TANTRA as taught by the Buddha
TANTRA as taught by the BUDDHA
Different people have different capacities for spiritual understanding and practice. For this reason, out of his compassion, Buddha Shakyamuni gave teachings at many levels, just as a skilful doctor administers a variety of remedies to treat different types of sick people.
For those who wish merely to attain human happiness Buddha gave teachings revealing actions and their effects, or karma; and he taught moral discipline as their main practice.
For those who wish to experience the permanent inner peace of liberation, or nirvana, for themselves alone, Buddha gave teachings on the faults of samsara; and he taught the three higher trainings – training in higher moral discipline, training in higher concentration, and training in higher wisdom – as their main practice.
For those who wish to attain the ultimate goal of full enlightenment Buddha gave teachings on the development of great compassion and bodhichitta; and he taught the six perfections – the perfections of giving, moral discipline, patience, effort, mental stabilization, and wisdom – as their main practice.
All these teachings are open to anyone who wishes to study and practice them. The experiences that are gained from practicing them are called the ‘common spiritual paths’.
Besides these teachings, Buddha also gave teachings on Tantra. These may be practiced only by those who have received Tantric empowerments. The experiences gained by practicing these teachings are called the ‘uncommon spiritual paths’.
What is Tantra?
The highest of all possible human goals is the attainment of complete enlightenment, an ultimate state of peace in which all obstacles obscuring the mind have been removed and all good qualities such as wisdom, compassion, and skillful means have been fully developed.
However, we cannot reach this ultimate goal merely by waiting for it; we need to use the appropriate methods to take us there.
What are the methods for attaining the peace of full enlightenment? They are the paths of Sutra and Tantra (or Secret Mantra); there is no third method. Of these two, the techniques revealed in Secret Mantra are superior to those revealed in the Sutras.
Not only is Tantra/Secret Mantra the supreme path to full enlightenment, it is also extremely rare.
As Je Tsongkhapa said, the teachings of Secret Mantra are even rarer than the Buddhas because, although a thousand founding Buddhas will appear during this Fortunate Eon, only the fourth (Buddha Shakyamuni), the eleventh, and the last will teach the paths of Secret Mantra.
At the moment, we have a great opportunity to practice these rare and beneficial teachings, so it is important that we develop a strong intention to practice them purely.
If the Mahayana teachings were to vanish from this world, we would have no opportunity to become a Buddha. Therefore, while we still have access to these precious teachings, we should apply ourselves to them assiduously and try to gain some experience of them.
The etymology of Secret Mantra is as follows. ‘Secret’ indicates that these methods should be practiced discreetly. If we make a display of our practices, we will attract many hindrances and negative forces. This would be like someone talking openly and carelessly about a precious jewel they possessed and, as a result, attracting the attention of thieves.
‘Mantra’ means ‘protection for the mind’. The function of Secret Mantra is to enable us to progress swiftly through the stages of the spiritual path by protecting our mind against ordinary appearances and ordinary conceptions.
Je Tsongkhapa explained that an authentic Secret Mantra practice must possess four attributes,
known as the ‘four complete purities’. These are:
• Complete purity of place
• Complete purity of body
• Complete purity of enjoyments
• Complete purity of deeds
The practice of these four complete purities was not revealed in the Sutra teachings, but is to be found only in Secret Mantra.
Secret Mantra is distinguished from Sutra by the practice of bringing the future result into the
present path. For example, even though we have not yet attained enlightenment, when we practise Secret Mantra we try to prevent ordinary appearances and ordinary conceptions of our environment and instead visualize our surroundings as the mandala of a Deity.
In the same way, we prevent ordinary appearance of our body, our enjoyments, and our deeds, and, in their place, generate ourself as a Deity, visualize our enjoyments as those of a Buddha, and practise performing enlightened deeds.
By doing such practices, we can attain the resultant state of Buddhahood very rapidly.
These four practices are essential for both the generation stage and completion stage of Secret Mantra.
Levels of Tantra
Tantra, or Secret Mantra, has four levels:
Highest Yoga Tantra
Action Tantra principally emphasizes external actions, Performance Tantra places equal emphasis on both external and internal actions, Yoga Tantra principally emphasizes internal actions, and Highest Yoga Tantra is the supreme class of Tantra.
All four levels of Secret Mantra transform great bliss into the spiritual path, but the methods of transformation differ according to the level being practised.
In Action Tantra, the meditator generates bliss by looking at a visualized goddess, and then transforms that bliss into the path. In Performance Tantra, the meditator generates bliss by exchanging smiles with the goddess, and in Yoga Tantra, by holding hands with her and so forth.
