Introduction to the Vajrabhairava System of Anuttarayoga Tantra
See: Introduction to the Guhyasamaja System of Anuttarayoga Tantra.
See also: Introduction to the Chakrasamvara System of Anuttarayoga Tantra.
This is a little bit awkward, of course, when there are not so many people who are actually involved in the practice, so one is a little bit puzzled as to what to actually say. I think that basically what is possible is to just give a little bit of information about it.
As general background, we need to have just some general idea of what is tantra about. As we see with how we set our motivation in the Buddhist practice, we are moved by compassion. We want to help others as much as possible.
And so in the context of Mahayana – the “Great Vehicle,” the “Vast Vehicle” – we want to not just gain liberation ourselves, but we want to attain the state of a Buddha so that we can benefit everybody equally, not just a few.
But if we analyze deeply, then we see that what we need to really work with is the subtlest level of our minds and the subtlest energy of that subtlest level of our minds. This is the level that goes on from lifetime to lifetime and will continue into Buddhahood.
But in order to do that, we have to have a very, very strong motivation because it’s really very difficult to do that.
And so this (motivation) is an enormous, tremendous compassion for everybody. We think how awful it is that everybody’s suffering, and we really want to work with an unbelievable amount of effort to actually attain the state of a Buddha so that we can be of best help to everyone.
So we really need some very, very strong force not to just give in and let ourselves be ruled by this confusion.
We need a combination of compassion – we want to help others – and force and strength that “I’m not going to let all this junk that’s going on in my mind prevent me from being able to help others,” like laziness: “I don’t feel like doing it. I don’t feel like going and helping somebody.” You have to cut through that.
So we have to use some very strong energy. But very strong energy is very dangerous to work with. If you work with very strong energy, the danger is that you become reckless and the energy takes over, and that quickly goes into anger, doesn’t it? So, like in martial arts, you have to be very strong externally and totally 100% calm internally.
In order to overcome that confusion and laziness, we need the full understanding of reality – in Buddhist terms, voidness – that things don’t exist in the impossible ways that our minds project. So with understanding, we want to cut through these grosser levels with all the confusion – with a lot of strength – and get down to the subtlest level.
Now, normally we get down to that subtlest level when we die. During that period of death – what’s called the clear light of death – before the bardo (the in-between state) and rebirth, we are just experiencing that clear-light level.
(Pardon the dualistic way of saying that – that we are experiencing it, as if there’s a separate me. There’s no separate me experiencing it.)
We have all these habits of our confusion – all these habits of compulsive behavior based on confusion and disturbing emotions – and because of the momentum of so many lifetimes of being under the influence of these habits, what happens?
New rebirth – samsaric rebirth – with another cluster or configuration of these habits being activated and generating the next samsaric life filled with the same types of compulsive behavior and confusion.
That’s our ordinary type of death.
So what we want to do is to be able to overcome that kind of death and instead be able, in our meditation, to get to that subtlest level of mental activity. And we’ve used great force to get down there.
General Introduction to Yamantaka
This is, just in very general terms, a little bit of what is Yamantaka all about for those who might not have so much of a background.
In the Gelug tradition this became very, very strongly practiced.
In this system of putting together the three practices of these three deity systems –
two names) – Yamantaka is the container within which the other two practices can be included.
Now I can go back to just explaining a little bit about the history of the system, the different aspects of the system – now we just get information – so that you get a little bit of an idea of all the different aspects of it and how this practice actually developed and spread (since it’s not too appropriate to speak in very much detail about the actual practice, especially to people who are not practicing it).
from His Holiness the Dalai Lama,
from Yongdzin Ling Rinpoche, who was the Vajrabhairava teacher of His Holiness,
from Serkong Rinpoche, my own main teacher, who was also a teacher of His Holiness,
and from Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey and from his main teacher, Gyume Khenzur Rinpoche Ugyen Tseten (he was the retired abbot of Lower Tantric College).
