Drakpa, Incarnation of Manjushri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom Manifest as a human upholding the robes of a monk. And homage also to his great disciples.
O dakas and dakinis of the three worlds
Who abide in the twenty-four mystic sites And guard yogis as a parent an only child: I beseech you, come to this place now,
Together with the instant protector Mahakala, And release your magical energies
That destroy all hindrances and obstacles. Herein I shall explain the renowned oral transmission Known as the Six Yogas of Niguma,
An ultimately profound path traveled by all mahasiddhas, The heart essence of all the Buddhist tantras. Firstly prepare the mind through the trainings Of the path of three perspectives of motivation; Then receive the initiations that ripen the mind. Guarding the tantric commitments well,
Enter the path for accomplishing
Buddhahood in one short lifetime.
O fortunate one wishing to gain quick enlightenment, Listen well to this advice.
The lineage of this profound transmission, known as the Six Yogas of Niguma, was originally brought to Tibet by the mighty yogi Khyungpo Naljor, who received it directly from Niguma. Niguma herself had received the transmission from the mahasiddha Naropa. A brief account of the life of Khyungpo Naljor is found in his own writings in verse form. This account is as follows. I, the insignificant monk Khyungpo Naljor, Was born in the exalted Khyungpo family
In Nyemo Ramang of the Gangkarda area.
My father was Kungyal Gyaltak
And my mother Goja Tashi Kyi.
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At the time I entered my mother’s womb
My parents and also the people of the area Gained signs of prosperity and happiness. When I emerged from my mother’s womb in the Tiger Year, The Indian mahasiddha Amogha visited our house And made the following prophecy.
“This child is a special incarnation.
One day he will travel to India,
Where he will gather the essential teachings Of all the panditas and mahasiddhas
And help mankind to ripen and mature.
Emanating in countless forms,
He will train many disciples.
“He will teach the essential Mahayana Dharma, Which is free from all extremes,
And into the ten directions will release
The lion’s roar of the secret Vajrayana Of bliss and emptiness inseparable.
“His body is in nature Heruka Chakrasamvara; His speech the nature of Mahamaya;
His mind is the mighty Hevajra;
His place of emanation Guhyasamaja;
And his secret place Yamantaka.
“Yet although within his body are arranged These five mystic mandalas,
He appears in the form of an ordinary human In order to guide trainees to realization treatise on the six yogas of niguma : 93
And will emanate as a myriad of tantric divinities To inspire the difficult-to-train practitioners. “He will live for a hundred and fifty years And at the end of his life will reveal
Numerous miraculous signs and omens.
After passing away he will transmigrate
To Sukhavati, Pure Land of Bliss,
Which is praised by all buddhas as supreme. “From there, as a fully accomplished buddha He will continue to turn the Mahayana wheel of Dharma. In future generations those with faith in him With the good fortune to practice his teachings No doubt will meet with him in Sukhavati.” Having spoken these words the guru
Mahasiddha Amogha rose into the sky
And flew back to India.
This prophecy was revealed (to me)
By my parents when I was in my fifth year. By the age of ten I had mastered
Reading, writing, and calculations.
Thereafter, due to the dispositions
Of my parents, I entered into study
Of the Bon tradition
And especially their teachings
Of Dzogchen, the Great Perfection;
And also Mahamudra, the Great Seal.
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Then, taking a pouch of gold dust with me And with no thought of risk to my life,
At great personal difficulty I journeyed
Seven times to India and Nepal.
Here I consulted with a hundred and fifty Indian sages As well as with fifty mahasiddhas.
Of these, I adopted four as my root teachers. One of these was Niguma, a second Wisdom Dakini Who was in direct communion with Vajradhara, The sixth-stage Beatific Form of Buddha.
Pleasing her with my enthusiasm,
I received her ultimately profound teachings. In this way all my doubts were dispelled, And by engaging in single-pointed practice I gained realization of the two siddhis,
Conventional and supreme.
Thus, as is said here, the mighty yogi Khyungpo Naljor, who gained both conventional and supreme realizations and actualized inconceivable spiritual liberation, visited the holy lands of India and Nepal seven times, taking with him five hundred measures of gold. Here he traveled throughout the ten directions in search of a teacher who had gained final realization and had achieved direct communion with the Enlightened Ones. All the panditas and mahasiddhas whom he met unanimously advised him to try to meet Niguma, a female disciple of Mahasiddha Naropa. Niguma, they told him, had achieved the three pure stages and had the ability to communicate with Buddha Vajradhara at will.
“Where does Niguma live?” he asked.
They answered, “If one’s perception is pure, one can see her anytreatise on the six yogas of niguma : 95
where, whereas if one’s perception is not pure, she simply cannot be found; for she dwells on the pure stages and has achieved the holy rainbow body. However, when the dakinis gather to make tantric feasts in the great cemetery of the Sosaling Forest, she sometimes physically appears.”
Merely on hearing Niguma’s name tears came to Khyungpo Naljor’s eyes and every hair on his body trembled with excitement. He left immediately for the Sosaling Cemetery, reciting the Namo Buddhaya mantra of Mahakala as he went.
Eventually he arrived in the Sosaling Cemetery. Here he immediately had a vision of a dark-brown dakini. She was dancing above him in the sky at the height of seven tala trees. Adorned in ornaments of human bones and holding a khatvanga (trident) and human skull, she was dancing in all directions, and first appeared as one figure, then as many, and then again as but one.
Khyungpo Naljor thought to himself, “Surely this is Niguma,” and he prostrated to her, circumambulated, and requested her to give him her perfect teachings.
The Dakini looked at him ferociously and replied, “I am a flesheating demoness. When my retinue arrives you will be in great danger. They will surely devour you. You must quickly flee.” Again Khyungpo Naljor prostrated, circumambulated, and requested to be given tantric teachings. The Dakini retorted, “To receive the Mahayana tantric teachings requires a great deal of gold. With gold, however, it can be done.”
Khyungpo Naljor offered her the five hundred measures of gold dust that he had brought with him. To his surprise, although the Dakini accepted the gold she immediately threw it into the forest. Khyungpo Naljor thought to himself, “Certainly this is the Dakini herself, for she discards such a quantity of gold without remorse.” The Dakini then cast a glance toward the heavens and pronounced the syllable HRIK. Instantly countless dakinis appeared in the sky. 96 : the second dalai lama
Some erected three-level mandala palaces; others prepared mandalas of colored powders; and others collected the requisites of a tantric feast. On the evening of the full moon the Dakini gave him the initiations of the illusory body and dream yoga transmissions. Then by means of the Dakini’s magical ability, he was levitated into the sky, and found himself sitting on a small mound of gold dust with a host of dakinis circling in the sky above him. Four rivers of gold flowed down the mountain, one in each of the four directions. Khyungpo was amazed: “Does this golden mountain actually exist in India, or is it merely a magical creation of the Dakini?” The Dakini replied,
All the things in samsaric existence
That are colored by attachment and aversion Are to be seen as noninherently existent. Then all places are seen as a land of gold. When we meditate upon the illusionlike nature Of all the illusionlike phenomena,
We attain illusionlike buddhahood;
This is achieved through the power of appreciation. The Dakini then advised him, “Accept my blessings and watch your dreams carefully.”
That night he dreamed that he traveled to the land of gods and demigods. An extremely large demigod appeared to him and instantly swallowed him. The Dakini appeared in the sky and admonished him not to awaken but to hold the dream clearly. This he did, and in his dream the Dakini gave him the initiations of the Six Yogas. The Dakini informed him, “In all of India you are the only yogi ever to receive the complete instructions of the Six Yogas in a single session of sleep.” After he woke up she gave him three transmissions treatise on the six yogas of niguma : 97
of the Six Yogas, a transmission of The Vajra Verses,105 The Stages of the Illusory Path,106 the initiations of the five tantric systems (i.e., Chakrasamvara, Mahamaya, Hevajra, Guhyasamaja, and Yamantaka), numerous associated sadhanas and instructions, the initiations of the nine-deity mandala of Hevajra, and the thirteen-deity mandala of the Well-Armed One as well as transmissions of the tantric scriptures The Tantra of Two Forms,107 The Vajra Song,108 The Samphuta Tantra109 and associated sadhanas, the oral traditions of the Well-Armed One and Kalachakra, the whispered transmission of the four suchnesses, the traditions of the white and red Vajrayoginis, the methods of removing obscurations with the four classes of tantras, the five levels of the Chakrasamvara completion stage techniques for controlling the mystic drops of genetic force, the activities of The Tantra of the Diamond Sky Dancer,110 and so forth. In brief, the Wisdom Dakini taught him countless tantras, sadhanas, and oral traditions. Concerning this tradition, the Dakini herself personally told Khyungpo, “With the exception of myself and the mahasiddha Ivawapa, there is nobody in India today who understands these initiations and transmissions. These should be passed in a one-to-one guru-disciple transmission for seven generations. Only after these seven generations should they be given openly.” In this way the dakini Niguma transmitted the complete instruction of the Six Yogas with the root and branch traditions to Khyungpo Naljor.
This then is the source of the lineage of the profound instruction known as the Six Yogas of Niguma that gives quick and easy enlightenment in one short lifetime.
As for the actual tradition itself, this will be explained under the two headings: the preliminary practices to be meditated upon, and upon which the actual practices rely; and, in reliance upon these preliminaries, how to actually meditate upon the Six Yogas themselves, or the actual practice.
There are two types of preliminary trainings: the general (Sutrayana) preliminaries and the exclusive (Vajrayana) preliminaries. The General Preliminaries
The general preliminaries refer to the methods of spiritual training that are common to or shared by both the Sutrayana and the Vajrayana. These must be accomplished before entering into the practice of the Six Yogas of Niguma.
