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THE FOURTEEN ROOT TANTRIC DOWNFALLS

From Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia
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II. KEEPING ONE S VOWS AND PLEDGES

A. THE FOURTEEN ROOT TANTRIC DOWNFALLS

Keeping one's vows and pledges is indispensable if one is to progress along the tantric path. The ones to be especially aware of and to be on guard against are the 14 root tantric downfalls. It is extremely important to avoid a root downfall・ Compared to one of the four chief monastic precepts of a fully ordained monk, breaking one of these tantric precepts is an extrcmciy serious infraction. It leaves terrible imprints on the

mind with^i very heavy karmic result. Even to break a secondary tantric precept (Tib. shorn.po) is more than 18 times heavier than breaking the heaviest of the monastic precepts. Vo commit one of the root downfalls is an extremely unwholesome and detrimental deed and leads to birth in vajra hell. Therefore, as the Six-Session Guru Yoga states, "The 14 root tantric downfalls should be guarded against even at the cost of one's life"・

In order to keep the pledges and precepts or in general to keep moral discipline, one needs to recognize and guard the 'four doors' which lead to downfalls. It would be like having a room full of gold with four doors. If one did not guard these four doors, a thief would come in and carry off all the gold. The four doors which lead to the commitment of a downfall are:


1. the door of ignorance,

2. the door of irreverence,

3. the door of carelessness,

4. the door of mental distortion.


If one does noi guard these four doors, then every day one will commit downfalls.


In order to guard the first of these four doors, one needs to know what the pledges and precepts arc. Going back to the analogy of the room full of gold, to prevent a thief from coming in one needs to be able to recognize who the thieves arc.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama, speaking on this subject in Dharamsala, says that it is quite ridiculous how many people go in a carefree way to receive a tantric empowerment and take all of the Bodhisattva precepts, as well as the major and secondary tantric pledges, every one of which is extremely difficult

to keep properly; and yet, when it is suggested that they take the vows of monastic ordination5 they think, "Oh no, that's much too difficult! I wouldn't even think of that! Fll just take the tantric and Bodhisattva precepts." The Bodhisattva and tantric precepts are actually far more difficult to keep・ In comparison, the vows of


ordination, which chiefly emphasize the activities of the body and speech, are far easier to keep. To illustrate this further, one can look to the life of Atisa・ He stated that throughout his whole life he had never incurred, the slightest infraction of

any of his vows of ordination. On rare occasions he would incur an infraction of one of the Bodhisattva precepts. But he stated that his infractions of the tantric precepts were as common as rain pattering down. If this is true of a highly realized tantric master such as Atisa, it goes without saying that we are in bad shape.

For example, the breaking of a tertiary tantric precept occurs simply by taking food or drink without blessing it with the three-fold mantra Om Ah Hum. Also, failing to bless one's clothes when putting them on is a tertiary fault ・ This is not a difHcult practice. Whenever taking food or drink it is beneficial to bless them with this mantra, Om Ah Hum, three times・ Likewise, when you put on clothes, bless the clothes・ And, for example, when you put on your lower garment, bless it and think of it as a tiger skin.


General Root Tantric Downfalls

1. Abusing or having contempt for one's spiritual mentor

The first of the root precepts involves the relationship with the guru. This downfall occurs through the abuse and contempt for one's spiritual mentor. Once one has brought about a spiritual relationship with the guru, one should relate to this guru properly and have proper devotion towards all of one's spiritual mentors.


Contemptuously disregarding the training

Take a specific precept like the precept of not eating in the afternoon. If one were to say, "Oh, this doesn't matter," and were to toss that precept out very contemptuously and without any respect, one would incur this root downfall.


3. Disparaging or speaking of the faults of a vajra brother or sister. Be especially cautious of this point. All of us right here and many other of our friends who have received a tantric empowerment from the same guru are vajra brothers and sisters. This relationship is very precious・ For example, in an

ordinary family, children born of the same parents are said to be siblings・ A similar relationship occurs in the tantric practice ・ In an empowerment there is the process of the devotee entering the mouth of the vajra master, who is generated as Kalacakra, not simply the lama as a person. So, one enters

the mouth of Kalacakra and goes into his heart, melts into the bodhicitta with the 'tum.mo flame9 (Skt・ candali; Tib. gtum.mo) at the heart of Kalacakra, descends down to the vajra, and through the vajra of Kalacakra enters the womb of the consort. There one is blessed by the white bodhicitta,

the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas・ One then emerges from the womb and in this way is truly a spiritual child of Kalacakra (the vajra guru) and the consort ・ This is true of every individual receiving the empowerment. Recognizing this very special relationship among one's vajra brothers and sisters, one should take special care to avoid disparaging or abusing them or speaking of their faults. Committing this root downfall leads to an unfortunate realm of existence.


