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Buddhist Tantra Teachings


Chapter 5. The Entering, The Remaining, and the Dissolving Process in the Central Channel: The Art of Gtum-Mo or Heat Yoga

Through the above-mentioned three practices, prana will enter into the Central Channel, but in this connection one may ask what are the unmistakable signs of the prana entering into the Central Channel? (In other words, what are the right signs one should expect to experience if the pranas are on the point of entering into the Central Channel?) This is an extremely important question; there is a great number of different answers. Among them the definite and unmistakable sign is the following experience. After the meditation period, the yogi identifies the particular nostril from which the breathing (or most of the exhaled air) runs. Then he applies the mental and bodily practices as before. In a very short time, the breath running through both nostrils becomes even, and it should not alter within one or two breaths. If there is no other hindrance, the breath should remain even in both nostrils; the strength of both nostrils should be equal. If the yogi is able to do this, he may be considered as having a little strength in leading the prana into the Central Channel. However, this does not mean that, by doing this practice once (attaining even runs of the breath in the two nostrils), the ordinary breathing-process, which unequally stresses the two nostrils, will be forever stopped.

Having learned how to make the prana enter into the [p. 187} Central Channel, the yogi is taught the practice involving the prana remaining there.

In accordance with the teachings, the yogi carries on his practice and carefully observes the manner of the breath running in the nostrils. Gradually the breath will become more and more subtle, and finally it will stop. The Jetsun Milarepa said:

"Happy is the entering into the Central Channel by the air of Ro-ma and Rleyang-ma!

Happy is the cessation of the outgoing and ingoing breathing!

"Happy is the vast experience of the cessation of breath!"

As to the subtle breathing, for some it is difficult and for some it is easy. If the yogi finds it difficult to absorb the air, lie will in a few minutes feel it filling up his entire belly, but then it begins to dissolve. Immediately after the dissolving, he will feel an extraordinary warmness taking place in the fire-place of the Navel Center and Secret Center; thereafter, the Melting Bliss will take place.

A cessation of the subtle running breath will tend to accumulate the subtle distractions, whence great distractions often occur. In this connection those who do not know how to concentrate on the central point of the Wheels, and who engage themselves in various kinds of Vase-Breathing exercises, will neither help the prana to enter nor remain inside [the Central Channel], because these practices can not tame the pranas and make them gather in the Central Channel. Consequently, neither the entering into nor the remaining in the Central Channel will come to pass; therefore, one must discriminate carefully.

As to the length or the duration of holding the Vase-Breathing, the Dom Jun Tantra says: [p. 188}

"Knowing the way of practicing Vase Breathing as instructed before,

The yogi then sits in a lotus posture.

One hand rubs the other three times,

And then he snaps his fingers six times.

The duration of thirty-six snappings

Is the length of time of Vase Breathing.

The best are (able to hold on) three times as long;

The length of more than one hundred snappings."

The left hand is supinely placed on the knee and is rubbed by the right hand three times; then six snaps are made with the fingers. This is one complete process. If one is able to hold the breath for 108 times of such duration, it is the best; to hold seventy-two times is the medium, and thirty-six times is the minimum. It is also said that whoever holds the breath for any of these three durations will be able to conquer death.

Now, the second:

The manner of the Arising of the Four Blisses through the Prana Entering into the Central Channel.

Of this, three expositions are given:

1. The appearance of the signs.

2. The manner of the firing of Dumo

3. The melting of the Bodhi-Heart.

The manner of the arising of the Four Blisses that are produced by the melting of the Bodhi-Heart will be discussed, and also the practice on the meditation of the Innate-Born-Wisdom. Now, the first: Through concentration on the central point of the Navel Center, the live prana enters into the Central Channel, whereupon signs will appear. These signs are explained by the accomplished Yogi Lawaba: [p. 189}

"The first sign is like the bewildered animals.

The second sign is the smoke.

The third sign is like the light of the firefly.

The fourth sign is like the lamplight.

The fifth sign is without any form,

It appears like the clear firmament without any clouds."

The first sign—the bewildered animals—means the phantasm. That is, in comparison with the other four signs, which are successively brighter one by one, the first sign is hazy and unclear like the phantasm (seen by bewildered animals in the distance). Some say this stanza cannot be interpreted literally, that the signs do not appear as the stanza relates. Some say it merely symbolizes the stability of the sign-appearing-consciousness, whether the experiences are stable or wavering. Some say the signs are like smoke. Of these three opinions, the last one is best. The intensiveness and stability (of the smoke and light) will depend on the alternation of the strong and weak wind; they cannot be uniform all the time.

There are two possible ways through which the sign of smoke can be experienced: first, the special skillful (Tantric) teachings through which the pranas are gathered into the Central Channel, as here instructed; second, the practice of the non-thought meditation through which the sign of smoke will also be experienced. The yogi should be extremely careful in discriminating between these two.