And I’ve received:
the Thirteen-Deity Vajrabhairava (rDo-rje ‘jigs-byed lha bco-gsum) empowerment from His Holiness and Yongdzin Ling Rinpoche,
the jenang (rjes-snang), the subsequent permission, of the Four-Headed Vajrabhairava from Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey,
then discourses on the main commentary of the text of the Single Deity from Serkong Rinpoche and Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey.
and then numerous discourses on the fire puja, the self-initiation, the mandala measurements, and many of the auxiliary practices of Yamantaka from Serkong Rinpoche.
And I’ve been practicing it every day for more than forty years.
I’m saying this not to say I’m a great yogi – which I’m obviously not – but the point is that if you want to actually practice any of these things, you need to get the teachings over and over again, many teachings.
And there’s an enormous amount of teachings. Don’t think that any of these systems are simple. They’re not.
One needs to be very serious about any type of tantra practice. And if you’re going to do it, you do it every day for the rest of your life. So it’s not for the weak-hearted ones that “Ooh, I’ll try doing a little bit” and “Do I like this? Do I not like this?”
It’s dangerous if you try to get into tantra practice like that. You go a bit crazy because you’re working with all these images in your imagination and so on, especially if you start to try to work with the energies of your body. Disaster. Right?
(Now, remember in tantra that having all these faces and arms and legs – they all represent different realizations, different aspects of the path that we want to be able to have fully realized simultaneously.
(The mandala is the palace in which we live as this figure: not that there’s a kitchen and a living room or anything like that, but we’re in this palace. And the palace – every little feature of it represents some other aspect of the path and realization.)
That’s a Kalachakra text.
And then there’s a four-headed, eight-armed, four-legged variant, which is in the collection of jenangs (these subsequent permissions) called Rinjung Gyatsa (Rin-’byung brgya-rtsa, Source of Precious Means of Attainment of an Ocean of Yidam Buddha-Figures), a collection of about a hundred of these subsequent permissions. So there it’s in this other form.
Red Yamari is usually just in the one head, two arms, two-legged version.
So what does this tell us? It tells us that there are many, many ways and many appearances of all these various Buddha-figures. And underlying it is what? It’s the fact that a Buddha can appear in any form whatsoever in order to be able to benefit others.
If one form becomes too popularized so that it becomes commonplace and trivialized – as in having Kalachakra T-shirts and this sort of thing – then there’s usually a revelation of another form because it really has to be something sacred and private, not something popular.
We find that in Sakya and in the various Kagyu lineages and the Jonang lineage. Here there’s a stacked arrangement of the nine heads – so there’s three, and then three on top, and three on top of that.
In the Ra Lotsawa (Rva Lo-tsa-ba rDo-rje grags-pa) lineage, which is what is practiced in Gelugpa, you have what’s called the circular arrangement of the heads – so a central one, two (stacked) on top of it, and three on each side.
The Traditional Account
The traditional account of how Buddha gave these teachings was that he arose in the form of Yamantaka – just as when Buddha gave the teachings of other tantras, like Guhyasamaja and Chakrasamvara, he arose in that form and gave the teachings – and he gave these teachings in 100,000 chapters.
So we’re talking about a kingdom up in the mountains of northwestern Pakistan. To understand the emergence of Yamantaka there and this practice there, otherwise it doesn’t make any sense that it was kept there, we need to look at the history of Yama.
Now, personally I find this very interesting. It’s not just ethnologically fascinating but actually it’s very helpful to see that there is historical evidence and a historical development of why we had these practices, why they were in this form, and why they developed where they developed – not just some fantasy story of some Buddhists.
In other words, if we can see that history corroborates and fits together okay with the Buddhist version, then our confidence I think is a little bit stronger. At least I find for myself it’s helpful.
That’s the ancient, ancient Indian text. He was the first mortal to die, and thus, because of that, he became the Lord of Death. He’s described as being very wise, and he judges the rebirth of those who die.
Sometimes Yama is called Dharma. This is earlier than when Hinduism itself became codified, so it was in the pre-Hindu Indian tradition. Dharma in that tradition means “justice,” justice in the sense of what maintains the order of karma in terms of rebirth.