To quote The Tantra of Two Forms:
Firstly accomplish the purification practices And so on until,
And then train in the Middle View of emptiness. These are the preliminaries common to both Mahayana vehicles: the Prajnaparamitayana and the Vajrayana. The same advice is given in The Vajra Verses: Those who are ripened by the four initiations; Who possess confidence and enthusiasm in practice; Whose minds are prepared by the preliminary practices Of meditation upon impermanence and death, Renunciation, and the shortcomings of cyclic existence: They gain full buddhahood in as short a time As six months, a year, or at least this lifetime By means of this supreme tantric path.
As stated above, as a preliminary to this profound path one should gain experience in the trainings of the three scopes of motivation: (i) the initial scope, which includes trainings such as meditation upon treatise on the six yogas of niguma : 99
the certainty of death and the uncertainty of the time of death; (ii) the intermediate scope, which involves methods that generate a sense of renunciation and disillusionment with samsaric indulgence and give birth to the wish for liberation from samsara, by means of such meditations as those upon the frustrating and painful nature of cyclic existence; and (iii) the highest scope of motivation, which, based on the above two preliminaries, aspires to highest enlightenment as a means of benefiting all sentient beings and, in order to accomplish this, enters into the altruistic bodhisattva ways, such as the six perfections. To enter the Vajrayana one must firstly accomplish these Hinayana and general Mahayana trainings.
The stages of the preliminary trainings for cultivating the mind have been described in detail by Jowo Atisha and his disciples in their writings on the tradition of practicing the three levels of methods whereby all aspects of the Buddha’s teachings may be integrated into a single meditational sitting. These can be learned from Lama Tsongkhapa’s two major treatises on the Lam Rim tradition, known as The Great111 and Small112 Expositions on the Stages of the Spiritual Path. The Exclusive Vajrayana Preliminaries
The exclusive Vairayana preliminaries will be presented under two headings: the necessity of receiving the initiations and the necessity of guarding the commitments and vows of the Tantric tradition. The Necessity of Receiving the Initiations To quote The Vajra Verses:
Ripen the mind with the initiations.
As stated here, in order to take up the practices of the Vajrayana one must first ripen one’s stream of being by means of receiving the initiations. This is clearly expressed in The Mark of Mahamudra:113 100 : the second dalai lama
Anyone wishing to practice this tradition Should firstly gain the appropriate initiations. Then one will certainly become
A proper vessel for the secret teachings. With no initiation there is no attainment, Just as pressing sand produces no oil.
When tantric teachings and instructions are given Out of pride and with no initiation,
Both teacher and disciple after death
Will certainly fall into the hells,
Even if the common siddhis have been attained. Therefore take every precaution
To ensure that the initiations are received. This same point is stressed in all the tantric scriptures. Therefore if one wishes to enter into practice of the two stages of the Vajrayana, one must make every effort to receive the four complete initiations into the appropriate mandala.
The specific initiations required in order to practice this particular tradition are given in The Tantra of the Mystic Bond:114 The correct explanation is as follows:
The body practice is Hevajra,
Speech is Mahamaya,
Mind is Heruka Chakrasamvara,
Activity is Vajrabhairava (Yamantaka),
And the essential nature is Guhyasamaja.
These are the methods taught
For the sake of future generations.
These stages of yogic techniques
Are all exclusively tantric.
treatise on the six yogas of niguma : 101 The initiations bring together
These five essential mandalas.
The yogi who expresses respect in this system Should be taught these five tantric methods. These should be hidden from barbaric languages, For they are Buddha’s most secret teachings, Tantric methods containing the heart of the essential precepts; And they are not ordinary ascetic practices. In the Shangpa Kagyu tradition it is taught that if possible one should receive initiation into all five of these tantric systems. The reason for this is that the Six Yogas of Niguma and also the Six Yogas of Naropa contain completion stage practices that do not rely upon just one specific tantric system. To the contrary, both of these traditions gather together numerous factors from both the male and female tantric systems.
In the event that one cannot or does not wish to take all five of the above initiations, one should at least receive the initiation into the Heruka or Hevajra systems. In addition, one should receive the transmissions of each of the six yogas, for these plant mystic seeds for gaining rapid insight into the individual yogas.
This latter set of six transmissions (i.e., those initiations into each of the six completion stage yogas) do not involve the four levels of initiation as does a general Highest Yoga Tantra empowerment. However, I will not go into this here in detail. The subject can be learned from other writings.
The Necessity of Guarding the Vows
The fundamental text called The Root Tantra of Chakrasamvara115 states,
The practitioner wishing to meditate on this system Should always maintain the tantric precepts. And also in The Complete Union:116
Not entering into the mandala,
Abandoning the tantric commitments,
And not understanding the secret teachings Bring no attainment whatsoever,
No matter how much one may practice.
It is taught that one gains no attainment whatsoever through tan - tric endeavor when one has not received the prerequisite initiations into the mandala, does not maintain the tantric precepts, and does not know the secret instructions on the two stages of Vajrayana practice. Therefore one should listen to the tantric teachings and should maintain the general tantric precepts. Especially, one should make every effort to avoid becoming stained by the root downfalls, even at personal risk to one’s life.
The Actual Practice
The methods of meditating upon the actual practice include two topics: how to train in the generation stage methods and how to train in the completion stage methods.
How to Train in the Generation Stage Methods The master Nagarjuna wrote,
Abiding well in the generation stage yogas With the wish to accomplish the completion stage: treatise on the six yogas of niguma : 103 This was said by Buddha to be
The recommended approach to Vajrayana practice. Here one should apply oneself to (one of the five tantric systems mentioned above, such as) the five-deity Heruka mandala, and mentally purify the bases of death, intermediate state, and rebirth, mentally transforming these into the three perfect buddha kayas (Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya, and Nirmanakaya). This ripens one’s stream of being for the practice of the completion stage methods for accomplishing the actual purification and transformation. In brief, one should accomplish both coarse and subtle aspects of the generation stage yogas for transforming these three states into the three kayas.
Moreover, it is said that one should meditate upon as complex a mandala as possible for this purpose. The degree of complexity of the mandala meditated upon in the generation stage yogas affects the degree to which one will purify these three bases (death, intermediate state, and rebirth); and the more complex the mandala meditated upon, the more powerful becomes the potency to ripen one’s continuum through the completion stage yogas.
How to Train in the Completion Stage Methods This involves two subjects: the preliminary of emptying oneself of negativities and the actual completion stage yogas. The Preliminary of Emptying Oneself
The Vajra Verses states,
Three cycles of emptying through purification By means of the condensed essence. . .
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Elsewhere the same text says,
Emptying by means of the purifying syllable AH, Emptying by purifying sickness and hindrances, And the three signs of purification. . .
Concerning the first of these, A Treatise on the Steps in Practice117 states,
Emptying by means of the purifying syllable AH Involves three meditations and three prayers. The term “condensed essence” in the first quotation above is explained as follows. The essence of all teachings of Buddha is found in The Perfection of Wisdom Sutras. The most extensive version of these sutras is The Perfection of Wisdom Sutra in One Hundred Thousand Verses.118 This is condensed into The Sutra in Twenty-Five Thousand Verses,119 and is further condensed into The Sutra in Eight Thousand Verses.120 This is in turn abbreviated into The Condensed Sutra.121 Finally, the essential meaning of this sutra condenses into the singular syllable AH.
The scripture In Praise of Manjushri’s Holy Name122 says, Thus the accomplished buddhas
Gain buddhahood from the syllable AH;
Therefore AH is the supreme mantra sound. Application of the mantra AH as a practice involves: (I) the preliminary of guru yoga, (II) the basic method, and (III) the three signs of purification.
treatise on the six yogas of niguma : 105 The Preliminary of Guru Yoga
Upon one’s head is a jewelled throne supported by eight lions. There, seated upon cushions of a lotus and a moon, is my personal guru in the form of a white Buddha Vajradhara. He has one face and two arms. In his right hand is a vajra and in his left a bell, which he holds at his heart. Adorned with the precious ornaments and clothed in the silken garments of a bodhisattva, he is embellished with all the marks and signs of perfection and is locked in sexual embrace with the consort Vajraishvaridhatu. The white letter OM marks the crown of his head, AH his throat, and HUM his heart.
Lights emanate from this syllable at his heart, summoning forth the lineage gurus and mandala divinities, surrounded by the buddhas and bodhisattvas, as well as the dakas and dakinis of the three worlds, and the Dharma protectors and wisdom guardians. These dissolve into the root guru.
JAH HUM BAM HOH: They unite and become nondual. One then concentrates on the guru as an embodiment of the objects of refuge, and makes the following prayer: A form embodying all buddhas,
In nature a holder of diamond knowledge,
The root of the Three Jewels of Refuge:
Homage to the holy root guru.
Reciting this verse three times, prostrate to the root guru, and visualize making offerings to him while maintaining awareness of how the guru is the supreme field of merit as indicated by both scriptural authority and reason. Perform the symbolic offering of the universe and mentally send forth outer, inner, secret, and suchness offerings. Then make the following prayer:
O precious guru, send forth your inspiring blessings to help me cleanse and purify from within myself the seeds of all negative deeds, downfalls, and weakened commitments created since beginningless time. Send forth inspiring blessings to help me pacify and eliminate all diseases and hindrances. Send forth inspiring blessings to help me to generate quick insight into the stages and paths of practice. This is repeated three times, whereupon lights emanate forth successively from the three mantric letters at the guru’s three sites— white lights from his crown, red from his throat, and blue from his heart. They come to one’s crown, throat, and heart, respectively, and dissolve into these sites, giving blessings of the guru’s body, speech, and mind. All three lights then shine forth simultaneously, giving the three blessings at once.