In general, it is good never to speak of the faults of anyone. Mahakasyapa, a great disciple of the Buddha, stated that after the parinirvana of the Buddha, he looked upon all sentient beings as being Buddhas・ He said the reason for doing so was because he himself did not know, among the individuals around, whose mind had and whose mind had not been ripened・ So, he simply cultivated this general awareness or recognition of sentient beings as being the Buddha

4. Abandoning loving-kindness (Skt. maitri; Tib. byams.pa). This occurs when one looks upon any sentient being thinking, "May this person be separated from happiness.” We should be especially cautious with this precept. Although it is unlikely that we would develop a wish that all sentient beings be bereft of

happiness, nevertheless, we might very well be inclined to develop such a wish for someone we do not like. In other words, in committing such a downfall it is not necessary to abandon loving-kindness for sentient beings・ All* that is necessary for such an infraction is to take one individual sentient being,

especially a very evil being and, looking upon this person, come to the firm conviction in one's own mind,44Although I might benefit and serve others, 1 will not benefit and serve this pe^on. Even if I get the opportunity to lead this person to joy, I will not do so." Just abandoning one sentient being

constitutes this downfall of abandoning loving-kindness for sentient beings. This indicates the general mood of the Mahayana Dharma, in which great compassion is so central, encompassing all sentient beings without exception. So, if one does make an exception, saying, "Yes, generally all sentient beings, but not for this or that person,then there is no longer any great compassion

We should clearly understand what is meant by loving-kindness (Skt. maitn; Tib. byams.pa) and compassion (Skt・ karuna; Tib. snying.rje). The mind wishing that sentient beings may have happiness [and the causes of happiness] is loving-kindness. The mind which wishes to dispel the suffering [and the causes of suffering] of sentient beings is compassion. If one is simply saying, "love and compassion/* without understanding the meaning of these two terms, there is not much benefit.

5. Rejecting the yearning-bodhicitta and the engaging-bodhicitta. Upon receiving the empowerment, one cultivates the aspiration to attain full enlightenmenf for the benefit of all creatures. One has made this resolution or pledge. Later, if one gets discouraged and loses confidence or enthusiasm

for the practice and thinks, 4tHow could I ever do that?" and abandons that aspiration, this root downfall occurs. Therefore, one should always maintain one's courage and confidence in the practice ・

Here comes a good story for those of you who are falling asleep. In order to cultivate your courage for the practice, you can look back on the life of DignagaDignaga had been writing a great treatise on one occasion. A non-Buddhist came to debate with him and tried to defeat him and everything he was

doing. Dignaga and the non-Buddhist debated, and Dignaga beat him. that he was defeated, with smoke coming from his nose, the marfspit fire from his mouth and burned up Dignaga's robes and all the things around him. Dignaga looked

arour|d and saw what had happened and was pretty unhappy. He thought, **In the presence of all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, I have made a resolution to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient brings. But if all sentient beings are going to turn out, one by one, like this fellow, it's a losing

occupation ・ How can I ever do this? It seems so impractical.So, he took a stone tablet and tossed it up in the air with the thought, t4If this stone tablet falls back to the ground, I'm going to give up bodhicitta, give up that resolution.He threw it up and looked around and did not hear the clunk of

the stone falling. He looked up into the sky and there was Manjusri holding it up for him. Manjusri told him, "My son, don't do this, don't do this! You must continue! You are very close to falling to the lesser vehicle. You should, by all means, continue writing the text Pramanasamuccay么 If you do so, it

will be unassailable by any non-Buddhist logician and, in the future, it will be like the eyes of wisdom for sentient beings." This fifth downfall of abandoning the yearning and engaging bodhicittas occurs when one rejects this resolution, thinking, 44Ah, how could I ever attain enlightenment for the benefit of all creatures?"


6. Abusing the Dharma - be it of the sutras or tantras.

This occurs, for example, if out of one's faith in the Mahayana, one abuses the Hinayana; or out of one's faith in the Hinayana, one abuses the Mahayana. Also, if one has faith in the sutra path and one abuses the tantras, or if one's faith is in the tantras and one abuses the sutras. In any such case of abuse, one incurs this root downfall. One should understand that all of these teachings are from the Buddha, and that they are all methods for attaining enlightenment. Thus, it is improper to abuse any of them. All of these traditions are directed towards the attainment of full enlightenment. In a situation where one thinks, **Oh, my Dharma is good and your Dharma is not good/' one commits this downfall・


7. Disclosing tantric secrets to those who have not been ripened.

“To those who have not been ripened^^ means "ripened through receiving an empowerment.In regard to the Kalacakra, people who have not received the Kalacakra empowerment should not be shown the Kalacakra mandala or the image of Kalacakra himself. One should not explain the meaning of Kalacakra to

people who have not received this empowerment. To do so constitutes this root downfall・ We will not go into any great detail now, but there is a great danger here. During the empowerment itself, when the initiate stands at the palace, the vajracarya places the vajra upon the crown of the head and upon the

heart, and (with this) binds the devotee to complete secrecy regarding this tantra, saying, “If the secrets are not kept, one's head and heart will burst." This is made very clear during the empowerment itself. At that point in the empowerment, one is also given a drink of water by the vajracarya who says, Tf

one keeps the secrets, this water will turn into nectar, which gives rise to siddhis or realizations; but if one fails to do so, it shall turn into the molten iron of the hell realms/' This indicates the great danger of disclosing tantric secrets to those who are not fit to receive them.