Yama’s also called Kala in these texts. Kala is an interesting word because it has two meanings in Sanskrit: one is “time,” and the other is “black.” In this context, kala means “time” because time is what brings death. The passage of time brings death, doesn’t it?
But what’s interesting is the Tibetans translated kala here as black (nag-po), so Mahakala is called the Great Black One (Nag-po chen-po) in Tibetan. Sometimes the study of Sanskrit and Tibetan is quite useful for clearing up some of these confusing issues.
But because Yama appears in this general Indian context as one of the directional protectors, then in the Yamantaka practice, in Guhyasamaja practice – in so many different practices – then in the Buddhist context, you call in the fifteen directional protectors, and Yama is one of them.
Yama also appears as one of the eight directional protectors that appear, one each, in the eight charnel grounds that surround many anuttarayoga tantra mandalas, such as Yamantaka, Vajrapani Mahachakra, Chakrasamvara, Vajrayogini and Hevajra.
He also appears as one of the eight non-Buddhist deities found, one each, in eight of the skullcups held by Hevajra.] So it comes from this general Indian background. There’s nothing especially Buddhist about it.
I think it’s very important to be realistic and understand that Buddhism did not develop in a vacuum. Buddhism is an Indian religion, an Indian system, and it shares many, many, many things in common with what later becomes Hinduism and Jainism.
And all these different Indian traditions have their own variant of them, their own version. They’re all talking about the same things. So it’s not surprising that you find all these so-called Hindu deities in the Buddhist practices.
But if you understand the way that ancient Indian society functioned, then you see that all of these people lived together, and so you have this common pool there. Then it becomes a little bit more understandable.
And so Yama rides on a male water buffalo. So already in this iconography or mythology – whatever you want to call it – already you have Yama associated with a water buffalo. And he becomes a guardian of the hells.
In one of the Puranas – this is a later Hindu text (the Markandeya Purana, if you want to know the name) – Shiva subdues Yama, and then Shiva is called Kalantaka, “the one who puts an end to kala” – kala, “time,” which was another name for Yama.
Now, when we learn this, what is the effect on us in terms of our practice? You can look at it two ways, can’t you?
One way is “Well, there’s just the Buddhist version. Buddha appears in a stupa, and there’s the dakinis, and all this sort of stuff. And this historical stuff is unimportant. Scientists – who cares about what they say?”
Or you could try to look at it to see that what is said in the Buddhist version does have some historical reference, that the whole development of tantra is really a general thing going on in India, a general way of practicing, and that you have different schools, whether Hindu or Buddhist, each working with it and trying to find the most efficient method for attaining their goals (liberation or enlightenment the way that each of them define it).
Different Views of What a Buddha Is
You have to remember when we talk about tantra and the accounts of how Buddha taught tantra not to think in terms of the historical Shakyamuni Buddha. That’s not the Buddha that they’re talking about.
If you think in terms of “Well, it was Buddha Shakyamuni who taught tantra” – in other words, the historical Buddha as described in the Pali canon, the Theravadin canon – then you’re going to see, well, that’s completely contradictory with the Buddhologist study of the history of Buddhism, completely contradictory.
Then you fall to one extreme of either “Only this is true” or “The other one is true.”
There are various depictions of what a Buddha is:
There is a version that you find in the Pali canon, where Shakyamuni was a prince, and he had his life, and there are all these accounts of what he did during his actual historical life. That is one version that fits in with the Pali canon account of what a Buddha is.
This is a Buddha according to Mahayana, who then manifests in so many different forms and in Buddha-fields, and he teaches to hundreds of thousands of devas and asuras and gandharvas – all these figures from general Indian mythology or whatever you want to call it – all these various beings in these incredible settings, and so on.
It’s a very different type of Buddha. That’s understanding Buddha as someone who was enlightened many, many eons ago, who just manifests becoming enlightened, and who does these incredible things to teach the whole universe.
