The “Void” and the “Diamond-Thunderbolt” Tibetan lnitiatic Teachings
The esoteric Tibetan teachings found here are taken from the Bde-Michog-Tantra (in Sanskrit: ShrIcakrasambhara), which was attributed to Yeshes-Senge, a monk of the gNas-rNying sect, published for the first time in 1919 with an introduction, a synopsis, and a partial English translation by the lama Kazi Dawa Samdup, in volume VII of the series of Tantrik Texts edited by Arthur Avalon.
The excerpts published here correspond to pages 54-56 and 77-82 of this edition.’”
These are two contemplative processes, the first aimed at detaching the mind, the second to free the senses, in order to attain samadhi in relation to various objects in a series that leads to the supreme state of shunyata.
In both sets of instructions the reader will notice how the various images are connected to particular points in the human body on which the mental focus is directed.
In the first set we begin with images of deities that are progressively interiorized and simplified, until the mind identifies with them and realizes their essence as rDorje.
The term “rDorje” (in Sanskrit: vajra) has the double meaning of “diamond” and “thunderbolt.”
It designates that which is hard, permanent, and indestructible like a diamond, and that which is sudden and irresistible like a thunderbolt.
This is the basic principle of the magical resurrection.
The supreme, triple secret of Tibetan Tantrism is said to be the “diamond-thunderbolt” of the mind, word, and body.
There is an interesting relationship between vajra and shunyata in these doctrines.
Shunyata is a term of Mahayana Buddhism.
While in original Buddhism the concept of nirvana, which does not at all mean annihilation, is opposed to samsara, Mahayana Buddhism conceives samsara and nirvana as two coexistent aspects of a higher reality, or better, a higher state of consciousness, called shunyata.
Shunyata literally means “emptiness,” “void.”
It is the state of an absolute metaphysical freedom, a depth that can contain and will anything, without being altered or moved.
Understood as ba sis and substance of all things (in Tibetan it is called Kungzhi), its identification to vajra shows it as the same radiant, incorruptible essence, consisting of pure activity, which the Hellenic traditions claimed the intelligible world or the world of “beings” was made of.
In regard to the second group of contemplations, we need to add the following.
The world that we know is only our world, a world of images that the mind projects outward.
We mistake these images for reality and do not realize that we are constantly walking in circles around ourselves.
In order to attain “knowledge” and the vision of the world of the real, we need to withdraw our consciousness from the images and to suspend the impulse whereby we project outward that which acts within our inner world, affected by desire.
It is possible to withdraw and to concentrate the mind on a minute, fixed point and to receive in it the sensible impressions, until an ensuing transformation allows us to recognize things as they are in themselves, and no longer as shadows of phenomena.
This is the meaning of samadhi.
This should suffice as a general orientation for the second group of practices.
They lead to a samadhi, first in regard to the various senses, and then, through this samadhi, to a higher type of samadhi, which is the realization of shunyata.
Imagine in one’s navel a white eight-petaled lotus. In the center of this white lotus is a lunar disk. Upon this disk there are the personifications of the Diamond- Thunderbolt (rDorje-Sems-Pah-in Sanskrit: Vajra-sattva) and of His Spouse (rDorje-sNyems-ma) in close embrace, the Mantra “HUM” being in their hearts.
Then imagine that rays of light issue from the “HUM” in all directions, vividly defining in the mind both the chief Devata (God) and the surrounding space as the vessel, and the other Devatas and Beings occupying it as the vessel’s content.
Fix the attention on this mental picture. Then imagine that the rays of light emitted from the “HUM” excite all these into activity.
The process is like that of a magnet exciting movement of particles of iron dust (filings).
Then, as the rays are gradually drawn back, imagine that all the external space and its contents are drawn inward and absorbed into the form of the principal external Deity (Heruka and His consort). This process is likened to the absorption of mercury by cow dung.
Next of the two principal Devatas the female is absorbed in the male, and the two into one face and two hands.
This process is likened to that of a tortoise contracting its limbs.
Then the consort of the external (god) Heruka is absorbed in the male and this into the Diamond-Thunderbolt in the navel.
The consort of this Deity, too, sinks into the male.
Then gradually the male figure itself sinks into the “HUM” in the heart and the “HUM” gradually resolves itself into the Bindu (dot).
This process is likened to that of meteoric lights dissolving into each other.
Then finally even the Bindu itself gradually becomes fainter and fainter until it fades away and disappears altogether, a process that is likened to salt dissolving in water.
Such are the five principle processes of meditation illustrated by what are called the five radical similes.
In the uncurtailed or unabridged process (rDzogsrim) the mental pictures (sNang-va) are like dresses, light rays, waves of water; but in them-selves and according to their own true nature they are like dancers, the sun, and the ocean.”°
The final process of absorption and absence of all thoughts is likened to that of a bubble sinking back into water, or a rain-bow melting away into the skies.
So the process is illustrated in various manners by various similes.
Finally, the keeping of the mind in a state of tranquillity devoid of objects is called the process of concentration on the Diamond-Thunderbolt (rDorje-SemsdPah
Assuming that he has attained to the stage of firm concentration of the mind and that he wishes to proceed further in the perfect or final stage (meditation on the formless), he should proceed thus:-Either in the morn¬ing (or any other time) let him take an easy position, cross-legged, and go through as a preliminary step the previously described meditation on Forms (bsKyed-rims).
