INTRODUCTION TO INDO-TIBETAN BUDDHISM - UNCOMMON PATH: THE VAJRAYANA
by Ven Tenzin Palzang
THE TEACHINGS OF SHAKYAMUNI BUDDHA
♦ Buddha’s teachings (known in Sanskrit as Dharma-, that which holds us back from suffering and its causes) contain thousands of different methods for overcoming the mental and physical obstacles to our happiness and well-being.
♦ Buddha gave these teachings while showing different aspects (forms), each designed to suit the aptitudes and temperaments of different types of sentient beings:
• As an ordained person • As Vajradhara or deity • Indirectly ♦ All these teachings can be grouped into the 3 vehicles (yanas): • Theravada vehicle (Cut-attachment) • Mahayana-Sutrayana (Non-attachment) • Mahayana-Tantrayana (Attachment) ♦ There are differences between these so-called vehicles, but the common foundation is the fundamentally pure nature of the mind. ♦ We can also classify these paths as common and uncommon paths: • Theravada vehicle (Common path) • Mahayana-Sutrayana (Common path) • Mahayana-Tantrayana (Uncommon Path)
THE MAHAYANA TEACHINGS
♦ The Mahayana (Great Vehicle) can be classified into 2 categories: • Sutra-vana ; also known as Paramita-yana (Perfection Vehicle) and as causal vehicle (HW
• Vajra-yana (Diamond Vehicle also known as tantra-yana (Secret Vehicle W^), mantra-yana (tu^), and as resultant vehicle (-.!^W
♦ The practice of Sutra-yana (Paramita-yana) involves and emphasizes on creating the causes - the accumulation of vast amount of merits and wisdom - before the future result of full enlightenment can be attained.
♦ Because of this, it is sometimes known as the “causal vehicle” to enlightenment.
♦ In paramita-yana, the practices of the accumulation of merits and wisdom are practised separately, hence it takes a very long time (3 countless great eons) to attain enlightenment.
♦ It takes one countless great eon to go from the Mahayana path of accumulation (merit) to the Mahayana path of seeing, or the first bhumi (ground). From the path of seeing to the 8th bhumi takes a second countless great eon; and from the 8th bhumi up to enlightenment takes a third great eon.
♦ According to sutrayana, the path to fulfillment is a gradual process of cleansing our mind of all its faults and limitations and developing in their place such beneficial qualities as love and wisdom.
♦ This path consists of creating specific causes - behaving ethically, developing our powers of concentration, training in meditative insight, 6 Perfections, and so forth - for the future attainment of full awakening.
♦ Compared to this gradual sutra approach (taking 3 great eons for accumulation of merits and wisdom), tantrayana is a far speedier (swift) path to enlightenment.
♦ Although tantric practitioners do not neglect creating the same causes as the followers of sutra, they take the future result of full spiritual evolution (buddhahood) as the very starting point (method) in their path.
♦ In other words, the tantric yogi or yogini (as these supremely skillful practitioners are called in Sanskrit) learns to think, speak, and act now as if he or she were already a fully enlightened buddha.
♦ Because this powerful approach brings the future result of full awakening into the present moment of spiritual practice, tantra is sometimes called the “resultant vehicle” to enlightenment.
♦ Generally, because desirous attachment is the glue that holds us to samsara, it should be eliminated.
♦ The uniqueness of tantra it that is uses attachment to eliminate attachment.
♦ Just like lotus born from mud, nourished by mud, but not tainted by mud, similarly tantra uses attachment as the path of practice and yet not be tainted by attachment.
♦ Thus, the tantric practice is the harnessing and the transformation of our strong basic energy of desire into the ultimate state of enlightenment.
♦ Furthermore, in tantra, the practice of method and wisdom is done together at the same time, thereby reducing the time needed to attain full enlightenment.
TANTRIC TEACHINGS ARE MORE RARE THAN BUDDHAS
♦ 1,000 Buddhas will descend to give teachings, Shakyamuni Buddha is the 4th; Maitreya Buddha will be the 5th.
♦ During Shakyamuni Buddha’s time, He taught vajrayana to the bodhisattvas and beings of high mental capabilities.
♦ Besides Shakyamuni Buddha, only 2 other buddhas may teach tantra, but this is not clearly indicated in the tantric texts. Hence vajrayana is more rare than buddhas.
♦ Since we now have the good karmic fortune to meet the tantric teaching from Shakyamuni Buddha, we should not miss out on this great opportunity.
♦ The 2 other Buddhas are Lama Tzong Khapa coming as either the 7th or 11th Buddha, and the 1000th Buddha. These 2 future Buddhas have promised to teach whatever Shakyamuni Buddha has taught, and it it presumed that they will also teach tantra.
THE SECRECY OF TANTRIC TEACHINGS
♦ Tantra is secret because if the mental disposition and merits of the person is not appropriate, then it is not suitable to practice. One must develop and hold firm faith in the tantric teachings.
♦ Since tantric practice is secretive, it should not be shown to others or discussed openly.
♦ Hinayana is practised externally. Sutrayana is practised internally. Vajrayana is practised secretly.
PREREQUISITES FOR PRACTISING TANTRA
♦ To practice tantra purely, one needs the major prerequisites of having realization (or at least some good understanding) of the 3 principal aspects of the sutra path:
• Renunciation (cause of liberation from samsara)
• Bodhichitta (cause of attaining full and complete enlightenment
• Wisdom (cause of cutting ignorance)
♦ The motivation is based on extremely great compassion (not being able to bear having sentient beings suffer for even 1 second only), hence the great determination to attain enlightenment is the quickest possible way, in this very life time.
♦ The tantic practice is grounded on the right view of emptiness. Without the wisdom of the right view, then the practice will not be effective, and may be dangerous.
♦ This is the Prasangika view of emptiness: dependent origination
♦ Tantra is based on the union of method and wisdom.
THE 4 CLASSES OF TANTRA
♦ All tantric practices can be grouped into one of the 4 classes :
• Action (kriya) tantra Offf)
• Performance (charya) tantra (TTuf)
• Yoga tantra ((T)
• Highest yoga (anuttara-yoga) tantra (uP)
SPECIAL CHARACTERISTICS OF TANTRA
♦ The special characteristics of tantric practice are:
• Mainly mental visualization
• Regarding Guru as Buddha (guru yoga)
• Viewing self as deity (deity yoga)
• See Guru and deity as non-dual (guru-deity yoga)
♦ In daily activities, constantly maintaining divine pride & pure mind with the 4 complete purities:
• Complete purity of body (as deity)
• Complete purity of environment (as pureland/mandala)
• Complete purity of enjoyment (as offering with bliss & voidness)
• Complete purity of activities (body, speech and mind)
TAKING HIGHEST YOGA TANTRIC (HYT) INITIATIONS
♦ The procedure for entering into tantra:
• Locate suitable & qualified tantric guru (vajra or initiation master)
• Take bodhisattva vows
• Take tantric initiation
• Take tantric vows (only for the 2 higher yoga tantra; & 6-session guru yoga)
• Firm faith in the teachings
• Engaged in deity practice (daily sadhanas & activities)
• Tantra is the uncommon path of Mahayana.
• Tantric teaching is extremely rare.
• The quickest path to enlightenment.
• Without firm foundation of the 3 principal aspects of the path, not possible to be successful in pure tantric practice . • The keys to attainments in tantric practice are guru yoga and keeping pure vows & samaya.
• The practice is embedded in daily life activities.