As Vajradhara or, here, appearing as Yamantaka or appearing as Chakrasamvara or as Kalachakra – [a Buddha) appears in all these different forms of deities and at any time of history, but it’s not a historically definite time.
So now we have to qualify what I just said. Are they all Shakyamuni?
Then you get three different ways of looking at the same thing. (Of course we can get very complicated and sophisticated here if we want to go further in this discussion, and I find it very helpful to analyze.)
This is very similar to the water/pus/nectar discussion, that:
to humans it appears as water,
to ghosts it appears as pus,
to the gods it appears as nectar,
and it’s nothing from its own side – you can’t find it as anything from its own side – and yet all three are valid.
All three of these visions of what a Buddha is are all valid, but they’re valid within their own context, and that you have to understand – within their own context. Actually there’s no problem with fitting in the history as well from a Buddhological point of view.
Now, if we look at the Iranian side before Zoroastrianism got codified (so let’s call it proto-Zoroastrianism), you have their ancient sacred text. That’s called the Avesta, just as the proto-Hindus have the Vedas. And in the Avesta you also find Yama – here it’s called Yima – and he’s also the first man to die, and he also becomes the guardian of the hells.
Why? After all, in Buddhism it says that a Buddha will appear in a place where people are receptive, where it’s most needed, and will teach in a way that the people of the time can understand (that’s called skillful means).
Its dynasty ruled for a long time that whole area from Eastern Iran all the way over to north-central India, and so you had there a mixture of Iranian and ancient Indian ideas and mythology and various religious ideas, terminology, and so on.
We’re talking about the period from the first to the early third centuries of the Common Era.
And what did you find in this area? You had a mixture of Iranian culture and religions, Indian religions – particularly the early Shiva worship and the Shiva tantras – and you had Buddhism, so a mixture of the three.
In the Buddhist variant, Yamantaka overcomes Yama – like Shiva overcame Yama using the name Kala, Kalantaka. And both Yama and Yamantaka have a buffalo head, a water buffalo head. I’m always curious why it has a buffalo head.
That’s really quite odd, isn’t it?
This holy man meditated in a cave for forty-nine years, eleven months, and twenty-nine days – so he was one day short of the fifty years – and he was interrupted by two thieves who broke into his cave with a stolen water buffalo.
First they beheaded the water buffalo in front of the hermit, and the hermit pleaded with them – “Please wait a few minutes more till I finish my fifty years of meditation” – but they beheaded him as well, before he could finish.
And he was still so angry and upset, he decided to kill everybody in Tibet. (This is the Tibetan story, by the way.) So the people of Tibet were afraid for their lives, and they prayed to Manjushri to listen to them.
And Manjushri transformed himself into Yamantaka, looking very similar to Yama but ten times more powerful and horrible, and Manjushri as Yamantaka then defeated Yama and made him into a protector for Buddhism.
So what do we learn from this story? It’s very interesting. Don’t just look at these things as little fairy tales to tell children. There’s this whole thing that you get in the study of mythology – to see what are the lessons behind the mythology, and is there a deeper psychological thing that is going on, and so on. You get that in Jungian psychology, for example.
Now, why a water buffalo I can only guess. Why not a goat or a dog or something like that? But it’s a water buffalo. And I must say I don’t know. One can guess though. A water buffalo is very, very strong and is used for work in India – and it’s specified as a male water buffalo, not a female water buffalo – so it’s very strong. Maybe it has that connotation. I don’t know.
You have Yamantaka appearing in Guhyasamaja already. According to some scholars that’s already by the fourth century.[According to tradition, however, Buddha taught Guhyasamaja to King Indrabhuti of Ogyen, who ruled during the second half of eighth century.
In Guhyasamaja you have what’s called a protection-wheel practice – you have this in Yamantaka [and Hevajra) as well, very strongly in Yamantaka – and this is a protected space in which you have protectors in all the directions.