In this way the four initiations are successively gained, and one’s body, speech, and mind are purified of stains, together with their subtle instincts. One gains the siddhis of the three vajras. The guru then dissolves into light, which comes above one’s head and enters one’s body via one’s Brahma aperture. Contemplate that he then reappears as a white letter AH, in nature light, residing near one’s Brahma aperture, with oneself visualized as the tantric divinity To know this guru yoga technique in more detail, refer to Lama Tsongkhapa’s commentary to the Six Yogas of Naropa.123 The Basic Method
Visualize yourself as Heruka. A white triangular dharmodaya appears at the level of your eyebrows, the two upper points running toward your ears and the third toward the root of your tongue. The triangle is like a balloon filled with air. It appears in the nature of blissful wisdom and gives rise to ecstasy.
Meditating in this way, recite the syllables AH AH. From the syllatreatise on the six yogas of niguma : 107
ble at one’s crown white liquids rain forth, in nature the wisdom of blissful emptiness of all buddhas but in the form of white nectar. This fills one’s body, absorbing the negativities, downfalls, and transgressions of body, speech, and mind. These leave one’s body via one’s pores in the form of muddy liquid, smoky waters, pus, blood, and so forth. Thus one’s continuum is cleansed of all darkness. Meditate that one’s mind becomes in nature the wisdom of bliss inseparably one with emptiness.
Here, the triangular dharmodaya at one’s eyebrow level has the form of the birthplace of the mudra, and thus symbolizes the wisdom of innate great bliss, or higher tantric consciousness, and the letter AH, representing the birthless, noninherent nature of all phenomena, symbolizes emptiness as an object of consciousness. Furthermore, the dharmodaya has the shape of the consort’s vagina, thus symbolizing innate wisdom, and its three sides represent the three doors of liberation, thus signifying emptiness as an object of wisdom. Therefore the meditation has the function of purifying one’s stream of being of stains and shortcomings, which is the effect of contemplating emptiness.
In other commentaries to the system this purification is effected by means of performing the Vajrasattva meditation and mantric recitation. However, as many gurus of the past have said, there is no method of purification more profound than the meditation upon AH given above.
As for the emptiness meditation for purifying oneself of diseases and hindrances, this is done as follows. For diseases of vital energy disturbance, visualize that a stream of nectar the color of melted butter flows from an orange-colored letter AH and dharmodaya. For diseases of heat, visualize that a stream of camphorlike nectar flows forth from a white AH and dharmodaya. For diseases of cold, visualize that copperlike nectars flow forth from a red AH and dharmodaya. To eliminate hindrances and evil spirits, meditate that from a black 108 : the second dalai lama
letter AH and a dharmodaya there emanates forth nectar in the form of countless tiny wrathful divinities.
In each of the above meditations on eliminating diseases, the illness takes the form of pus, blood, lymph, and so forth, and is driven out of the body. In the case of hindrances and evil spirits, these leave the body in the form of worms, maggots, scorpions, and so forth. One’s body becomes as pure and clear as crystal. The Three Signs of Purification
Thirdly, as a sign of purification of negativity and obscurations, one dreams of flying through the sky. The sign of elimination of disease is that one dreams of blood falling, and of vomiting. The sign of purification of hindrances and evil spirits is that one dreams of many insects being driven out of one’s body. The Actual Completion Stage Yogas
The actual path to be meditated upon will be explained under three headings: (I) the nature of the basis, (II) the stages of the path to be accomplished, and (III) the manner of actualizing the goal. The Nature of the Basis
Here the coarse and subtle levels of the individual and common natures of the body and mind are introduced. This is necessary because in the completion stage yogas one must generate experience by means of stimulating the points of the vajra body. To accomplish this one must know the points where pressure is to be applied, and also the manner of the application. Fundamental to this process is an understanding of the essential nature of the body and mind. In the Six Yogas of Niguma the particular places and manner of application of stimulation are the same as in the Six Yogas of Naropa, and these can be learned in detail from Lama Tsongkhapa’s commentary to Naropa’s Six Yogas.
treatise on the six yogas of niguma : 109 The Stages of the Path
This involves two subjects: (A) the actual path to be accomplished and (B) the methods for amplifying the power of practice. The Actual Path to Be Accomplished
In the completion stage yogas this refers to the Six Yogas themselves. The six are as follows: (1) the path of methods for automatically igniting the fires of the inner fire; (2) the illusory body yoga, which gives liberation from attachment and aversion; (3) dream yoga, which automatically purifies mistaken perception; (4) clear light yoga, which automatically dispels mental darkness; (5) consciousness transference, which produces enlightenment without meditation; and (6) the bardo yoga, which produces a buddha’s Sambhogakaya form. The Inner Fire Yoga
This involves two subjects: (a) the preliminary practice of establishing a sense of the empty body by means of meditating upon the inner fire and the bodily pressure points and (b) the actual inner fire yoga. The Preliminary of Establishing a Sense of the Empty Body The practice begins with a guru yoga method. This proceeds as does the guru yoga technique explained earlier. After this, one meditates on Buddha Vajradhara and makes the request to him for blessings to quickly generate within one’s continuum the samadhi of the mystic fire. As before, one meditates on taking the four initiations of samadhi.
Sit in the six-point fire posture. Expel any impure airs. Arise in the form of the holy Vajrayogini, body red in color, like heated copper, holding a curved knife in one’s right hand and, in one’s left, a skullcup filled with blood. The inside of one’s body, and even the inside of one’s fingers, are empty like an inflated balloon. In fact, one’s body is seen as insubstantial and immaterial, like a rainbow in the sky. 110 : the second dalai lama
The Actual Inner Fire Yoga
The inner fire yoga involves six subjects, as follows: consuming the inner fire as nutriment; using it as clothing; using it as a resting place; riding it as a magic horse; directing it for liberation from hindering forces; and utilizing it to receive the most powerful initiations. The most important of these is the first of the six: consuming the inner fire as nutriment. This refers to (i) the general and (ii) specialized ways of working with the three main energy channels and four main pressure points.
The General Method
Sit in the six-point fire posture as before and meditate upon yourself as the Yogini. Just below your navel are four fires, one in each of the four directions, approximately the size of a bird’s egg. Breathe in air from the two nostrils and pull in lower air from below. Bring these together at the navel.
This causes the four fires to blaze forth fiercely with a reddish hue. Extremely hot, they fill one’s body with a reddish flame and give rise to the blissful inner fire. The airs from above and below are thus held together in this mystic kiss for as long as is comfortable. When they can no longer be held, they should be released gently through the nostrils.
Now visualize the central energy channel, called uma. It runs straight up the center of the body just in front of the spine. The thickness of a wheat straw, its upper terminal comes to the point between the eyebrows and its lower terminal to a point slightly below the navel. To its right is the energy channel called roma, and to its left is kyangma. These connect into the central channel at the bottom terminal. At the top they run into the right and left nostrils. At the inside of the central channel where they meet at the base is a sun disc the size of half a chick pea. Upon the sun disc is a red letter RAM blazing with the flames of inner fire. It is the size of a mere barley seed. treatise on the six yogas of niguma : 111 Below the navel is a triangular dharmodaya. The wide base is on the top and its tip points downward. Inside the dharmodaya is an air mandala shaped like a bow and very vibrant. As before, one pulls in the airs from above and below. The airs move from below, causing the mystic fires to blaze forth from the letter RAM. Red in color and hot to the touch, they rush up the central energy channel, giving rise to the experience of blissful inner fire. As before, hold the airs at the navel for as long as is comfortable and then release them slowly through the nostrils.
The Specialized Method
Secondly, the special way of practicing the path, which relies upon manipulating the forces in the three channels and four energy points, will be taught under two headings: citing the textual sources of the teaching and the manner of implementing the instruction. The Textual Sources
The Vajra Verses states,
Sitting in the correct posture,
Visualize the three channels and four energy points With the mantric syllables AH and HAM.
Through the blazing and falling
One becomes adorned instantly by the four joys. Then by union with the special tantric wisdom one experiences The samsaric and nonsamsaric joys of four types. Through causing the moonlike energies to descend, Reversing their flow, and blending the vital energies, One becomes adorned by nonsamsaric gnosis. 112 : the second dalai lama
The Manner of Implementing the Instruction This is taught under two headings: the path of relying upon one’s own body and the path of relying upon the body of another. The Path of Relying upon One’s Own Body The first of these is in two sections: bringing the vital energies into the central channel by means of meditating upon the inner fire; and in reliance upon having brought the energies into the central channel, the stages of generating tantric experience. Bringing the Vital Energies into the Central Channel The first of these involves three subjects: meditating upon the energy channels, meditating upon the mantric syllables, and meditating upon the vase-breathing technique.
Meditating upon the energy channels
Begin by performing the guru yoga meditations as before. Then, as is said in Elucidation of the Summary of the Five Stages:124 One must know four subjects:
Body, time, object, and energy.
As said here, in order to engage in the practice one must first understand these four points.
The time for the meditation is at dawn, when the mind is clear, or in the evening, when bodily heat is strong. Otherwise, if this does not agree with one’s metabolism, it is acceptable to meditate whenever one feels inspired to do so.