Question: I have a picture of Kalacakra in my room. Should I keep this covered?


Answers Yes. It would be better to cover such an innage as well as one's vajra, ritual bell and even one's rosary. In the words of Baro Dorje Chang, a recent great lama of Tibet, placing such tantric objects out where everyone can see them is like placing herbal medicine out in the sun. If you leave it

out in the sun a long time, the power of the medicine wanes until there is just a shell left. And so, in similar fashion, these tantric implements should be kept hidden. In fact, this is why tantra is most frequently referred to in Tibetan as "sang ngak' (Tib.gsang.sngags), which means 'secret mantra.' Secret 一 because one keeps such things concealed・


8・ Abusing the aggregates.

It says here in the book [[[Kalachakra Initiation]]. Madison, 1981 (Madison, Wisconsin: Dccr Park, 1981), p. 76.], kyour body/ but actually it is the aggregates. Practices such as extreme asceticism, extreme fasting and so on cause the degeneration of one's aggregates・ In fact, in the tantric practice, one is purifying and transforming the five aggregates into the nature of the five types of Buddhas・ This is what is done in the tantras. Therefore, if one contemptuously regards one's own aggregates, thinking, 4These are not fit for such a meditation, this is a waste of and with such a contemptuous attitude punishes the body, one then incurs this root downfall


9. Abandoning emptiness.

This downfall is incurred by having no belief or by rejecting belief in the lack of inherent existence or lack of true existence of phenomena and thus simply rejecting the point of emptiness


10. Devoting oneself to evil friends.==


This refers to very evil people・ Specifically, there are four cases mentioned: those who are harming the Buddha; those who are harming the body of the guru; those who wish to harm all sentient beings or have general malice towards all sentient beings; and fourthly, those who wish to bring about a

destruction of the Dharma. These are especially referred to as 'evil friends.' One incurs the root downfall by becoming very intimate with such people and devoting oneself to them as one's close friends・ This should not be done. But, in avoiding this root downfall one should, by all means, also avoid the rejection of compassion (Skt. karuna; Tib.snying.rje) for such sentient beings

because when you reject compassion, you incur another root downfall・ Therefore, even though one does not becopie intimate with, or devote oneself to such people, nevertheless, one still maintains compassion towards them and simply leaves it at that. One can be like a very loving parent who appears to be very

wrathful and speaks very harshly to his misbehaving children. In other words, inwardly, the motivation is one of compassion while outwardly, the manifestation can appear to be quite wrathful.

This also occurs in the relationship between a guru and disciple. It is said that it is best when the guru does point out the faults of his disciples. This is one of his duties. It is something he should do. If he does so from his side in order to benefit the disciple and, the disciple from his side, having

heard his faults, checks up and acknowledges these and understands them, this is the best possible situation. Being scolded by one's lama is not really a bad thing; it should .be understood as an aid to one's own practice.


11. Not recollecting the view.

One's obligation in the tantric practice is to direct one's mind to the view three times during the day and three times during the night. If the view of emptiness is with regard to the Prasangika system, then this should be done・ If one is not able to do that, then one can contemplate identitylessness in accordance with any of the following systems: the Svatantrika, the Cittamatra or the Sauranti-ka [this depends on one's knowledge, abilities and realizations]・ But in any case, whatever one is able to do, one should do that three times in the morning and three times in the evening. If one fails to do so, then this incurs a root tantric downfall.


12. Defeating the faith of others

This occurs when there is another individual who does have faith in the tantric practice and one tells this personTantric practice is not much good. It is really gross, with people drinking alcohol," and so forth. If that person then loses faith, or if his/her faith in the tantric practice diminishes, then one incurs this tantric downfall.


13. Not devoting oneself to the tantric pledges

If, during the ganacakra (Tib.tshogs. €khor), when the meat (Skt. bala) and alcohol (Skt.amrta) are offered, one says (possibly being vegetarian), “Oh, I

am too pure for that, I don't touch meat!nor if one is a monk for whom there is the precept of not taking alcohol and says, T am a very pure monk and 1 will not touch that," and in either of these cases rejects the tshog, one incurs this root downfall.