Psychologically it’s very important, actually, because in order to feel safe – even in a group-therapy session or in any type of psychological session – you need to have a protected space in which you feel that no harm can come from the outside and you can relax. And so, similar to that, you always set up a protection space.
In Kalachakra as well, Yamantaka appears as the protector of one of the gateways of the body mandala, as well as one of the sixty protectors in the protection wheel. In all these instances, Yamantaka has three heads, six arms and two legs, and is in the Buddha-family of Vairochana.
Yamantaka in Other Tantras before Lalitavajra
Yamantaka also appears in other tantras before Lalitavajra’s) time. There’s the so-called Manjushri Root Tantra (Manjushri-mulakalpa). Yamantaka appears there. That’s in the seventh century. And also he’s mentioned in the Manjushri-namasamgiti. That’s the Concert of Names of Manjushri, a Kalachakra text (probably also seventh century). Remember this association of Yamantaka with Manjushri? It comes already in this early time.
Now we get to Lalitavajra (Rol-pa’i rdo-rje) in the tenth century. He was a master at Nalanda University. He came from Orissa. Lalitavajra was studying this Concert of Names of Manjushri, and in that text he came across some lines [in the section “Praising Mirror-like Deep Awareness). I won’t read the full lines, because we don’t have so much time, but just the parts of the lines. It says:
Six-eyed, six-armed, and full of force…. (66d -67ab)]
(king of the obstructors,]
Vajravega is the forceful form of Kalachakra. [Note that Vajravega’s root mantra contains the praise in Sanskrit: “To the one who acts on behalf of Vajrabhairava. The name Vajrabhairava also appears in Vajravega’s 72-line garland mantra.]
A tremendous sound unique in the world’s three planes,
The best of those possessing a voice. (76)]
And so he wondered, “Who is this Vajrabhairava?
Who’s this Yamantaka?”
He tried to locate a tantra text in India of Vajrabhairava, but he couldn’t find anything. So he practiced another tantra teaching, called the Net of Illusion, the Mayajala Tantra (rGyu-‘phrul drva-ba).
He practiced for twenty years to get a vision of Manjushri, and finally he succeeded and had a direct manifestation of Manjushri. Manjushri told him, “Go to Ogyen, to Oddiyana, and there you’ll find the full teachings of Vajrabhairava.”
I always find it quite helpful to think of these things as actually happening, not just some legend.
That is the female partner of Vajrabhairava actually, which is actually a very interesting point, isn’t it – that the one who was the guardian of these teachings was a woman. Very often women think that women didn’t play a very major role in the historical development of Buddhism. Well, here’s a very good example. It was a woman who transmitted all of this and got it all started.
He did all the practices – and obviously he was very, very advanced – and in three months he gained the actual attainments. And so he asked, “Can I take the tantra teachings back to my homeland, to India?”
She said no. She said, “You can only take back what you can memorize in seven days.”
That in itself is a very interesting point, isn’t it, that these teachings are really very, very sacred, special, not to be made public, and if you really want them, you have to really, really want it and work really hard, which means memorize it.
It’s not easy to memorize these things.
He realized that it was beyond his ability to memorize so much (because it was quite big), and so he circumambulated the stupa and made requests to Manjushri for inspiration, and he was able to memorize three texts.
You could ask, “Well, how does that work? You’re just praying ‘Oh God, give me a clear mind,’ and God in the form of Manjushri gives you it – “Woo-ooh-ooh!” – and now you have a clear mind?” Not like that, please. This whole thing of making requests – you have to really understand what that means. It’s not this Janis Joplin song of “Oh Lord, why don’t you give me a Mercedes-Benz,” that type of request. It’s not like that.
Alex: A famous song from the 1960s. I’m an old man, so I know those things.
You want so much, because of your motivation, to have a clear mind, that you focus. Manjushri acts as the focus for this – with a sword, sharp, to cut through your confusion – and because you have such force for wanting to get that clarity of mind and that understanding, your mind comes together, and it is clearer. And it works – but not by some power of some magic or miracle. It dependently arises.