The physical posture is as follows. Sit with legs crossed, back straight, neck inclined slightly forward, tongue against the palate, eyes toward the tip of the nose, teeth and lips held as feels natural and treatise on the six yogas of niguma : 113 relaxed, hands in the meditation gesture just below the navel, body supported by a meditation band, and so forth. As for the breath, exhale all negative air. Avoid breathing either too deeply or shallowly by simply letting the breath flow in a relaxed manner.
The visualization then proceeds as follows. Envisioning oneself as Heruka with Consort, concentrate on the energy channels. As before, the central channel runs up the center of the body just in front of the spine, with roma to its right and kyangma to its left. Each of these three channels is approximately the thickness of a wheat straw. They connect below as explained earlier.
The four pressure points are visualized in the following manner. At the navel is the wheel of emanation, shaped like a triangular Sanskrit letter EH. It has sixty-four petals, is red in color, and opens upward. At the heart is the wheel of truth, with eight petals, shaped round like the Sanskrit letter VAM, white in color, opening downward. At the throat is the wheel of enjoyment, with sixteen petals, red in color, also shaped like the round Sanskrit letter VAM, its face opening upward. Finally, at one’s crown is the wheel of great bliss, shaped like a triangular Sanskrit EH, multicolored, having thirty-two petals, its mouth opening downward. Meditate in this way. One visualizes the upper chakras only for a moment, and then shifts concentration below the heart (i.e., at the navel) for as long as possible, dedicating the main part of the session to this latter concentration. In this one should recollect the advice of Mahasiddha Ivawapa: to maintain radiance and clarity in the visualization of the pressure points.
Secondly, meditating upon the mantric syllables As in (the first technique above for) the meditation upon the inner fire, one visualizes the three energy channels and four pressure points. One then arranges the mantric syllables within these. The process is 114 : the second dalai lama
explained in both The Tantra of Two Forms and The Samphuta Tantra, and is further elucidated in the writings of various mahasiddhas such as those of Krishnacharya.
There are both elaborate and condensed methods of performing the meditation. In the elaborate method one visualizes mantric syllables at the center of each of the pressure points as well as on each of the petals. This is explained in the oral tradition. In the condensed method the syllables are visualized only on the pressure points themselves. This is described in The Explanatory Tantra125 and has also been recommended by many of the mahasiddhas. I shall explain the latter tradition.
How does the meditation proceed? One visualizes that at the center of the chakra at the navel, at the middle of the central energy channel, is a sun disc the size of half a chick pea. Upon this is the Sanskrit letter AH, red in color, its head pointing upward. In nature it is the inner fire, emanates forth bright light, and is the size of a mustard seed. Above it is a half-moon the size of a wheat kernel. Above this is a mystic drop and a tiny zig-zag flame.
At the center of the heart chakra at the middle of the central channel is a moon disc, a blue letter HUM upon it, its head pointing downward. At the center of the throat chakra at the middle of the central channel is a moon disc, a white letter HAM upon it, its head pointing downward. White bodhi-mind substances fall from it like snow. Each of these syllables is the size of a mustard seed, is exceedingly bright, and is crowned by a half-moon and a zig-zag of flame. As well, at each of the chakras the side channels wrap themselves around the central channel and in this way form knots that obstruct the free flow of the vital energies from the side channels into the central one. The meditation upon the mantric syllables aims at opening these passages. One holds this visualization, identifying one’s mind with the letter AH at the navel. Here it should be pointed out that the inner fire is both the foundation and central pillar of the path, and treatise on the six yogas of niguma : 115 that the ultimate place of residence of the inner fire is the pressure point at the navel. Therefore, it is important to concentrate singlepointedly on the syllable AH at the navel and thus stimulate the inner fire and cause it to ignite.
The way to hold the visualization is to see the visualized mystic drop and one’s own mind as entering into a unity. When this is done well, the visualized drop and the visualizing mind no longer appear as separate entities. By means of blending the two and causing them to become inseparable, one gains especially subtle tantric pride. Moreover, the syllables should be visualized as being as small as possible. The smaller they are, the more easy it becomes to control the vital energies. These letters are seen as being bright and in the nature of light, for this causes mental torpor to be cut off. Also, meditating on the half-moon and zig-zag of flame and on the bodhi-mind substance falling like snow, it becomes very easy to give rise to tantric bliss. Thirdly, the vase-breathing technique
This is referred to in The Vajra Verses by the passage, “…controlling the vital energies and blending the airs. . . .”
When one breathes in, this is done not through the mouth but rather gently through the nostrils. The air is not expelled, but is directed to the navel. Meditate that the two side channels are filled with air. Swallow silently while pressing down with the abdominal muscles, visualizing that the airs dissolve into the syllable AH at the navel. Then draw in air through the two lower passages and cup these lower airs at the navel with the upper airs. Visualize them entering the central channel while slowly exhaling through the nostrils. The vase-breathing exercise should be performed when the stomach is neither too full nor too empty. The best time for the meditation is after the food has been digested but has not yet left the stomach. The exercise should be done without a break, although for not too prolonged a period of time per session.
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Once competence in the practice has been established, when holding the upper and lower airs in the vase position visualize as before the chakras at the crown, throat, heart, and navel, together with the knots formed around them by the side channels and letters standing at their middle. Then visualize that the lower vital energy in the chakra at the sexual site rises and strikes against the letter AH at the central channel. This in turn causes the letters HAM, OM, and HUM at the crown, throat, and heart to melt and fall to the navel, where they dissolve into the letter AH, becoming inseparably one with it. One then fixes the mind single-pointedly on the mystic drop at the navel, which has the nature of innate bliss. Through holding the mind here the subtle flame of inner fire above the AH flares up. When one meditates like this, the light becomes especially radiant, causing the bodhi-mind substances to melt, fall, and dissolve into the syllable HUM. We should meditate in this way, concentrating single-pointedly upon the syllable AH, until signs of stability arise.
This meditation upon generating the inner fire, first of the Six Yogas of Sister Niguma, acts as a foundation stone for the other five. In this context the scripture Elucidation of the Summary of the Five Stages states,
By controlling the vital energies
Through the yoga of inner fire,
One arrives at great bliss consciousness
In tantric systems such as Guhyasamaja and so forth the yogi applies himself to the yoga of vajra recitation and brings the vital energies to the heart, thus releasing the knots at the pressure points. Here this is accomplished through the yoga of inner fire. By means of the inner fire and the use of a mudra one gains control of the vital energies and, just as at the time of death, causes all treatise on the six yogas of niguma : 117 energies to dissolve into the indestructible drop at the heart, giving rise to the innate wisdom of great bliss as explained in systems such as Guhyasamaja.
And just as at death the clear light arises and one then enters into the bardo, by means of the inner fire yoga we are able to generate the finest substance of energy and mind, and then from this arise in the illusory body. Thus the inner fire yoga is fundamental to the illusory body yoga.
Similarly, dream yoga is accomplished by means of controlling the vital energies and by the power of conscious intent. Of these, the former is the most important. To gain this ability we must be able to hold the clear light of sleep and, at the time of awakening, be able to direct the vital energies into the central channel. As the function of the inner fire yoga is to bring the vital energies into the central channel for the first time, the heat yoga is also fundamental to the dream yoga. The fourth of the six yogas is the clear light yoga, of which there are two levels: semblant and actual. In the Six Yogas the clear light comes after the illusory body. The Kagyu master Mokchokpa said, In bringing the illusory body into the clear light One must understand four points:
Method, time, form, and object.
As intimated here, by means of understanding these four points one can manifest clear light consciousness. This refers to the actual clear light; but for both semblant and actual clear light methods one must have control of the vital energies, and be able to bring the energies into the central channel and cause them to abide there and dissolve. As with the illusory body yoga, the function of the inner fire yoga is to give this control over the energies. Thus the heat yoga is fundamental to the clear light yoga.
The sixth yoga is that of the bardo, or intermediate state. There are 118 : the second dalai lama
three forms of this yoga respectively for practitioners of high, intermediate, and small capacity. As is explained later (in the section on the bardo yoga), to engage in the methods for practitioners of highest and intermediate capacity we must have gained the ability to bring the energies into the central channel and cause them to abide and dissolve. Thus the heat yoga is also instrumental here. Furthermore, the yoga of consciousness transference also depends upon the heat yoga, for this former yoga depends upon the power of control over the vital energies. To have power over consciousness transference one must first be able to bring the energies into the central channel. Therefore the inner fire yoga is fundamental to the transference yoga.
In general, the inner fire yoga is the basis of all completion stage practices of Anuttarayoga Tantra giving rise to the full experience of the innate great bliss, for all the completion stage yogas depend upon bringing the energies into the central channel and melting the bodhimind substances, and this is the special function of the yoga of inner fire.
Secondly, the Stages of Generating Tantric Experience This has two phases: how to cultivate experience of the four emptinesses and how to cultivate experience of the four joys. How to Cultivate Experience of the Four Emptinesses From the time one is able to concentrate single-pointedly upon the AH at the navel for a sixth of a complete day (i.e., four hours) without wandering, then wherever we fix the mind the energies will collect. The reason is the inseparable nature of mind and subtle energy. The sign of having brought the energies into the central channel is that when we concentrate on the breath it passes evenly through both nostrils. The sign of causing it to abide is that, after we breathe in, the air no longer moves in the nostrils. This may be learned in detail from treatise on the six yogas of niguma : 119 other sources. Thirdly, the signs of causing it to dissolve are of both coarse and subtle levels.
The coarse signs are that the earth element dissolves into water, giving rise to a miragelike appearance; water dissolves into fire, giving a smokelike appearance; fire dissolves into air, producing a sparklike sign resembling that of fireflies; and air dissolves into consciousness, giving an appearance like a butterlamp.
