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Alternate Systems of Highest Yoga Tantra

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Alternate Systems of Highest Yoga Tantra


Teaching in brief the completion stage of other highest yoga tantras During the life of Tsongkhapa, both the Upper and Lower Tantric Colleges were established in Lhasa. Jé Rinpoché would observe the tradition of spending summer retreat at Tölong, just west of Lhasa near some hot springs. There he would teach six commentaries to the monks of the Upper Tantric College and eight commentaries to the monks of the Lower Tantric College, who came especially for this event. Also monks of two tantric colleges in Tsang, Segyü and Ensagyü, attended the teachings at Tölong. But then hostilities broke out between Tsang and Central Tibet, and for some years those teachings did not take place and the tradition lapsed.

In general, from among the eight great commentaries to the completion stage of the Lower Tantric College, the five stages of the Ārya system of Guhyasamāja have been explained while the six practices of Kālacakra will be briefly explained later.


These eight great systems are enumerated in the following way in this text:


1. The Guhyasamāja system of Ārya Nāgārjuna

2. The system of Kālacakra

3. The Guhyasamāja system of Master Jñānapāda

4. The Heruka system of Mahāsiddha Lūipa, which is a mother tantra

5. The Heruka system of Mahāsiddha Drilbupa

6. The system of the four blessings of the Great Circle of Vajrapāṇi

7. The completion stage common to the Red, Black, and Terrifying Yamāntaka

8. The six Dharmas of Nāropa


The list of the six systems taught in the Upper Tantric College is derived from the previous list of eight by omitting numbers 6 and 8. Since the Ārya system of Guhyasamāja has been presented and the system of Kālacakra will be explained in a separate chapter at the end, the author continues here by introducing the third system, the Guhyasamāja system of Jñānapāda. This system is also known as the system of the four drops, or the four joys.

The four drops, or four joys, of the Guhyasamāja system of Jñānapāda meditate on:


1. The indestructible drop at the heart

2. The secret drop at the jewel

3. The emanated drop at the upper opening

4. The special indestructible drop at the heart. The last is also called the drop of reality.


These four are completion-stage practices from the perspective of the four joys in that order.

These completion-stage meditations are structured from the perspective of the four joys explained in the Guhyasamāja system of Ārya Nāgārjuna. The first two practices train in drop yoga. The third is vajra recitation.

The first two practices—meditation on the indestructible drop at the heart and the secret drop at the jewel—correspond to the yoga of the drops in the system of Ārya Nāgārjuna. The third meditation—on the drop at the upper opening of the central channel—corresponds to the yoga of vajra recitation in the Ārya system.

It is said that the yogi trains in wind yoga, making the winds and drops flexible; and through repeatedly meditating on condensing them into clear light in the forward system and remanifesting them in the reverse system, he establishes the pure pristine wisdom body of nondual profound clarity, and its subsequent continuum achieves the resultant state.

The author briefly describes the type of training in this system and the manner of establishing the pure illusory body, here called the “pure pristine wisdom body.” The results that are attained are the dharma and form bodies of Buddha Vajradhara. Although slightly different terminology is used in this system, the phases of practice are similar to the five levels of the Ārya system of Guhyasamāja.

There is the great yoga of the Lūipa system of Heruka and the Drilbupa system of Heruka’s five stages of the completion stage:


1. The stage of self-blessing

2. The stage of the multicolored vajra

3. The stage of filling the jewel

4. The stage of Jalandhāra

5. The inconceivable stage


The great yoga of the completion stage of Lūipa is not a completion-stage practice that is cultivated immediately after gaining stability on the generation stage, since it corresponds to the inconceivable stage of this system, and it is said that you must initially meditate on either the four stages of Drilbupa or the stage of mantra of the Kṛṣṇācārya system and so on.

There are three ways of practicing Heruka tantra, namely the systems of Lūipa, Drilbupa, and Kṛṣṇācārya. Lūipa was an Indian mahāsiddha who abandoned all types of mundane activity and meditated intensely by the sea. Lūipa means “fish belly,” for it is said that he survived on the guts that local fishermen would discard when cleaning the fish. Although not mentioned in this text, the completion stage of the Lūipa system has four yogic stages:


1. The stage of yoga

2. The stage of subsequent yoga

3. The stage of intense yoga

4. The stage of great yoga

Three yogas precede the fourth stage of great yoga, which corresponds to the inconceivable stage of the system of Drilbupa. The fourth stage is not practiced the moment we attain some stability on the generation stage, for it is not a yoga of the preliminary levels of the completion stage. Instead it must be preceded by the first three yogas of this system—the stages of yoga, subsequent yoga, and intense yoga. Alternately it may be preceded by the first four yogas of the Drilbupa system—the stages of self-blessing, the multicolored vajra, filling the jewel, and Jalandhāra—or by the stage of mantra of the Kṛṣṇācārya system.