In Highest Yoga Tantra, the meditator generates bliss by imagining sexual embrace with a consort and, at advanced stages, by engaging in actual embrace; and then transforms that bliss into the spiritual path. It should be noted, however, that it is very difficult to use great bliss as a method for attaining enlightenment, and if we are able to do so we have indeed attained a formidable accomplishment.
As the great Mahasiddha Saraha said, ‘Everyone is excited by copulation, but very few can
transform that bliss into the spiritual path’.
Attachment & Tantra
Generally, Buddhism teaches that attachment is a delusion that is to be avoided, and eventually abandoned, but in Secret Mantra there is a method for transforming attachment into the path.
However, to practice this method we must be very skillful. In this practice, we use attachment to generate great bliss and then use that mind of great bliss to meditate on emptiness. Only if we can do this is it a transformation of attachment.
Attachment itself cannot be used directly as a path because it is a delusion, and even in Secret Mantra it is finally to be abandoned. In authentic Secret Mantra practice, the bliss generated from attachment meditates on emptiness and thereby overcomes all the delusions, including attachment itself.
This is similar to the way in which the fire produced from rubbing two pieces of wood together eventually consumes the wood from which it arose.
For those who are unskillful, or whose minds are untrained, such practices of transformation are impossible. For this reason, the Yogis and great meditators of the past have said that to attain the realizations of Secret Mantra, one’s mind should first be controlled by training in the Sutra stages of the path. Without building this firm foundation, there is absolutely no way to attain a pure experience of Secret Mantra.
It is very important, therefore, that both the Spiritual Guide and the disciple have controlled minds and an impeccable motivation. Even though we may call ourself a Buddhist and take refuge in the Three Jewels every day, these alone are insufficient qualifications for the practice of Secret Mantra.
It should be noted that the spontaneous great bliss of the completion stage of Secret Mantra is not the same as ordinary pleasure experienced at the height of sexual embrace.
Spontaneous great bliss is experienced only when, through the force of meditation, we cause the winds to enter, abide, and dissolve within the central channel and, as a result, the white drop melts and flows through the central channel.
Using spontaneous great bliss to realize emptiness was the essential heart practice of the great
Secret Mantra Masters of ancient India, such as Saraha, Nagarjuna, Tilopa, Naropa, and Maitripa; and of the great Tibetan Masters, such as Marpa, Milarepa, Gampopa, and Je Tsongkhapa.
As in the past, so today – the Secret Mantra meditator’s supreme path to perfect enlightenment is the union of spontaneous great bliss and emptiness.
All the meditations of Kadampa Buddhism, Conqueror Vajradhara and the great Secret Mantra Masters of ancient India.
These techniques were passed from the Indian Masters to the Tibetan Masters, and have been
handed down to the present-day Teachers in an unbroken lineage from spiritual Father to spiritual Son.
Although Mahamudra meditations were practiced by the ancient Indian Masters, the particular system of Mahamudra presented here is a ‘close’ lineage transmitted by Conqueror Vajradhara to the Wisdom Buddha Manjushri, who in turn transmitted it directly to Je Tsongkhapa, who was the first human Master in this particular lineage.
The Gurus of the close lineage of Vajrayana Mahamudra are as follows:
Togdän Jampäl Gyatso
Baso Chökyi Gyaltsän
Khädrub Sangye Yeshe
Panchen Losang Chökyi Gyaltsän
Drubchen Gendun Gyaltsän
Drungpa Tsöndru Gyaltsän
Panchen Losang Yeshe
Drubwang Losang Namgyal
Kachen Yeshe Gyaltsän
Phurchog Ngawang Jampa
Panchen Palden Yeshe
Khädrub Ngawang Dorje
Yangchän Drubpay Dorje
Khädrub Tendzin Tsöndru
Dorjechang Phabongkha Trinlay Gyatso
Yongdzin Dorjechang Losang Yeshe
Dorjechang Kelsang Gyatso Rinpoche
In recent times, this lineage was held by Trinlay Gyatso, more widely known as Phabongkha Rinpoche, who was an emanation of the Tantric Deity Heruka. This great Lama was like the sun of Dharma, illuminating the hidden meaning of both Sutra and Secret Mantra.
He passed the Mahamudra lineage to his heart Son, Yongdzin Trijang Dorjechang, and it is through the kindness and authority of this holy Spiritual Guide that this information is now available.
IN SUMMARY . . .
Tantra (Synonymous with Secret Mantra). Tantric teachings are distinguished from Sutra teachings in that they reveal methods for training the mind by bringing the future result, or Buddhahood, into the present path. Tantric practitioners overcome ordinary appearances and conceptions by visualizing their body, environment, enjoyments, and deeds as those of a Buddha. Tantra is the supreme path to full enlightenment. Tantric practices are to be done in private and only by those who have received a Tantric empowerment.