The subtle signs are as follows: a subtle whiteness, like the light of a full moon in the autumn sky; a subtle redness, like sunlight pervading the sky; a heavy darkness, like that of the sky after dusk (when there is no moon); and the natural hue of the sky when it is free from moonlight, sunlight, and darkness. These relate to the states of appearance, increase, near attainment, and clear light which immediately follow the dissolution of the five gross elements and precede entrance into the bardo in the death of an ordinary person.
The process is given as follows in Khyungpo Naljor’s famous Instruction on the Three Bardos,126 which he bases on The Tantra of the Wisdom Dance127 and The Victorious Tantra of Nonduality:128 Firstly, earth dissolves into water, then water into fire, fire into air, air into consciousness, and consciousness into clear light. The sign of earth dissolving into water is that one’s bodily strength fails; when water dissolves into fire one’s bodily liquids begin to dry; fire dissolving into air is marked by a loss of bodily heat; and air into consciousness is shown by the ceasing of the breath. Finally, consciousness dissolves into clear light, giving rise to a wisdom vision in three phases: appearance, increase, and near attainment. As said here, when death comes to an ordinary person, the outer elements first dissolve, giving rise to the outer signs as described above. After the five outer dissolutions occur, the three phases of 120 : the second dalai lama
appearance, increase, and near attainment arise and cause the clear light of death to manifest.
As for the inner signs that coincide with the dissolution of the elements, The Victorious Tantra of Nonduality states, First is the miragelike appearance that, although like a mirage, brings a vision of a five-colored light. The second is like moonlight, the third like sunlight, the fourth like darkness, the fifth like a cloudless sky beyond conceptual thought, a vision of emptiness with no center or limit. Also, Mahasiddha Ivawapa said,
The first is a sign like seeing a wild animal reflected in water, the second like smoke, the third like fireflies at night, the fourth like a lamp, and the fifth like a cloudless sky without characteristics. Thus, as said here, firstly earth dissolves into water, which gives rise to a miragelike vision, and so forth until air dissolves into consciou - sness. Then the subtle energies generated by the conceptual mind dissolve into appearance, giving rise to a vision like the moonlight in an autumn sky, and so forth, until the clear light of death itself arises, giving rise to a vision like that of a clear sky at dawn. When the clear light vision arises we should retain it by means of recollecting the meaning of the emptiness teaching.
How to Cultivate Experience of the Four Joys One ignites the special inner fire at the navel, causing the white bodhi-mind substance to melt from within the letter HAM in the crown chakra. It descends through the central channel. Coming from the crown to the throat chakra, it gives rise to joy; from the throat to the heart it gives rise to supreme joy; from the heart to the navel, to special joy; and from the navel to the tip of the jewel it gives rise to innately-born joy. This is the order of how they descend. treatise on the six yogas of niguma :
121 The Vajra Garland129 states,
To explain the order of arisal
Of the four joys born from the descending substance, When the substance leaves the wheel of great bliss Joy is experienced.
When it leaves the wheel of enjoyment
Supreme joy is experienced.
When it leaves the wheel of truth
Special joy is born.
And when it leaves the wheel of emanation One experiences innately-born joy.
When the substance melts, descends, and arrives at the base of the channel below the navel, it touches the sensory power inside the channel and gives rise to a special sensation. This sensory power is a principal condition that, when combined with control of the drop, gives rise to a special sensory consciousness of bliss. This in turn acts as a simultaneous condition that arises in the nature of great bliss as a mental consciousness. By combining this with a recollection of the view of emptiness one can generate great bliss in the nature of insight into the emptiness nature of mind. It is this that is to be cultivated and maintained. When the experience of innate bliss generated by melting the bodhi-mind in the central channel is the actual experience, then because the energy that normally causes the substance to be ejaculated has been dissolved, the substance will not be emitted, even if one does not apply the special exercises, or yantras. However, beginners should apply the meditations and exercises for reversing the substances if the innate bliss causes the energies to move, or there is a danger of ejaculation. Moreover, there is no threat of disease if one brings the substance directly back to the syllable HAM in the pressure point at the crown, even if one does not direct it through the other points of the body.
In general there are various ways of directing the inner fire, such as to the navel, the sexual site, inside, and outside the central channel, inside the body to the extremities of the skin, and so forth. Similarly, there are various ways of melting the mystic substances. One should know the stages of these techniques and the manner of their application.
When the drops to be controlled are not inside the central channel, one must make great efforts to bring the substances back to their original sites in the upper part of the body and to spread the sensations through the channels and points.
The stages of generating the four joys by means of reversing the drop and bringing it back up the channel are as given in The Vajra Garland:
Joy at the wheel of emanation,
Supreme joy at the wheel of truth,
Special joy at the wheel of enjoyment,
And innate joy at the wheel of bliss:
These are the joys in the reversed process. This explanation is in harmony with that given in The Mark of Mahamudra. In both these works it is said that each of the four blisses is experienced in four ways in dependance upon the moonlike substance, thus making sixteen joys. Moreover, when the white bodhimind substance (i.e., male drops) moves it also causes the sunlike red bodhi-mind substance (i.e., female drops) to follow, and this is experienced in three ways in each of the four chakras, thus constituting twelve joys.
As for the four downward-moving joys, it is said that the bliss experienced is greater than that of the upward-moving joys because of the nature of the innate bliss experienced. When the innate downwardmoving joy is complete then the experience becomes stable and it is not possible for the substance to be ejaculated. treatise on the six yogas of niguma : 123 This is also stated in The Mark of Mahamudra: When stability is attained
The substance will not be emitted.
The actual manner of maintaining the experience of the four emptinesses and four joys should be studied in detail in other texts. What I have said here is but a general description. When the meditation session is complete and you wish to arise from the innate joy and clear light vision, contemplate that you gather together the most subtle aspects of mind and energy, and shape them into the form of Heruka. This Heruka then enters into the old aggregates.
This is what is meant by becoming skilled in the method of blending the results of practice with one’s actual situation. The Path of Relying upon a Karmamudra,
or Body of Another Person
The Five Stages130 states,
Of all the types of illusory phenomena,
The illusory female is supreme;
For she reveals with clarity
The nature of the three appearances.
As said here, by relying upon a karmamudra as the external condition, the yogi on the high levels of the completion stage practices is led to great bliss.
Here one relies upon one of the four types of mudra, such as the lotuslike mudra who possesses all characteristics, has been matured by tantric initiation, and has a high degree of spiritual liberation. Such a consort is known as a mudra, or a Wisdom Lady. For this prac- 124 : the second dalai lama
tice one must understand the oral teachings well and have complete control of the two principal vital energies. One enters into sexual union with the mudra, which gives rise to the special innate bliss. This causes the vital energies to dissolve just as at the time of death, inducing the clear light of mind to arise with great strength.
This is to be performed not only at the time of controlling the life energies, but also at the time of the three higher activities. However, this practice is extremely secret and it is not appropriate to say more here. Therefore I will not go into greater detail. This completes the section on generating the inner fire by means of stimulating the three energy channels and four pressure points. To use the inner fire as clothing, one performs the general meditation for generating the inner fire as before. Sit on a comfortable seat, pull the knees in against the chest, drop the throat against the knees, cross the hands over the kidneys, and bring the breath under control. To use the heat as a resting place, tuck the left foot behind the right thigh and curl up like a sleeping dog. Then bring the vital energies under control.
Riding the heat as a magic horse is performed as follows. Sit with hands on the thighs and meditate on the body as being empty. Below the navel is a sun disc, Guru Amitayus sitting upon it. He is the size of a finger in height and the color of red-hot iron. From there the channel flows upward to one’s crown. It is open at the top like an opened window, and in the sky above one can see countless buddhas and bodhisattvas. From their hearts there flow forth wisdom nectars. These nectars resemble melted butter and enter one’s body via one’s Brahma aperture. They rain down upon Guru Amitayus, causing him to release a blast of flame that fills one’s body. As before, perform the breathing exercise and yantra of motion.
Then, whenever you go anywhere visualize that your two arms become wings. Under your armpits and on the soles of your feet visutreatise on the six yogas of niguma : 125
alize light-green wind goddesses. Whenever you move, visualize that these cause you to fly and that they carry you through the sky. Perform the vase breathing twenty-one times. This will help you to travel quickly, as though carried by a magic horse. To receive the powerful initiations, visualize white Vajradhara and Consort upon your head. Offer the mandala symbolizing the universe and request them to bestow the four initiations. From the point of their sexual union flows forth bodhi-mind nectar. This enters your body via your Brahma aperture and descends. Contemplate that in this way the four initiations are attained. Thus is complete my explanation of the inner fire yoga. The Illusory Body Yoga
The Vajra Verses states,
The nontrue illusory body yoga is to be
Applied by high, medium, and small practitioners With an inseparable sense of appreciation. One’s own body and also all that appears Are to be seen as empty manifestations
With no sense of mundane appearance.
Take all forms as the form of the deity.
This brings freedom from attachment and aversion And brings realization of the fourteen stages. The illusory body yoga is explained under three headings: the reason it is taught after the inner fire yoga, recognizing the hidden illusory body, and some auxiliary practices mentioned in the texts of the gurus.