Okay. Now, he wanted to take more, and the dakini told him, “That’s enough. People can attain enlightenment with these.” So what are these three texts? These are called the Three Rounds of Tantras (rGyud-skor gsum). We have:
The Condensed Chapters of the Root Tantra (rTsa-rgyud rtogs-bsdus).
The Three-Chapter Explanatory Tantra (bShad-rgyud rtogs-gsum).
And The Musk-Shrew Chapter (Til-la’i rtogs-pa, Chu-cchu-nda-ra’i rtogs-pa). Musk shrew is the name of a small animal.
I have here what each of the chapters of this talk about. It’s very interesting what’s actually here in the root tantras. Now it’s getting late, so maybe we need to go in a little bit of an abbreviated way. As I say, we don’t really have time to go through all of this. What you find here in all these chapters of these three texts are very, very strong rituals that are dealing with overcoming harmful beings, and you read them and they really sound absolutely violent and horrible.
Okay, the first one, the Condensed Chapters of the Root Tantra. It has seven chapters condensed from that 100,000 chapter version (either 100,000 chapters or verses – it’s unclear because the text is lost).
The first chapter describes the mandala palace that’s to be revealed during the initiation, the offerings to be made, the attainments that you can get, and some brief instructions on doing the retreat to gain powers against harmful interferences.
Then the second chapter, rituals using various devices for extremely forceful actions against harmful beings. [Among these rituals) there’s the construction of what’s called a weapon wheel, so a “wheel of sharp weapons.”
One of the people later in the lineage is Atisha, one of the people who brought it originally to Tibet. And one of Atisha’s teachers was Dharmarakshita, who was the author of this mind training (lojong) called Wheel of Sharp Weapons (Theg-pa chen-po’i blo-sbyong mtshon-cha ’khor-lo]]).
In that he says, “Yamantaka, throw your wheel of sharp weapons.” All this is in the condensed root tantra. It’s very clear in that text, the Wheel of Sharp Weapons, that the weapons are intended to overcome our self-cherishing, our grasping for our self, and so on. Those are the real harmful ones.
4. the arising of Vajrabhairava from voidness and then Manjushri, as in the sadhana, with the full description of the visualization of the full Vajrabhairava (single deity), with mention of recitation of the mantra 300,000 times for the short retreat,
The Three Chapter Explanatory Tantra contains:
Then warnings against disasters that will happen if you don’t do each of the steps properly.
(a) pacifying brings protection from the eight fears, (b) increase brings the six good qualities, (c) controlling brings success in attaining the white appearance, red increase, black near attainment and clear light, (d) separating brings maintaining secrecy and avoiding the various types of demonic interference,
(e) suppressing brings binding the six senses. The text emphasizes the need for confident belief in the practices, having no doubts or dualistic thinking, not separating the rituals from the mantra recitation, relying on spiritual teacher and confidence in him.
All of that is completely clear in these texts.
And it says that this is supposed to be kept secret, private, so why?
It’s supposed to be kept that way because it could be completely misunderstood as some horrible thing, and that practitioners actually go out and kill people.
But that wasn’t the case, because you can see from Wheel of Sharp Weapons that the image is intended for having this strength, as I was saying before, to cut through your ignorance, your self-cherishing, your self-grasping.
We have this division in anuttarayoga tantra, the Gelugpa version of (anuttarayoga tantra, of the obscure (or hidden or secret) tantras (sbas-rgyud) and the clear tantra (gsal-rgyud) (which is Kalachakra).
And what’s the point here?
What’s the difference between the two? In the highest class of tantra you have four initiations (or four empowerments), and the fourth one is to empower you to do the final, final, final practices where you have the practice of the two truths simultaneously.
In the clear tantra, Kalachakra, it explains this (fourth empowerment) very clearly.
And in the hidden tantras, which are all the others, it explains this in a hidden way – by saying “It’s like the third (empowerment).” So it’s by analogy.
They don’t really explain it.
That’s the only point that is hidden or secret in terms of that division. Otherwise you get very confused.