In general, it is true that for a monk who has taken the precepts of renunciation, alcohol is very strictly prohibited. Buddha himself has said that not only members of the monastic community, but even householders should not take even the quantity of alcohol like that of a dew drop on a blade of grass -

not even a drop. Therefore, it is generally discouraged for everyone and very explicitly prohibited for monks. Nevertheless, in the context of the ganacakra, which is a tantric practice, this offering of bala and amrta should be taken. One should recognize that there is a special significance in the

context of tantric practice, in which the meat is like a hook that brings in the siddhis or the attainments, and the alcohol is like a lamp which illuminates the attainments・ Therefore, they have a special significance and the offering should not be avoided out of a notion such as, “I'm a pure monk," or "I am

this or that." Actually, an ordained person should just take a drop and a taste, just a tiny amount, not very much・ This should be done ・ Another example of this root downfall would be thinking, “Oh, I don't need the external mudras or objects like the vajra, the bell and the hand-drum (Skt.

damaru) because the meditation is all inside.M Rejecting “all that stuff* and just "meditating inside" -such attitudes and practices would involve this root downfall ・ In fact, even though there is obviously the internal meditation, still the external implements such as the vajra, the bell and the hand-

drum are important. The mudras are also indispensable, for it is said that if one is practicing Action Tantra and fails to perform the mudras, the sadhana is incomplete.


14. Disparaging women

In the tantric context, women are of the nature of wisdom and to disparage them is a root downfall ・ Particularly in the case where one disparages women in general saying, for example, that women have very heavy mental distortions, they are devious, or that they have unstable minds. This kind of talk and

general disparagement must be avoided completely when one enters the tantric paths. [And why?] Because if one disparages women in general, this includes the disparagement of the dakinis themselves. One should rather look upon all women as dakinis.


This completes the presentation of the fourteen general root tantric downfalls. What we have in the book from Madison is the normal presentation of the root downfalls, whereas, the Kalacakra presentation is somewhat different ・ We should recognize some of the distinctive qualities of the Kalacakara fourteen root tantric downfalls.


Root Tantric Downfalls According to the Kalacakra Tradition

Disturbing the mind of the vajracharya, the tantric master

2. Breaking the command or the word of the vajra master.

3. Speaking of the faults of a vajra brother or sister /see page 19, No. 3/.

4. Abandoning loving-kindness for sentient beings.


Please clearly understand what is meant by loving-kindness and compassion. Loving-kindness is the mind wishing that sentient beings may have happiness [and the causes of happiness]. Compassion is the mind wishing to dispel the suffering [and the causes of suffering] of sentient beings [see page 20, No. 4].


5. Allowing the kundaAike white bodhicitta to emerge.

Kunda is a flower and the white bodhicitta refers to the semen・ In the Kalacakra practice, the emission of semen or the white bodhicitta is a root downfall


6. Making a distinction or discriminating between the emptiness as it is revealed in the Sutrayana or Paramitayana, and the emptiness as revealed in Tantrayana.

Making a distinction in terms of one being better than the other (as if the emptiness taught in tantra were superior to the emptiness taught in the sutra path) constitutes the root downfall. There is, in fact, no difference whatever between the emptiness taught in one path and the emptiness taught in the other. Where a distinction does occur is in the mind which realizes emptiness・ The mind which realizes emptiness through the practice of the sutra path is a relatively gross mind compared to the mind which realizes it through the tantric path. But in terms of the reality itself, there is absolutely no distinction between the two.


7. Disclosing tantric secrets to those who have not been ripened [see page 22, No. 〃・

8. Abusing the aggregates [see page 23, No. 8J.

9. Abandoning or rejecting emptiness [see page 24, No. 9].


10 Maintaining a contradiction (hypocrisy) between one's mind and one's mouth in terms of loving-kindness.


In other words, a loving-kindness in which there is a laQc of acxord between one's mind and one's mouth, that is, speaking very friendly words, with a lot of loving*kindness, while cultivating malice or ill-intent in the mind・ This hypocrisy constitutes the tenth root downfall.


11. The eleventh root downfall relates to the circumstances of the vajracharya and his consort entering union and, with retention of the white bodhicitta, experiencing the 'supreme immutable bliss* (Tib.mchog.tu.mi.' gyur.ba'i.bde.ba)・ the lama then explains this experience to the devotee. If the devotee, taking the analogy as simply ordinary sexual intercourse, doubts the validity of that experience, then such a doubt constitutes this root downfall.

12. Directly speaking of the faults of an authentic and fully qualified yogin/yogini or disparaging him/her. For example, if one should know or see such a being taking a consort and /or alcohol and one disparages such a person, then one incurs this twelfth downfall.


13. Not devoting oneself to the tantric pledge (e.g., not accepting the offering of bala and amrita during the ganacdcra or tshog [see page 25, No. 13].


14. Disparaging women [See page 26, No. 14].


This completes the presentation of the 14 root tantric downfalls given in accordance with the Kalacakra tradition. We should understand these very clearly

They are indispensable for the tantric practice. Having understood them, we should diligently avoid committing them. In order for a root downfall to be incurred, one must have the tantric piecepts. If one has not taken them, such a downfall would not occur. Ilie second

condition for incurring a root downfall is that one must be in one's right mind. If one becomes mentally disturbed and one of these actions occurs, one does not incur the root downfall.