It is said that the first four stages thoroughly tame the channels, winds, and drops. During the inconceivable stage, the environment and inhabitants serially dissolve into clear light, the nondual pristine wisdom body is established through the power of frequently practicing the yoga of arising from that, and its subsequent continuum achieves the resultant state.

We meditate on the first four stages of the system of Drilbupa because they have the power to tame the channels, winds, and drops. Then, having attained flexibility, we may start practicing the inconceivable stage, during which the environment and its inhabitants are purified and condensed into clear light. After attaining familiarity with this yoga, we then rise in the illusory body called the body of pristine wisdom, and finally we attain the resultant two bodies of Buddha Vajradhara.

This should be understood from both Cluster of Siddhis Elucidating the Completion Stage of the Lūipa System and Opening the Eye to View the Hidden Meaning: Elucidating the Five Stages of Drilbupa.

We may obtain further explanation of the two systems of Heruka, namely the Lūipa and the Drilbupa systems, in these two works by Rinpoché.


Alternative systems of classification for the completion stage of Heruka Tantra

Apart from the Lūipa and Drilbupa systems, six other systems present the completion stage of Heruka tantra.

It is said that there are six different systems of the completion stage of Heruka:

1. The six branches of practice conforming with Kālacakra explained in accordance with the commentary to the first part of the Heruka tantra This commentary on the Heruka tantra was composed by the mahāsiddha Chögyen370 and presents the structure of the completion stage in a similar way to the Kālacakra tantra with six completion-stage yogas.

2. One of the two systems of the six practices of the lineage explained by Anupamarakṣita

Mahāsiddha Anupamarakṣita also classified the completion stage of Heruka tantra in six yogas.

3. A system called the five stages occurs in the Abbreviated Tantra

This presentation of the completion stage of Heruka is structured in five levels and applies the terminology of the Guhyasamāja tantra. Each of the three systems so far mentioned employs terminology from other tantras. The remaining three present the completion stage of the Heruka tantra without references to other tantras.

4. The five stages of Drilbupa

5. The fourth stage

6. The completion stage of great yoga

The first of these three clearly employs the Drilbupa system while the last is associated with the Lūipa system.


The system of Vajrapāṇi

There are four blessings in the Completion Stage of the Great Circle:


1. Blessing of body

2. Blessing of speech

3. Blessing of mind

4. Blessing of reality

Within the Completion Stage of the Great Circle, the completion stage is divided into four stages called the four blessings.


The system of Yamāntaka

There are four yogas in the three aspects of Red, Black, [34b] and Terrifying Yamāntaka:

1. Mantra yoga

2. Commitment yoga

3. Form yoga

4. Pure pristine wisdom yoga

Yamāntaka tantra has three lineages: Red Yamāntaka, Black Yamāntaka, and Terrifying Yamāntaka. The structure of the completion stage is common to all three systems. Form yoga corresponds to the level of illusory body in Guhyasamāja tantra. For this reason the illusory body itself is also called form yoga.372


The system of the six Dharmas of Nāropa

I assume the six Dharmas of Nāropa to be:

1. The yoga of caṇḍālī

2. The four joys

3. The illusory body

4. Clear light

5. Union

6. Transference and insertion of consciousness


The six Dharmas of Nāropa represent the completion stage of mother tantra. There are at least two ways of enumerating the practices included in this structure. The method presented here subsumes seven Dharmas in six by counting transference of consciousness and insertion of consciousness as the sixth yoga. However, this should be analyzed since most scholars do not separately enumerate the four joys and union but do separately enumerate the intermediate state, and transference and insertion of consciousness.

The usual enumeration of the six Dharmas of Nāropa does not include the four joys and union. Rather it includes the intermediate state and transference and insertion of consciousness.

It is well known that the eight great commentaries of the Lower Tantric College are:

1. The five stages of the Ārya system of Guhyasamāja

2. The four drops of the system of Jñānapāda

3. The four blessings of the Great Circle

4. The three yogas of Red, Black, and Terrifying Yamāntaka

5. The great yogas of Lūipa

6. The five yogas of Drilbupa

7. The six shared practices of Nāropa

8. The six branches of practice of Kālacakra

The six practices of Nāropa are called “shared” because they are shared with mother tantras. Having presented these eight different systems of other tantras, it is important to keep in mind that Guhyasamāja tantra, with its standard presentation of a completion stage structured in five stages, is the root and standard reference for other tantras, despite the use of different terminology. Since it is said that all tantras can be subsumed within the Guhyasamāja tantra, the yogas included in the structure of other tantras may be subsumed within the structure of Guhyasamāja tantra, either in terms of their nature, in terms of their function, or in terms of being substitute levels.