Let him imagine that the HUM inside his heart sheds out rays of light on all outer space and the objects therein.
They are all gathered within the body. The Female Devata, too, is drawn in through the nostrils into one’s own heart.
Having thought of oneself as the two-handed (Heruka), imagine the Guru on one’s head.”
Put forth intense faith in him, and pray: “I beseech thee, cause pure samadhi to grow in my mind.”
Then imagine on the (Tibetan) letter “A” a lunar disk, red and white, about the size of half of a pea inside one’s heart.
Upon the lunar disk imagine a light-point (a zero or Bindu) about the size of a mustard seed that is the concentrated form of one’s mind.
Fix the mind on that and regulate the breath gently (literally, “make it a gentle pair”). When one is well practiced, the mind is held and does not run astray, but remains fixed.
Then one attains the blissful and clear samadhi.
When one attains stability or firmness in that (samadhi), then transfer the imagination to another of the sense organs.
Go through the preliminary step described above. For the actual method: imagine within the two pupils that there are two very fine bright white points, one in each eye.
Close the eyes and imagine in your mind that the points are there. When the mind gets accustomed to that, then look on various objects...
On being well practiced the point is constantly and vividly present to the mind’s eye. No matter on whatever object the eye may fall, samadhi is produced.
Having achieved stability in that, draw in the point within the heart, and imagine that the latter gains great brilliancy and clearness, and keep the mind tranquil (literally, at a level: mNyamzbhag); this will produce samadhi of the most excellent kind, or the state of Tranquillity.
After this, transfer the imagination to the ears.
The preliminary steps are as described before.
For the actual meditation:- Imagine two blue Points or Dots upon two lunar disks the size of half a pea inside each ear and meditate upon them, in a place free from noise.
When you have succeeded in fixing the mind upon them, listen to sounds, at the same time keeping the mind fixed upon the two Points and not letting it stray from them.
On being practiced in that, one attains vividness of the mind-picture and samadhi follows on hearing sound.
When one has gained stability in this, withdraw the Points inside the heart and imagine that the Points have gained blazing brilliancy and vividness.
From this excellent samadhi or Tranquility (state of mental level) is produced.
Then transfer the imagination to the Nose.
The preliminaries are the same as above:-Imagine a yellow Point on a lunar disk in the cavity of each nostril in a place free from any odor, and concentrate your mind on that.
When the mind is fixed, smell various odors, keeping the mind fixed on the yellow Points, without letting the mind stray away.
When one gets used to that, on the perception of odors there is produced samadhi.
When firmness is gained in this (state), draw the Points into the heart.
By this, brilliancy and vividness of the Point is produced and practice in this produces samadhi.
Next transfer the imagination to the Tongue.
Preliminaries the same as above:-
Imagine a red Point on a lunar disk at the root of the tongue and meditate on it, without tasting any flavor. Concentrate your mind on it, do not let it stray.
Then, when the mind is fixed on the Point, taste various flavors, keeping the mind concentrated on the Point.
Then draw it inside the heart. When the Point attains brilliancy and vividness, samadhi is produced through the sense of taste.
Then transfer one’s imagination to the (entire) body.
Preliminaries the same as above.
Either at the root of the secret parts (that is, the junction of the penis and the scrotum), or on your forehead, imagine a green Point on a lunar disk, and fix your mind on it without touching anything.
When your mind has attained some degree of fixity on that spot, try concentration, touching various things and keeping the mind from straying.
When vividness of the Point is obtained, practice until it is quite firm, then draw the Point in the place of touch into the Point within the heart, and meditate upon that, until great brilliance and vividness is obtained, which will produce Tranquillity or excellent samadhi.’”
Then after that, transfer the imagination to the mind, which moves everywhere. Preliminaries same as above.
Actual process:-Imagine a very small pink Point on the top of that already imagined to be within the heart.
Try the meditation in a very quiet place at first. When you have succeeded in concentrating your mind, try the meditation in company where you are sure that some evil passions will be excited such as lust or the like.
Then imagine that the chief passion-Moha”” (infatuation)-which accompanies all other evil passions is concentrated in it.
Think that it is absorbed into a blue Point.
Fix the mind on that. On getting accustomed in that (practice), passions will not arise; or should they do so, they are controlled by the mind.
When one has attained firmness in that, sink the blue Point into the pink Point, and that into the white and red Point below it.
The last sinks into the moon-disk, which in its turn is dissolved or disappears in the sky like a cloud (that has disappeared).
Then there remains only Emptiness (shunyata or sTongpa), in which the mind is to be kept at a level.
This will produce the profound tranquil state samadhi called ZhigNas (literally, “Resting-in-peace”).
Then rising from the state of Tranquillity (samadhi), imagine again the lunar disks and the Points to be present or springing forth simultaneously: and that one’s ownself, too, is at once trans-formed into the Heruka (God).
Regard external objects as being only visible and apparently true, but having no independent and absolute reality in themselves.”
Meditating thus till each stage has shown its sign of perfection or proficiency, one at last attains proficiency or perfection in the whole, as a result of which one obtains profound Tranquillity, which is the realization of Shunyata, which is bliss and clarity.
Continuation in these practices produces the knowledge of the path (mThong-Lam), from is produced Buddha-hood.
This is the stage of conferring grace and blessing (bdag-byndrlabs-pahi) on oneself, accompanied by Baja (Sabon).”