Apart from rejecting the yearning and the engaging-bodhicitta [the 5th general downfall], all of the other 13 [general] root downfalls must be enacted together with *fdur binding factors for a full downfall to occur. If the four binding factors are not present in the breaking of the 13 precepts, then the

root downfall does not occur. What occurs instead is a secondary downfall (Tib.sbom-・po)・ Consequently, one should be especially careful to maintain one's bodhicitta and prevent oneself from rejecting it.


The Four Binding Factors

1. Not regarding the downfall as disadvantageous or as a fault.

2. Not having the attitude of turning away from such an action in the future.


An example of the^econd binding factor would be committing the downfall of speaking of the faults of one's vajra siblings with the thought, "There is no fault in this.・・・ I'll just carry on in the future doing the same thing."


3. Taking delight in that action, thinking, **That was just great!19

4. Doing so without any sense of shame and having no consideration for others.


Let us try to understand these two phrases: "sense of shame” and ^consideration for others.M A shameless attitude causes one to fail in avoiding unwholesome actions, taking oneself as the reason. In terms of one's own self-regard, shame is a private or personal matter: "I would not do this action

because this is not something I would do." [The opposite is shamelessness.] This may be more clearly understood by understanding the second one, which is "lack of consideration for others/1 With this attitude, one fails to avoid unwholesome actions, taking others as the reason. For example, considering the

Buddhas, the Bodhisattvas or the people around one, one says, "It does not matter what they think. Never mind about them, I'm going to do it anyway.M So, on the one hand, it is in relation to oneself, and on the other, it is in relation to others・ To engage in a downfall shamelessly and without

consideration for others would be the fourth binding factor. If one engages in one of the 13 root downfalls with all of these four binding factors present, a full root downfall does occur.


In the following explanations we will go on to the eight secondary downfalls (Tib. sbom.po). It is very important to understand them. To follow these precepts and to avoid these downfalls is a very practical form of practice that we should be engaging in.


The Eight Secondary Tantric Downfalls

1. The first of these secondary downfalls (Tib.sbom.po) involves practicing with a consort who does not have the following three indispensable qualities:

a. she must have received the empowerment,

b・ she must be abiding in pledges and precepts,

c. she must have trained herself through tantric practice


It is totally improper to have a consort of just any type whatsoever.


2. Practicing in union without three attitudes:

a. regarding one's body as the deity,

b. regarding one*s speech as the mantra of the deity,

c. regarding one's mind as the Dharma (referring to Dharma-kaya).


3. Disclosing or showing objects, such as images of the tantric deities (Hevajra, Kalacakra, Vajrayogini, etc.) tantric treatises or the tantras themselves, as well as one's vajra and bell, to people who have not received empowerment or to those who have the empowerment but do not have faith in the tantric practice

Furthermore, one should not show the mudras or the different movements of tantric dances to such people ・ If any of the above mentioned are shown, one incurs a secondary downfall.


4. Quarrelling during the tshog. A complete assembly (Tib. tshogs. 4khor) for offering the tshog includes both men and women. If there are only men, it is considered a partial male assembly;

if there are only women - a partial female assembly・ If during any of these three assemblies, either complete or partial, a person speaks argumentative words or quarrels even to the point of striking another person, one incurs the secondary downfall.


It is stated that it is better not to speak at all during the tshog; however, if one does speak, then to speak of Dharma. Apart from engaging in conversation dedicated to Dharma, it is better simply to remain silent.


There is tremendous benefit in performing the tshog・ Here in the Sakya Center, thanks to Venerable Dagchen Rinpoche and Dagmo Kusho, you have the opportunity for engaging in it. If it is done properly, there occurs very great benefit. Whereas, if it is done improperly, there can ensue great disadvantages.


5・ Deluding or deceiving another person who has faith. This occurs in a case when a person very earnestly asks questions about Dharma and the practice, and although one knows the correct answer, consciously deceives the other person with a false reply. If one simply does not know and, out of ignorance, gives a mistaken answer, that is another matter.

6. Remaining seven days in the home of a Listener (Skt.sravaka; Tib.nyan.thos). This specifically refers to a Listener who has contempt for tantra or for tantric practice, one who just writes it off as a waste of time・ If, however, there is a purpose, a real need for staying in such a person's abode, then no secondary downfall is incurred.

7・ The next secondary downfall occurs when a person, who has done a little bit of tantric practice, maybe the initiatory retreat, a little bit of practice of the stages of generation and completion, thinks that he or she is a great yogin or yogini, possessing supernatural powers and great insights, and so forth, and announces this to other people.

8. Teaching Dharma to those who have no faith. This specifically refers to giving tantric teachings and instruction to those who have no faith ・ There are many secret points in the context of tantra which must not be disclosed loosely. To do so involves the eighth of the secondary downfalls. That was the eightfold group of secondary downfalls. However, there are a few others that are not included in this particular presentation of the secondary downfalls.