I mean, these three tantra texts have been translated into English, by the way.
So you read them, and you see that it has a full description of Yamantaka and what he looks like and what he’s holding, So much is totally explicitly explained there and you say, “What? What does it mean in the text that it’s to be hidden or secret?”
You read and study Guhyasamaja – which is actually the main thing that is studied in the tantric colleges in the Gelug tradition – and the Guhyasamaja Root Tantra is written in so-called vajra language (rdo-rje’i tshig).
And so you have a structure, which you get in Chandrakirti’s commentaries to Guhyasamaja tantra, in which he gives the structure of six alternatives and four modes (mtha'-drug tshul-bzhi) for explaining these so-called vajra expressions.
Out of these words you can derive all the different levels of practice, and it presents a system.
So you think “Well, that’s what it means for it to be a hidden tantra.” It’s not. That’s not the meaning.
Because if you think that secret and hidden means this system of these vajra expressions, you become totally confused when you read the Yamantaka root tantra or the Chakrasamvara one and you see “Well, it’s all explained there very explicitly.
A lot is explained.” So you have to understand what’s going on here.
Mother tantra emphasizes the practices for getting the clear-light mind (‘od-gsal) and understanding of voidness and the mind of a Buddha. Both do both, but the emphasis is different. So you have this division of mother and father in Gelugpa.
Within father tantra you have:
those that use desire as a path (Guhyasamaja is the example),
those that use anger or transform it into the path (like Vajrabhairava),
and then there’s another one, Vajra Arali – which I’ve never heard of anybody actually practicing – which is transforming naivety or unawareness into a path.
So in the Guhyasamaja, it’s talking about all the very, very advanced practices where you use the energy of desire for getting down to the subtlest level, and that is hidden in a different way with these vajra expressions.
Vajrabhairava is using the forceful energy, like of anger – but not really anger, because with anger you are completely exaggerating the negative qualities of something, grasping to it to be truly existent, and then “I have to get it away from me.”
All of that is implicit in these various rituals and things that are explained in the texts which sound as though they are horrible black magic for actually harming others, harmful beings, whereas the intention is for harming the internal enemy, our own selfishness.
That has to be explained by a teacher.
This is very, very dangerous, very delicate.
One really has to have already reached the point at which you are no longer affected by the disturbing emotions, but where you can still call upon the energy of them in order to use them in a beneficial way in your internal-yoga practice.
It’s very, very delicate. And if people try to do it and use these disturbing emotions before they are at a sufficiently highly developed level, the danger is that they really come under the influence of anger and desire, and then it’s a disaster.
Time is running out, so let me really abbreviate now.
And it was very, very difficult – there’s a whole long story and account of how much difficulty he had to get these teachings and to translate them with his Indian master Bharo Chag-drum (Bha-ro Phyag-drum), with whom he studied in Nepal) – but anyway he translated them and brought them to Tibet.
He went to return to Tibet and a lady pulled him back when he was about to go.
The Guru said “It was worthwhile to lie.
It is not to be given lightly.
The teaching of Yamantaka is even more special. To receive it there are many requirements:
(1) very strong faith in the Guru,
(2) many offerings made to please the dakas and dakinis,
(3) offerings of what is most precious to you as a way to overcome your self-grasping and perfect your practice of far-reaching generosity.
I am not being miserly about the teaching, but the Yamantaka teaching is like the heart of the dakinis. Exposing these teachings is like exposing their heart. Therefore I feel guilty to teach them.” At this the Guru disappeared.
Ra Lotsawa had a difficult time finding him again.
Many months passed. While trying to find him, one day at the bank of a river he saw a boat without an oarsman overturn and all of the passengers drowned. Then he saw a boat with an oarsman cross over.
But the next day when he came he had missed the Guru.
The Guru said they were all successful, “The vision was correct, you have had nonconceptual cognition of voidness. I am fully satisfied with your progress.” In this way, Ra Lotsawa had much hardship in bringing this teaching to Tibet.]