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treatise on the six yogas of niguma : 127
The Reason for the Order
There is a very important reason for following up the inner fire training with the illusory body yoga. By means of the inner fire yoga as the inner condition and the use of a mudra as the external condition we are enabled to collect and dissolve all the vital energies just as occurs at the time of death, giving rise to a clear light experience like that known at the time of death. Now, just as after the moment of death a bardo body is produced from the finest substances of energy and mind, in actual practice we wish to use the subtle energy which is the vehicle of clear light as the evolving cause and the mind itself as the simultaneously-acting cause in order to arise in the form of Heruka. We have already generated a facsimile of the clear light of death through means of dissolving the elements and energies. Therefore, applying the illusory body yoga to arise in the form of a deity is most appropriate at this time.
Recognizing the Hidden Illusory Body
This is dealt with under two headings: the actual practice and how this is explained by the gurus of the tradition. The Actual Practice
The illusory body and clear light yogas in this system of the Six Yogas of Niguma actually come from the Tantra of Guhyasamaja as transmitted and elucidated by Arya Nagarjuna and his disciples Aryadeva, Chandrakirti, and so forth, and we should study them from these sources. The tradition of their instruction is as follows. For as long as we are unable to cause the vital energies to enter the central channel, to abide, and to dissolve, we will be unable to generate the full experience of the samadhi of the stages of appearance, increase, and near attainment leading up to the experience of final mind isolation. It is from the subtle energy and consciousness produced from final mind isolation that the nature of the illusory body is produced.
The oral tradition of the Marpa system is based upon the scripture Elucidation of the Summary of the Five Stages: First is the miragelike appearance that,
Although like a mirage,
Brings vision of a five-colored light.
The second is like moonlight, the third like sunlight, and so forth.
The (illusory body) is attained after all these have manifested. Thus this passage indicates the three emptinesses of mind isolation from which the illusory body is produced. Elsewhere the same text states,
The illusory body is produced
From subtle energy and mind,
Together with appearances.
This indicates the actual nature of the illusory body. This nature is further clarified by the quotation from The Vajra Verses given above: The nontrue illusory body yoga is to be
Applied by high, medium, and small practitioners. . . and so forth.
Here the words “nontrue illusory body” are used, for the illusory body to be produced is the form of a tantric deity that, although it appears as real, is in fact insubstantial and immaterial. The second line of the passage refers to the levels of practitioners. The third line then states, “. . . with an inseparable sense of appre- 128 : the second dalai lama
ciation.” The meaning is that it is mandatory for all three types of trainees to rely upon a guru and, showing intense trust in him, make every effort to please him in the three ways and thus receive his oral instructions and blessings.
The same passage also states,
One’s own body and also all that appears Are to be seen as empty manifestations . . . Take all forms as the form of the deity.
This means that one should arise in the actual form of a deity. This is to be done not by mere imagination but by manifesting the most subtle aspects of energy and mind and then arising as a tantric form from these.
The text states, “. . . empty manifestations with no sense of mundane appearance.” This refers again to the illusory body itself. Elsewhere the same text states,
Meditate on whatever appears
As being of an illusory nature.
Abide within the illusionlike samadhi
And see everything in that way.
The first passage closes by saying,
This brings freedom from attachment and aversion And brings realization of the fourteen stages. The subtle energy and mind which reside at the heart as the indestructible drop represent the final basis of imputation for the sense of self. By clinging to this self as truly existent and inherently real, the distorted thoughts of attachment and aversion are born. By means of treatise on the six yogas of niguma : 129 this meditation, which causes the vital energies to enter the central channel, to abide, and to dissolve, and then by experiencing the semblant clear light, we arise in the actual form of a tantric divinity with the impure illusory body.
Then by means of causing this form to enter into the actual clear light we arise with the pure illusory body. Thus by means of the illusionlike samadhi we become free from the chains of delusions such as attachment and aversion, and attain the fourteenth stage of perfection, actualizing the goal of buddhahood in the form of Vajradhara, Holder of Diamond Knowledge. How This Is Explained by the Gurus of the Tradition Khyungpo Naljor states in his Instruction on the Three Bardos, which comments on the meaning of The Vajra Verses quoted above, The generation and completion stage yogas, and in particular the dream and clear light yogas, are the methods for purifying the three bardo bodies, which are the bases to be purified by the yogi.
And also The Tantra of the Wisdom Dance says, The three bardo bodies are purified
By the generation and completion stage yogas, Dream yoga, and also the clear light yogas. Moreover, The Tantra of Two Forms states, Like illusion and dream:
This is like the bardo experience.
The meaning is that the bardo body is the base to be purified, and that the means of purifying this involves the generation and com- 130 : the second dalai lama
pletion stage yogas. Thus the ripened form is explained as being the present body purified by meditation upon oneself in the form of a deity. The dream body is the body of instincts purified by controlling the vital energies and winds through the oral tradition teachings. Thirdly, the bardo body is said to be a mental body purified by the illusory body yoga of arising in an illusory form from the clear light of the present path. Thus the passage in The Tantra of Two Forms which shows the hidden meaning of the Mother Tantra teaching on the subject seems to give the most clear presentation of the topic.
The yogi Mokchokpa writes,
The mental body becomes the illusory body Free from all suffering.
This is (cultivated by) the illusory samadhi. The nature of the illusory samadhi of the Highest Yoga Tantra system is given in the following passage:
The illusory body has three characteristics: Its branches and trunk are complete,
Like an image reflected in a mirror;
It pervades all objects of experience,
Like the moon reflected in water;
And, like a rainbow in the sky,
It is produced by pure means,
Such as peaceful mantras and so forth.
Thus the nature of the illusory body which exists as the form of a tantric divinity complete with trunk and limbs is shown by numerous examples such as a reflection in a mirror, the moon in water, and a rainbow in the sky.
treatise on the six yogas of niguma : 131 Khyungpo Naljor and also Mokchokpa both explain the bardo and illusory bodies as being mental bodies. Mokchokpa writes, They are both bodies of light
Formed of five clear radiances.
Thus the nature of the illusory body is said to be formed of the most subtle aspects of the five vital energies, of which the principal one is the life-sustaining energy. In systems such as the Tantra of Guhyasamaja one meditates upon collecting the five vital energies and bringing them into the drop, which is directed to the tip of the nose. Thus in the tantras and in the scriptures written by Nagarjuna and his disciples and in the oral tradition coming from them it is clearly stated that the evolutionary cause of the illusory body is constituted of the five vital energies, of which the main factor is the lifesustaining energy.
As for the illusory nature experienced during meditation, the above text relates,
At the time of performing meditation (we work with) Dream consciousness, which creates a mental body. When purified by familiarity with its self-appearing nature This can be transformed into anything whatsoever. Also, by meditation upon the body of a deity, which is mentally created,
One produces the rainbowlike divine form
Which is without flesh and blood.
Moreover the illusory dream body and the illusory body experienced in meditation are to be sealed by the four inner mudras. The above text continues,
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The four mudras are of two types:
Inner and outer.
Purification by the inner mudra
At the confused time of sleep is like this: When attachment or aversion arises in dreams, Understand the illusion as dream consciousness. When the mental body is accomplished,
This is the samaya of understanding the illusion. The illusory seal on the instinctual body Is the fulfillment of the illusory samaya. The doctrine of karmamudra
Means purification in the art of seeing as an illusion Everything from a worm to a buddha.
By this the connection is cut
Between consciousness and its objects.
When we can see as illusions
The self-appearing things of the world,
This is the foundation of all excellence. As it fulfills all actions,
It is known as the karmamudra.
The dharmamudra is explained as follows:
There arises the experience of blissful clarity in dreams And the experience of the bliss of radiant emptiness, Which is understood as the nature of one’s own mind. Furthermore, the master Naropa himself said, treatise on the six yogas of niguma : 133 Blissful, radiant, and nonconceptual:
These are the three innate characteristics Constituting the dharmamudra.
The mahamudra is explained as follows:
The illusory body itself unites inseparably With bliss, radiance, and nonconceptuality. Because these become an indivisible entity The experience is known as mahamudra, the Great Seal. And in the text Instruction on the Three Blendings131 it is said, The experience is one of bliss,
And the illusory meaning is understood.
This reference to the three blendings is given within the context of its being experienced in meditation. Although there are many scriptures on this subject by the mahasiddhas of old, the above comments are drawn from the works of the later masters of the six-yoga systems of the Naropa and Niguma traditions.
Now I will introduce the practice as it is applied by the three types of practitioners: (a) how the highest practitioner relies upon the guru, (b) how the medium practitioner is led by reciting a scriptural passage, and (c) how the small practitioner relies on samadhi. How the Highest Practitioner Relies upon the Guru The disciple of highest qualification can accomplish the training merely by relying upon the guru. This involves two subjects: (i) taking prayer as the path of the guru and (ii) taking appearances as the path of nontrue existence.
(i) Here one performs the guru yoga meditation and makes three prayers: to generate renunciation, to accomplish the illusory body 134 : the second dalai lama
and dream yogas, and to accomplish clear light mahamudra. One makes these three prayers while meditating on the guru as an illusion. (ii) One transforms the impure world and its inhabitants into the Heruka mandala and its deities, and meditates on their illusory nature.
How the Medium Disciple Trains through Recitation The disciple of medium qualification should adopt the approach taught in The Sutra Requested by the Noble Achintyaprabhasa, where - in it is said,
“All dharmas are an illusion and a dream.” Whoever recites and recollects these words Becomes free from worldly bonds
And gains buddhahood in this lifetime.
As instructed here, one should constantly meditate on the illusory nature of all phenomena and recite this truth in words: “All dharmas are an illusion and a dream.” While doing so one should also maintain the vision of oneself as a tantric deity. Niguma herself said,
If we do not know how to meditate
On the illusory nature of whatever appears, How can we ever apply the opponent forces? How can we overcome negativities
Merely by trying to avoid them?