One of these additional secondary downfalls is a case in which one has neither done the initiatory retreat (Tib. bsnyen.pa) nor the concluding fire-offering and, without having completed these preliminaries, one:


a. confers initiations on others, that is, leads one's own disciples into the mandala;

b. takes the self-initiation;

c. performs consecration.


If one has not already completed the initiatory retreat and the fire-offering, these three activities are prohibited. If one does any of the three without the preliminaries, one commits this secondary downfall ・ This is a very important one and it must be guarded against ・ Another additional secondary downfall is transgressing the vows of individual liberation (Skt. pratimoksa) or Bodhisattva precepts without a specific reason.

That concludes the explanation of the root downfalls and the secondary downfalls which are extremely heavy. Although it is true that the secondary downfalls are lighter than the root downfalls, nevertheless, they are very serious.

Commitments of the Nineteen Pledges Relating to the Five Buddha Families In addition to the above listed downfalls, when taking such an empowerment as we have taken, we also take the commitments of the 19 pledges relating to the five Buddha Families.


1. The Six Pledges Relating to the Buddha Vairocana

The first three are abiding in three types of morality or moral discipline:


a. moral discipline of abiding by one's precepts, be they monastic, Bodhisattva or whatever precepts one has taken;

b. engaging in wholesome, virtuous actions with the motivation of bodhicitta;

c. serving the needs of sentient beings.


The final three are:


d. taking refuge in the Buddha,

e. taking refuge in the Dharma,

f. taking refuge in the Sangha.

2. The Four Pledges Relating to the Buddha Aksobhya


a. The pledge of the vajra-mind.* One keeps this pledge when one takes in hand the vajra, which is the external symbol of the actual vajra-mind, and brings to mind the inner vajra-mind which is the wisdom of the indivisible bliss and emptiness. In short, one brings to mind the symbol and the inner vajra>mind together.


b. The pledge of the ^bell-speech* is kept by taking the ceremonial bell in hand and recollecting the wisdom realizing emptiness.

c. The pledge of the *mudra・body‘ is kept by generating oneself as the deity, in this case as Kalacakra, and identifying with the deity.

d. The pledge of making the offerings to one's vajracarya, the vajra master, six times daily.


3: The Four Pledges Relating to the Buddha Ratnasambhava

These are the four types of generosity. Before explaining them, one; should have clearly in mind- that the actual practice of generosity is not the things themselves that one is giving, be it money or anything else ・ Those are the material substances or the objects of generosity・ The actual generosity is the mind, the attitude or intent to give. The following are the four pledges of Buddha Ratnasambhava related to the four types of generosity


a. Material generosity is the intent to give away material things such as food, clothing, money and so on

b・ Giving of protection or, literally, fearlessness・ This involves releasing sentient beings from situations of danger・ Here are just a few examples: being able to bring a person out of prison; with other creatures 一 seeing an insect on a path where it is likely to be stepped on and taking it away from there; or seeing a worm that is out in the sun and, knowing it might get dried up, removing it from the path and putting it in a moist place ・ Such acts of generosity as these relate to this practice.

c. Sharing or making the gift of Dharma. The greatest benefit occurs particularly when one does so with the motivation of bodhicitta, with great compassion. This is stated by Vasuba dhu in his text. Treasures of Phenomenology, the Ahhidhar-makosa・ He also implicitly states that this should not be

done with an improper motivation, such as out of pride or jealousy. It is stated in the sutras that there are 20 benefits from teaching the Dharma with a pure motivation. This is something that can be done not only while sitting on a Dharma-throne; one can be sharing Dharma even while walking about in a park or simply strolling along with another person. If done with a pure motivation, this has such great benefits!


d・ Giving of loving-kindness・ This is done by repeatedly cultivating loving-kindness, the wish that all creatures might be happy [and have the causes of happiness]・


4. The Three Pledges Relating to the Buddha Amitabha

a. Holding the 'outer.' This refers to holding the outer tantras, that is, the first two of the tantric classifications of the Action and the Performance Tantras

b. Holding of the 'secret.' This refers to the two higher classifications of tantra - the Yoga Tantra and the Highest Yoga Tantra.

c. Holding the *three vehicles/ These are the vehicles of the Listeners, the Solitary Conquerors and the Bodhisattvas・ The holding of these three is included in one pledge.