Systems not included here are the method of practice subsumed within the paths of the three completion-stage empowerments of Hevajra explained in the instruction of the mahāsiddha Virūpa, and many other completion-stage practices explained by authentic mahāsiddhas such as the mahāsiddhas Ḍombipa and Durjayacandra, who revealed the stages of the spring drop and so on and the destruction of color and so forth.

This list of the eight systems for the completion stage is not exhaustive, for at least two completion-stage systems have not been mentioned. The first is the Hevajra tantra as presented by the mahāsiddha Virūpa,374 which includes all practices in the three empowerments. This is found in the Path and Its Fruits, or Lamdré, of the glorious Sakya system. Second, the mahāsiddhas Ḍombipa and Durjayacandra have also offered a different presentation of completion-stage practices that include yogas of the spring drop and the stage of the destruction of color and so forth.


Common aspects


It is also said that after students have attained stability in generation-stage practices, all completion-stage practices of general highest yoga tantra, with the exception of the completion stage of Kālacakra, are explained by valid masters to: establish flexibility of the channels, winds, and drops; then to condense the environment and its inhabitants into clear light by either of the two types of absorption; then to establish the pristine wisdom body of union by frequently entering and arising from that; and then its subsequent continuum achieves the resultant state.

In brief the practices of all tantric systems, apart from the Kālacakra tantra, may be summarized in a few fundamental practices, just as the rivers from different countries may flow into the same sea. Once stability on the generation stage has been established, our main aim is to make the winds, channels, and

drops flexible. Then we train in condensing the environment and its inhabitants into clear light by applying either of the two practices to gather the winds and induce the phases of entering, abiding, and dissolving in vajra recitation. From there we establish the illusory body and the learner’s union, followed by the attainment of the resultant bodies of Buddha Vajradhara. These basic, common steps are followed in all but the Kālacakra tantra.

However, valid masters individually explain these systems according to how they are stated in the individual tantras, since there are many ways to establish flexibility of the winds and drops.

Despite their common practices, we should remember that there are different focal points when we train to make the winds, channels, and drops flexible. At times a meditator may be instructed to practice by focusing on the upper opening of the central channel while at other times he may be advised to focus on the navel or the lower opening of the central channel. Various scholars have clarified the differences that appear in different tantras and how they reflect differences in the constitution of different types of disciples.

Although there are many different ways to establish flexibility of the winds and drops, by this specific method the winds enter, abide, and dissolve in the central channel, caṇḍālī is ignited, the bodhicitta melts, and the pristine wisdom of the resultant four joys or four empties is generated from that. Then through cultivating the substantial continuum of the pristine wisdom of innate joy or clear light, you generate the substantial cause of the dharma body and

the completion-stage paths that correspond to the birth, death, and intermediate states. Thus, from the wind and mind of the clear light that correspond to the stage of death, you establish the illusory body that corresponds to the intermediate state, and through that acting as the substantial cause of the form body, you attain buddhahood.

Despite the differences of focal objects recorded in various tantras, the main purpose of the completion stage is to cause the winds to enter, abide, and dissolve in the central channel, then to cause bodhicitta to melt either by the practice of caṇḍālī or some other method, then to generate the four joys in the nature of the four empties, then establish the substantial cause of the dharma body by cultivating and increasing innate joy or clear light. The practitioner

meditates on taking the three ordinary states of death, intermediate state, and rebirth as paths for establishing the three bodies at an imaginary level during the generation stage. But in the completion stage the practitioner engages the three phases in an actual sense. Therefore the wind and mind of the clear light corresponding to death establish the illusory body corresponding to the intermediate state, and this acts as the substantial cause for establishing the form body. Thus having established the two bodies, we attain buddhahood.

If you understand this, then you will attain a definite conviction in the many authentic texts of the completion stage, and you will come to understand that though these texts do not teach the same thing, their intention is not contradictory.

It is important to understand that although the main point of the practice is the same, there is great variation in the methods employed and presented. We need to acknowledge this variation and develop a flexible approach that tolerates different presentations rather than seeing the advice of disparate systems as contradictory.



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