By recognizing their illusory nature,
Liberation arises of itself.
Therefore we should take whatever appears and meditate on its illusory nature.
treatise on the six yogas of niguma : 135 How the Small Disciple Trains by Means of Samadhi The least qualified practitioner should rely upon staying on his meditation seat, avoiding the numerous activities (that high and medium practitioners can engage in) such as walking about, changing places of abode, being gregarious, associating with (people holding) wrong views, and so forth. As these obstruct the path of virtue in those of small capacity, they should avoid them and instead meditate formally as much as is possible.
Some Auxiliary Practices
One should constantly regard the sentient creatures of the six realms as being of an illusory nature. Visualizing oneself as the tantric deity, envision the triangular dharmodaya below the navel. It is white outside and red inside, and contains all sentient beings.
These beings are insubstantial and in the nature of light. Pull up the air forcefully from below and press it against the dharmodaya. Contemplate how the living beings grasp at the noninherently-existent phenomena as truly existent and thus cause themselves to wander in the miserable realms of cyclic existence. Generate compassion for them, and then meditate how they too are like illusions and like dreams that, although appearing as real, have no true existence. Secondly is the practice of transforming diseases and evil spirits into the illusory path. Meditate that the diseases and/or evil spirits are in nature the guru and meditational deity, and how they are noninherently real, like an illusion. Breathe in through the right nostril, meditating that these negative forces are pulled down into the dharmodaya and there are transformed. Apply the exercises and yantras, etc.
The six beneficial effects of the above transformational practices are: one gains greater control over the mystic drop, becoming able to retain it during meditation; one becomes more proficient in dream yoga; all sentient beings come within one’s scope of meditation; the sentient beings are matured and liberated; all things naturally arise 136 : the second dalai lama
as illusions; and one becomes able to retain memory of and control over one’s dreams.
This is but a general explanation of how to practice the illusory body yoga as condensed and arranged in brief from the writings of the great masters of the past.
This is the completion of my elucidation of the illusory body yoga. Dream Yoga, Which Dispels Mental Darkness This will be explained under two headings: the reason why the dream yoga follows the illusory body yoga and the actual dream yoga instruction.
The Reason for the Order
The Vajra Verses states,
Whoever overpowers conceptual thought
Should dedicate himself intensely to dream yoga, Which automatically purifies the darkness of confusion. The excellence gained by the illusory body training Then automatically arises, day and night. This is the purpose for the order of these yogas. As said earlier, the main force used in the dream yoga is the power of control over the vital energies which operate during sleep. Moreover, in the tradition of blending sleep with the tantric yogas, (the clear light that arises when) going to sleep is linked to the Dharmakaya, the dream state to the Sambhogakaya, and waking up to the Nirmanakaya.
Therefore in this context the sleep yoga becomes an auxiliary branch of the illusory body yoga.
treatise on the six yogas of niguma : 137 The Actual Dream Yoga Instruction
As said above, the main practice in the dream yoga is the control of the vital energies. In particular, the principal instruction becomes retaining the clear light of sleep. Thus it becomes necessary to say something on the two subjects of dream yoga and clear light. The manner of cultivating the power of intention in the dream yoga is explained in the oral tradition of the gurus under six headings: (a) recognizing dreams, (b) purifying them, (c) increasing dream objects, (d) emanating within the dream, (e) being aware of the objects of perception, and (f) meditating on their thatness. (a) The first of these begins by meditating on guru yoga and making a prayer that one may be able to retain the dream and to practice the spiritual path within the context of the dream. The method of training in retaining dreams is twofold: during the day practicing an appropriate mindfulness meditation and at night applying the forceful method of the oral instruction. The first of these involves regarding all objects perceived during the daytime as things of a dream. One must think to oneself, “These objects are but dream experiences and I must recognize this dream as a dream.”
Practicing this mindfulness during the day will have the effect that at night when a dream occurs one will automatically think, “This is but a dream experience.” The stronger becomes the instinct of the training cultivated during the day, the stronger will become one’s ability to recognize the dream state when asleep. Secondly, the forceful method of the oral tradition to be applied at night is also twofold: the method that relies upon controlling the white and red drops and the method of the nine unfailing points. In the former of these one begins by visualizing oneself as the tantric deity and, as in the practice of the inner fire explained earlier, envisions the energy channels. At the base of the central channel 138 : the second dalai lama
upon the navel chakra is the syllable AH and at the crown chakra the syllable HAM. From the HAM comes a small white drop and from the AH a red drop. Both are in the nature of light and are radiantly bright. They come to the heart and encircle it.
We then prepare to go to sleep, making a firm resolution that, “I must recognize dreams as dreams.” We bring the drops (as one) to the throat chakra and again make the above resolution, visualizing as we go to sleep that the drops (as one) remain inside the central channel at the throat chakra.
The second forceful method is that of the nine unfailing points. The nine points are constituted of three categories: three are to do with the times, which are predawn, dawn, and sunrise; three are to do with postures, which are the vajra posture, squatting, and the lion posture; and three deal with visualizations to be performed. The first of these visualizations is as follows. Visualizing oneself as the tantric deity, at the center of the inner channel at one’s throat chakra is a moon disc, and upon it stands one’s root guru in the form of Heruka, dark red in color, sexually embracing a consort resembling himself. He has one face and two arms.
At his heart is a sun disc, and upon this stands a blue syllable HUM. This syllable is in the nature of light and is the size of a mustard seed. Lights from the letter HUM cause the guru as Heruka to become extremely radiant. Lights then flood forth from the guru, illuminating myself as the deity. Fix the mind on this image single-pointedly and make the resolution as before.
The second visualization begins by dissolving the world and its inhabitants into oneself. One then dissolves into the guru at one’s throat. The guru dissolves into the syllable HUM at his heart, and this dissolves into itself from the bottom upward and then into the halfmoon above it, and then into the tiny zig-zag of flame. This then disappears like a rainbow melting into space. As before, make the firm resolution to recognize any dream as a dream. treatise on the six yogas of niguma : 139 The third visualization is as mentioned in the following passage from The Ocean of Wisdom:132
Generated at the throat of all beings
Is the syllable AM.
Inside the central channel at one’s throat is a tiny red lotus having four petals. At its center stands a letter AM, red in color, exceedingly radiant and the size of a mustard seed.
Fix the mind on it and recollect the dream resolution as before. Here it is very important to prevent the mind from wandering and to set a strong resolve not to become lost in sleep and, whenever a dream arises, to recognize whatever arises in the mind as a dream. Should you wake up in the middle of the dream, do not open your eyes. Rather, draw up the lower energies and recollect the dream, trying to keep the dream going again. This helps in the practice of recognizing the dream state and strengthens the power of increasing the intensity of dreaming. From the point in training when one can bring the energies into the central channel by means of stimulating the mystic fire as explained earlier, when we meditate on the above three visualization processes for retaining dreams the power of holding the dream state by means of controlling the vital energies gains a special strength. In addition, in reliance upon the visualizations one gains a special ability to recognize and retain the clear light of sleep. (b) Secondly follows the process of purifying dreams. Here there are four techniques to be mastered.
The first of these is called “purifying the mind by means of the body.” One sits at the peak of a large cliff. In the sky before you visualize that you as Heruka and Consort are in the air over the cliff, an arrow’s length in height. You (as Heruka) then look over the cliff, and a great fear of heights wells up within you. Think to yourself, “This is 140 : the second dalai lama
a dream,” and set the resolve as before to recognize any dream as a dream. The Heruka and Consort are then visualized as falling over the cliff into nothingness.
The second technique is called “purifying the body by means of the mind.” Visualize that every pore of your body contains a blue letter HUM. The letters have the head inside the pores and are half submerged and half protruding. These radiate forth blue lights, which fill one’s body and cause it to become empty and pure. The third method is called “purification by means of Nairatmika, the Egoless One,” consort of Hevajra. In the space before you visualize the dakini Nairatmika, the Egoless One. She is blue in color and holds a curved knife and skull-cup. One recites the mantra OM AH SVAHA, causing blue lights to radiate forth from her body. They enter one’s own body via one’s sexual organ, and then the Egoless One herself enters one’s body via the same passage. She melts into light, and one’s body becomes filled with a bluish radiance. It then melts into light like a rainbow disappearing into the sky. All becomes pristine emptiness.
The fourth technique is called “purification by resolution.” When we recognize that we are dreaming we should think, “My ordinary body is asleep in bed and this thing appearing to me now is but a dream body. All the things now appearing in my field of perception are but the manifestations of a dream.” Thinking in this way, determine to project yourself to a Pure Land such as Tushita or Sukhavati, where one can see the faces of the buddhas and bodhisattvas and can hear their sacred teachings; or else determine to take birth consciously in the impure world in order to work for the benefit of the living beings. (c) To increase the dream objects, take the body that appears in the dream and manifest it as two. Then manifest the two as four, and so forth until eventually you have hundreds and thousands of bodies. treatise on the six yogas of niguma : 141 (d) To eliminate death, emanate in the form of Yamantaka. To overcome the effects of serpent spirits, emanate as Garuda. To subdue the kingly spirits, emanate as Hayagriva. Practice these and other such emanations. In brief, emanate as whatever tantric deity is appropriate to the need.
One can also emanate as the various coarse and subtle elements, changing from earth to water, water to fire, fire to air, and so forth, as described earlier.