These various aspects of the Dharma should be brought to mind six times daily・


5. The Two Pledges Relating to the Buddha Amoghasiddhi

a. Making the Four Types of Offerings

1. The Outer Offering (Tib. phyk i. mchod. pa).


The outer offerings refer to the offering of objects such as butter lamps, food, incense and so forth. You should not neglect these outer offerings, but should make them in accordance with your present abilities. One can look to the life of the Kadampa Geshe Phuchungpa・ Due to his material situation, he was initially able to make only the tiniest of offerings・ Gradually, he became more and more affluent until each day he was able to offer 21 pieces of

gold. This relates to ourselves as well 一 it is very practical. A good way to start the day in the morning is to make offerings on your altar. This can be done, for example, with seven offering bowls or,讦 not seven, simply one. If you have no offerings bowls, then take an ordinary bowl, like a cereal bowl,

and offer some water in that. In any case, offer whatever you are presently able. Gradually, your ability to make offerings will increase. You can make offerings not only of material things but also through the powers of your imagination. You can visualize all

kinds of beautiful things. Imagine a greater quantity than you are able to offer materially of the same types of things, such as fruit and so forth・ Use

the full extent of your powers of visualization. You can mentally offer other things you see around and about 一 beautiful lights of the city at night, or if you are out walking in the park 一 offer this. By doing so, you gain the benefits of actually offering these objects.


When the great Kadampa Geshe Potowa was travelling with five or six hundred disciples through a very lovely area, with beautiful meadows and mountains, he simply sat down and offered the Seven・Limb Puja and praises of bodhicitta. This is a very practical way in which this practice can be followed. Also, by

the fact that we are in the constant habit of eating and drinking and that we have to keep on doing it more and more because we have this very strong habit, then whatever we eat and drink, we can offer to the Objects of Refuge・ In this way, as the years pass and we are eating and drinking, we can be simultaneously accruing more and more merit.


2. The Inner Offering (Tib. nang. gi. mchod. pa)

In contrast to the outer offerings, the inner offerings are held by one's own consciousness, that is, they are a part of one's own being. The inner offerings are the five meats and the five ambrosias, which are the nectars of one's own being・ held by one's own consciousness. The complete act of offering the above involves the following three-fold process:


1) purification of these substances,

2) recognizing and looking upon them as ambrosia,

3) their increase.


Only after one has gone through those three processes, does one make the offering. The inner offering is a particularly important one. In fact, upon giving the empowerment, the lama stresses its importance, saying that one should have the inner offering and that this is the chief of all offerings.


3・ The Secret Offering (Tib. gsang.ba i.mchod.pa).


This refers to making [a mental] offering of the three types of consorts or dakin's to the lama-yidam. who goes into union with the consort and experiences the wisdom of the indivisible bliss and emptiness・ This whole process is the secret offering.


4. The Offering of Suchness (Tib.mchod.pa)

This is made when one looks upon the three factors of the process of the offering:


1) the object of the offering (the objects of refuge, the lama and the yidam),

2) oneself as the offerer, and

3) the offerings themselves.


as existing as mere conceptual imputations, as mere labels, as mere signs and lacking any inherent existence whatever・ The offering of suchness involves

offering with the understanding called the 'ornament of the view/ One should know that even the lama is lacking in true or inherent existence. We can very naturally (and easily) think that the lama and the yidam (or meditation deity) are truly or inherently existent, especially so when we look upon them as

being very fine and think, "This is a very great lama and, therefore, he must be truly existent/' or “This is an excellent yidam・・.he/she must be truly existent/' This is a mistake. As Gampopa was going up to central Tibet, Milarepa told him, “Look even upon your Guru as being like an illusion/' Meaning: look upon the guru as being a mere conceptual imputation, a mere verbal imputation, not inherently or truly existent.


When Milarepa spoke very eloquently of his view of the lack of inherent existence of phenomena, he stated, "There is no mediator, there is no object of meditation, and yet. the Sage (Buddha) states that these are not simply non-existent. but rather exist as conventions.This indicates Milarepa's profound

realization of this point. If one just looks at the words themselves, one might take them completely literally and, without the understanding, arrive at the conclusion. "There is no mediator, there is no object of meditation and there is no meditating mind." But, what is meant here is that these three are not inherently or truly existent. Rather, "These and all other phenomena,'" as the Buddha stated・ “do exist as mere conceptual imputations/'


b. The Second Pledge of Buddha Amoghasiddhi is the General Pledge of Keeping all of the Aforestated Precepts of the Five Buddhas

This concludes a brief explanation of these 19 pledges relating to the five Buddha Families.


The Three Methods with Regard to Tantric Pledges and Precepts

The Buddha Vajradhara, out of his great compassion, showed three methods with regard to these teachings on the pledges and precepts:


1. the method of acquiring or taking the pledges and precepts for those who have not taken them;

2. the method of preventing the breaking of the pledges which have already been received;

3. the method for restoring broken pledges and precepts. This method is meant for those practitioners, like ourselves, who are strong in mental distortions and who do commit the downfalls due to mental afflictions, and for those who have incurred the downfalls or broken the pledges. There arc three different means within this one method for restoring the degenerated, broken precepts and pledges:


a. The first means for such restoration is going to one's spiritual mentor, one's vajra master, and receiving the empowerment once again.


b・ If one is not able to receive empowerment, the second way of restoring the pledges and precepts is to engage in the initiatory retreat together with the concluding fire・offering. Having done so, it is possible to take the self-initiation which purifies the downfalls, the degeneration of the precepts and pledges・

c. If one is not able to apply either of the above recommended methods, then the third alternative is to recite, one hundred thousand times, the purificatory onc-hundred-syllable mantra of Vajrasattva・ Having done so, the pledges and precepts arc purified. This takes quite a while and it is difficult, but it is also one of the techniques.