[Many of the Eastern Mongols had already accepted Tibetan Buddhism at this time, but Neiji Toin wanted to convert the remaining shamanistic Eastern Mongol tribes and get them to accept the Gelug lineage of Tibetan Tantric Buddhism) particularly with the practice of Yamantaka.
By the way, if you don’t know the geography, we’re talking about the region which is…
You know where Khabarovsk is?
It’s the region just south of that.
We’re talking about this region.
We’re talking about the early seventeenth century. [Before the Manchus conquered China (in 1644), they had already accepted certain elements of Gelug when they built the Yellow Temple in Mukden, their capital (1636-38).
They made this association that Manchu – well, that sounds like Manju of Manjushri– so their rulers eventually became recognized as emanations of Manjushri [like the association of Avalokiteshvara with the Tibetans and Vajrapani with the Mongols.]
So the Fifth Dalai Lama instructed his representative at the Manchu court to banish this Mongol missionary [to Hohhot, present-day Inner Mongolia) to get him to stop this improper practice of bribing people to do Yamantaka practice.
Anyway, what followed from this is very fascinating.
More precisely, the Manchus identified Beijing as the Vajrabhairava manadala with the Forbidden City, the Imperial City and the Outer City forming three concentric mandala circles, with the Emperor as Vajrabhairava in the center.]
They built big statues of Yamantaka and so on [in the Beihai Temple) in Beijing [and one of the main halls of the Yungho Gung temple was devoted to Vajrabhairava practice, with a portrait of Qianlung Emperor as Manjushri/Tsongkhapa hanging inside it.]
So you find this very interesting, very odd way in which Yamantaka practice then becomes so popular among the Mongols and the Manchus, and you find big statues and things in Beijing and in other parts of China. This is how that came about.
Anyway, enough of history and stories. I personally find it quite fascinating and actually quite helpful to see what actually has happened with this practice, how does it actually fit into history, the religious development, and so on. It gives it a context.
1) The first is that in this age of degeneration, practitioners will not be harmed by interferences. Okay, how do we understand that? Interferences are the four maras (mara is the embodiment of interference, and mara is from the Sanskrit word meaning “death”):
So the mara of death. We already explained how this practice transforms it so that you don’t experience ordinary death – you change that experience in terms of the clear-light mind, using that to get the understanding of voidness.
And you’re getting the understanding of voidness with this, with the clear-light mind, so you overcome the mara of what’s called the sons of the gods (which is referring to the non-Buddhist philosophical views).
He has thirty-four arms, right?
This represents two types of practices in Guhyasamaja:
So that means that he incorporates the Guhyasamaja type of practices.
These are the five special features of Vajrabhairava or Yamantaka. (As I mentioned, most people will refer to it as Yamantaka. The reason is it’s easier to say in Mongolian, and because it’s so strong with the Mongols, everybody calls it Yamantaka usually.)
So if you have received the empowerment, it’s a very, very important, very helpful, and very strong practice to involve yourself with, very effective.
In the Gelug tradition it is the container, as I said, in which all the other practices can be done.
So if you want to do these more advanced practices and so on, you have to have the strength of conviction, the understanding of reality (so Manjushri in your heart), and this forceful energy to be able to chase away interferences – your confusion, your selfishness, and so on – chase away the interferences and stay steady in your practice.
It’s very late, so let’s end here with a dedication. Whatever understanding, whatever positive force has come from this, may it act as a cause for all beings to reach enlightenment as quickly as possible through a sincere practice such as this Yamantaka system.
(53) Whenever I might wish to see
Or might wish to ask about any little thing,
May I behold the Guardian, Manjunatha himself,
Without any impediment.
(54) Just as Manjushri works
To fulfill the aims of all limited beings
To the far reaches of space in the ten directions,
May my behavior become just like that.
(58) I prostrate to Manjughosha, through whose kindness
My thought has become constructive;
I prostrate as well to my spiritual teacher and friend,
Through whose kindness, I've been able to have it expand.]
Okay. Thank you.