(e) If in this way one can gain proficiency in the dream yoga, one will achieve the ability to understand the phenomenal world that appears to us, such as the ways of the sentient beings of the pure and impure worlds, the death and transmigration of living beings, and so forth. However, it would seem that this practice and this ability are applicable only in the context of a particular level of the training. (f) When you recognize the dream state, meditate on yourself as Heruka with Consort. Send lights forth from the syllable HUM at your heart, causing the world to melt into the mandala palace and the beings of the world to dissolve into the visualized deities of the mandala. These then dissolve into Heruka and Consort, the Consort dissolves into Heruka, he into the HUM at his heart, and the HUM into itself from the bottom upward and eventually into the zig-zag of flame above. The flame then dissolves into unapprehendable nothingness. Hold the mind here on the view of emptiness. There are four hindrances to the practice of dream yoga. The first is to not recognize a dream as a dream. The second is to wake up from the dream when the yoga is applied.
The third is to be disturbed in the dream by confusing factors such as lust caused by the drop moving to the lower chakras. Finally, the fourth is to not experience any dreams. The remedy to the first problem is to set a firm resolution before going to sleep to recognize any dream that arises. The remedy to the 142 : the second dalai lama
second is not to open one’s eyes, even if one awakens, but instead to think over and recapture the dream that was occurring. The remedy to the third hindrance is to bring the mystic drop back up to the throat chakra. Finally, the remedy to the fourth problem is to set a firm determination to dream many dreams and to recognize them when they occur. Such are the teachings of the lineage gurus. This completes my elucidation of the dream yoga.
The Clear Light Yoga
The Vajra Verses states,
Appreciation for the guru inspires blissful radiance, And by the glance of samsaric and nonsamsaric bliss Blissful radiance united with nonconceptual thought arises. Preliminaries, actual practice, and concluding procedures adorn the path.
Here the first line shows the cause of clear light realization. The second line indicates the distinction between semblant and actual clear light, which is made on the basis of whether or not the innate bliss perceiving emptiness arises with or without an appearance of duality. The third line shows the nature of the path of clear light. Finally, the fourth line shows the stages of entering into the preliminaries, actual practice, and concluding procedures of the clear light yoga. The reason for placing the clear light yoga as fourth in the order of the six yogas is given by the master Mokchokpa: The illusory body enters into the clear light. In other tantric systems, such as Guhyasamaja, the clear light yoga is fourth of the five phases of the completion stage, coming after the illusory body yoga. The impure illusory body is purified by absorbing it in the clear light experience.
treatise on the six yogas of niguma : 143 I would like to explain something about the clear light yoga according to the oral tradition.
Many gurus have said that there are two principal methods of generating the clear light realization. The first of these is accomplished by means of meditating upon the syllable AH; the second, by means of meditating upon the dakini Nairatmika, the Egoless One. However, neither of these is exclusive to the completion stage of Niguma’s system of Highest Yoga Tantra.
According to the Niguma oral transmission, the exclusively Highest Yoga Tantra means of the completion stage is twofold: (i) generating clear light consciousness by means of relying upon the guru; and (ii) generating it by means of the mystic syllable HUM. I would like to say something about these two techniques. Visualizing oneself as Heruka with Consort, one envisions the central channel running from the tip of the jewel below to the crown aperture above. Meditate that the inside of this channel is filled with bodhi-mind substances resembling falling snow. At one’s heart is the chakra of the wheel of dharma, and upon it is one’s own root guru in the form of a tiny drop, in color white tinged with red. At the center of this drop is a white letter HUM, the size of a mere mustard seed, radiating lights the color of quicksilver that in nature are innate bliss. Fix the mind on this letter. Light then emanates forth from it with special strength, causing the world and its inhabitants to melt into light.
These melt into oneself as Heruka with Consort. Heruka (and Consort) then also melt into light from the head downward and feet upward; this is absorbed into the mystic drop described above. The drop then melts into the syllable HUM, and this melts into itself from the bottom upward, eventually melting into the zig-zag of flame above. This then dissolves into nothingness. Fix the mind in the sphere of the unapprehendable for some time. This causes the vital energies to enter the central channel and to abide and dissolve, giving rise to the wisdom of clear light.
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This meditation can be practiced from the time one becomes proficient in the yoga of directing the energies into the central channel, causing them to abide and dissolve, and thus giving rise to the innate bliss by means of stimulating the inner fire. Here it should be pointed out that the final place of concentration in the body for giving rise to the clear light is the heart chakra, and therefore concentrating on the heart has a greater effect than concentrating elsewhere.
Moreover, the wisdom of innate great bliss that is produced here is generated with special strength by means of cultivating it in the nature of the experiences of the four emptinesses and the four joys, and at that time the view of emptiness becomes especially profound, pervading both consciousness and the objects of perception. When one wishes to arise from the clear light meditation one should do so in the form of Heruka directly from the most subtle aspects of energy and mind. This Heruka then enters into the old aggregates in the manner of a Wisdom Being entering a Symbolic Being. Thereafter, all the objects that appear are seen as emptiness, the emptiness as bliss, and the bliss as the form of the tantric deity. In the postmeditation state the objects that appear to the mind should be sealed with the wisdom of great bliss generated during meditation. By contemplating in this way, the wisdom of great bliss generated in meditation takes on a special strength.
Now a few words on how to cultivate the clear light of sleep. This can be practiced from the time we become proficient in directing the energies into the central channel and causing them to abide and dissolve through meditation during the waking state. As soon as we begin to go to sleep we should meditate on the stages of dissolution of the coarse and subtle elements as described earlier and should direct the coarse vital energies into the central channel, giving rise to the experience of the four emptinesses and the four joys. Now, the chakra at the heart is the site of the drop generated during the time of sleep, and therefore during the waking state we should meditate on causing the treatise on the six yogas of niguma : 145 energies to enter, abide, and dissolve here. This is done as described earlier. Then when we enter sleep we should retain the clear light experience, and if a dream begins to occur, we should arise in the form of Heruka from the finest substance of energy and mind. On waking up from sleep we should direct this to enter into the old aggregates. As for the beneficial effects of the clear light yoga, as these are explained clearly in systems such as the Tantra of Guhyasamaja and are well known to everyone, I will not say more on them here. Thus is complete my elucidation of the clear light yoga. The Yoga of Consciousness Transference
The Vajra Verses states,
In the best transference there is
Neither practitioner nor method.
The medium and lesser trainees
Avoid attachment and aversion;
By means of joy, respect, and concentration They throw consciousness upward
And adorn the practice with a prayer.
I would like to say something on the techniques referred to in this passage.
This oral instruction on the transference of consciousness is a special facet of Highest Yoga Tantra. It is taught in scriptures such as The Samphuta Tantra, which is a common explanatory tantra to both the Heruka and Hevajra systems. It is also elucidated in The Tantra of the Diamond Sky Dancer and The Tantra of The Mystic Bond, which are tantric scriptures exclusive to the Heruka system, as well as in The Root Tantra of the Four Seats133 and in The Instructions of Manjushri.134 The methods of transference are clearly elucidated in these texts and one should understand the important points in practice as explained 146 : the second dalai lama
by them. A more detailed understanding of the methods can be learned from Lama Tsongkhapa’s Extensive Commentary on Consciousness Transference.135
The beneficial effects of the consciousness transference technique are mentioned in The Tantra of the Diamond Sky Dancer: Killing a Brahmin every day,
Committing the five inexpiable karmas,
And even stealing, cheating, and sexual abuse Are purifed by this path.
One is no longer stained by evil
And goes far beyond samsaric faults.
These are the beneficial effects of the practice as explained in The Tantra of the Diamond Sky Dancer. The same thing is said in The Mystic Kiss136 and in The Root Tantra of the Four Seats. Therefore one should apply oneself to the methods with enthusiasm. As for the actual application of the transference, The Tantra of the Diamond Sky Dancer relates,
Perform transference when the time comes. To do so earlier is to kill a deity.
As a result of killing a deity
One will certainly burn in hell.
Therefore the wise make effort
To know the signs of death.
As said here, one should make observations for the signs of death and, when they occur, apply the longevity methods. When these do not work and the signs of death are not turned away, the time has come to apply the actual transference yogas. The Four Seats relates,
treatise on the six yogas of niguma : 147 The best time to train in the transference yogas Is before one is afflicted with illness.
As advised above, it is best to apply the training techniques before becoming too weak with illness. Once severe illness has set in one will not be able to master the trainings, no matter how strong one’s wish may be.
The Tantra of the Diamond Sky Dancer states, One ties the doors with the vase breathing And purifies the door of the central channel. The Four Seats and The Samphuta Tantra say much the same thing. By means of the vase-breathing technique one causes the vital energies that operate in the doors of the senses to be withdrawn and directed into the central channel. This must be accomplished in order to effect the transference competently. One closes off eight of the nine paths of exit of consciousness, leaving open the Golden Passage, which is the Brahma aperture at the crown of the head. It is through this Golden Passage that one will make the transference to accomplish rebirth as a knowledge holder of the tantric path. Four transference methods are taught in the oral tradition: the transference of Dharmakaya Thatness, the transference of the guru’s blessings, the transference of a divinity’s great union, and the transference of the Unfailing Dakini.
From amongst these it is the transference of the Unfailing Dakini that most teachers recommend these days. Therefore I will explain this fourth method. Begin by performing a guru yoga meditation as explained earlier. Offer strong prayers to be able to accomplish the transference yoga to whatever Pure Land is desired. Sitting in the vajra posture, with legs crossed and the hands placed on the thighs, visualize yourself as Heruka with Consort, the central energy channel running straight up 148 : the second dalai lama
the center of your body. This channel is the thickness of a wheat straw and runs from the Brahma aperture above to a point four fingerwidths below the navel.
At the base of this