All of us have received the empowerment, so we should try our best to keep the pledges and precepts that we have taken. If downfalls do occur, we should keep in mind the three methods for purification and try to follow them.

In one's daily practice, one can ward off many potential downfalls if, in the morning, upon arising, one generates one's abode as the mandala of the deity (in this case, the Kalacakra), and while putting on clothes and eating, one blesses the garments, food and drink with the mantra, Om Ah Hum・ This concludes a brief explanation of this tantric practice.


The Twenty-Five modes of Behavior or Disciplines

The first five are avoiding the five non・virtues/evils:

1. killing

2. stealing or taking that which is not given

3. adultery

4. lying

5. taking alcohol.


The second set of five are avoiding the five ’proximate' or 'secondary non-virtues/


6. Gambling, such as with dice or playing cards. This needs to be avoided. If one really thinks about this and really follows the disciplines, precepts and pledges of. the Kalacakra, it will lend one's life a great dignity.

7. One should avoid eating meat in the three cases of actually seeing, hearnig or suspecting that the animal in question was killed specifically for one's own consumption.

8. Idle gossip or letting the mouth run on. Among the so-called ten non-virtues, idle gossip is the least heavy, the least serious. Nevertheless, for beginning practitioners, it is the worst because it is so easy to give up so many hours, so much of one's life, to idle gossip. While one is gossiping, two or three hours can pass with the greatest of ease so that one does not know where the time has gone. In contrast, if we sit for an hour in meditation, it can be tormenting for both the body and the mind. Idle gossip is so easy that one can waste one's life just in that one mode itself. For example, while reciting our sadhanas, we might find a tendency to fall asleep, but this is never a danger while we are engaging in idle gossip.

9. Mistaken commemoration of one's parents. This has to do with a yearly commemoration of parents who have died by the offering of blood and flesh・ Such a false commemoration, or wrong way of remembering one's parents, is to be avoided・

10. Offering animal sacrifices. This was not only a tradition in ancient time, but it also exists today in some places in Nepal and India where, for example, people still kill an animal as a sacrifice and offers its flesh and blood・ This is to be avoided.


Abandoning the five types of killing:

11 ・ killing a cow, 12・ killing children, 13・ killing women,

14. killing men,


15. destroying representations of the Enlightened Body, Speech and Mind・ An example for Mind would be a stupa; for Speech the words of the Buddha, such as the Kangyur (collected works); and for the Body of the Buddha would be paintings, statues, and so forth. Thus, destroying any of these constitutes a breaking of this precept.


Abandoning the five angers:

16. rejecting faith in the Buddha and Dharma,

17. having anger towards one's companions,

18. having anger towards one's lord or master,

19. having anger against the Sangha,

20. deceiving and misguiding those who have placed their confidence or trust in you.


Abandonment of the five types of attachment are explained quite simply as attachment for:


21. visual form,

22. sounds,

23. smells,

24. tastes, 25 ・ tactile objects that one feels.


This has been a brief presentation of the 25 disciplines, which should be kept according to one's capacity, that is, as well as one is able. However, due to the strong force of mental distortions,

conscientiousness and lack of awareness, many faults are incurred. In that case, one should not simply disregard or ignore them, but rather recognize the faults, confess them and, when possible, engage in the initiatory retreat (Tib. bsnyen. pa), which makes one fit for the further practice of Kalacakra. Following that, and only following that, it is possible to take self-empowerment, which can purify the harmful imprints that occur due to such infractions.

Let us begin by cultivating the proper motivation, aspiring for the highest, supreme enlightenment for the benefit of all creatures throughout space. With this motivation, let us listen to these teachings with the intent of putting them into practice and, upon the attainment of perfect enlightenment, lead all other creatures to that same state.

As has been emphasized before, it is extremely important to know and to keep the various pledges and precepts we have taken because they are indispensable for the practice of tantra, specifically with regard to the stage of generation and the stage of completion. They can be likened to building a house. In

order to build a house, first of all, one must have a suitable site. The site, or the ground upon which one will build, can be likened to the proper keeping of the precepts and pledges, on the basis of which one builds the practice of the stages of generation and completion. An explanation of the

tantric downfalls and pledges has already been given. Please do not forget them! All of us who have received the empowerment have taken upon ourselves the commitment to avoid these downfalls.

In the words of Ralo Dorje Drag, the great interpreter and tantric practitioner, "Without keeping the precepts and the pledges, there is no attainment of the siddhis. Those who do meditate, but do not keep pure moral discipline, do not know the vital or central point of the practice.M Again, please do not forget, but bring them again and again to mind.



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