The signs experienced through the Tantric teachings are subject to the disturbance caused by the wicked earthly wind. The disturbance (or the retrogression of signs) can be differentiated in three degrees—the things of retrogression, the little retrogression, and the definite retrogression. The extreme outgoing winds from the different organs are [p. 190} being checked (by the practice) and turned inward. When a small portion of the outgoing winds is checked, the due portion of prana is reversed, and when this due portion of prana enters the Central Channel the appropriate sign will appear. From then on, the reversal (of prana) in the path and its unique signs will appear successively. There are a great many different signs to be experienced, but our concern is with the Life-Prana entering into the Central Channel, of which the complete process—from the phantasm stage to the clear sky of no-clouds—will take place.

When the earth element enters into the water element, the sign of the phantasm appears; when the water enters into the fire, the smoke sign appears; when the fire enters into the air, the fire spark appears; when the spark enters into the mind-prana—upon which the distracted thoughts ride—a steady lamp light burning in the air without any wind disturbance appears. By the power of these successively appearing signs, the yogi will attain the accomplishment of Mahamudra.

As to the kindling of Dumo, there are many different types, such as the kindling of Dumo in the Central Channel from the Navel Center and the Secret Center in the beginning stage; the kindling of Dumo outside of the Central Channel or the ordinary kindling. The manners of the kindling are also various, such as the kindling of the Dumo from the depth of the body; the kindling of Dumo in between the skin and the flesh, the intensive and weak kindling-warmness in the beginning stage; the kindling warmness going upward, blowing upward, and fleeing upward; and the strong and weak kindling. Of these kindlings, the former are better than the latter. The blisses produced by these varieties of kindling-warmness follow this pattern. In [p. 191} addition to these numerous experiences that arise successively, one should pay special attention to discriminate between the kindling of the unique Dumo, the kindling of the ordinary warmness, the bliss produced by prana and the bliss produced by prana and the bliss produced by the melting of elements.

If the unique Dumo is ever kindled, the appropriate Bodhi-Heart will melt. In this case the yogi will have no sickness caused by the unbalanced elements, while in the case of the ordinary kindling-warmness, the melting of the Bodhi-Heart is very uncertain; the gall secretion will increase; the feeling of bliss is always weak, and the pain induced by the warmness is great. If a qualified Dumo is kindled as it should be, the White Bodhi-Heart will melt and multiply the Red Bodhi-Heart. Dumo will also increase.

The melting of the Bodhi-Heart brings about the arising of the Four Blisses. The respective places wherein the down-coming Four Blisses arise are named in the Tantra Rdo-rje-rin-wa.

"At the Wheel of Great Bliss in the head,

The (first) bliss arises.

At the Wheel of Enjoyment [Throat],

The Superlative Bliss arises.

At the Wheel of Dharma [Heart],

The Beyond-Reach Bliss arises.

At the Wheel of Transformation [Navel] *,

The Innate Wisdom arises. p. 192

Thus, one shall experience these Blisses."

When the Bodhi-Heart coming down from the head reaches the throat, the first Bliss arises; from the throat coming down to the heart, the Superlative Bliss arises; from the heart coming to the navel the Beyond-Bliss arises; from the navel coming to the top of the precious organ the Innate-Bliss arises.

As to the up-going Blisses, the Tantra says:

"The up-going Blisses arise like this:

At the Wheel of Transformation arises the Bliss.

At the Wheel of Dharma arises the Superlative Bliss.

At the Wheel of Enjoyment arises the great Innate-Bliss,

This is the reverse of the process of bliss-arising."

These explanations are in accord with the Great Symbol Thig-le [72]. Each of the four down-coming and up-going Blisses can be divided into four, making the so-called sixteen portions of the Moon-Elements. Following the viewpoint of the Sun, each bliss can be divided into three, making the total of twelve.

72. Great Symbol Thig-le: A commentary on a Tantric book.

The [above] Tantra says:

"The signs of hare and so forth

Are the Thig-le of sixteen-fold bliss.

They are the substance of the Á-li [the vowels].

The four Wheels come in order.

Following these different sayings,

They can be understood as twelve Sun-Elements."

When the Bodhi-Heart goes upward or downward, the blood element always goes with it. As it reaches the four respective centers in each level of each center, a specific Bliss is experienced, making a total of sixteen. From the viewpoint of the intensiveness of the Bliss, the Bliss of each center can be divided into three—the Extreme Bliss, [p. 193} the Medium Bliss, and the Small Bliss—making a total of twelve. The experienced yogi should know the subtle differences between these. *

The four up-going Blisses should be much stronger than the down-coming Blisses. In the up-going process, until the reversed operation has become steady, the Bliss will not be steady at the Head Center. When the Head Center becomes steady, the Bliss will also be steady. Says the [same] Tantra [ibid.]:

"Upon the life is the mind;

Because of the reversal it flows,

Dwells in the center of the lotus's navel;

Thereafter, it will stabilize.

At that time the refuge will not go away.

As in a utensil without any hole,

The water in it will never be exhausted.

That is the time the bliss will become steady.

The Innate-Bliss (comes) from the stabilization,

Thus, the nerve-ending Buddha is accomplished

Through this way, the yogi attains his conviction."

The mind means the secretion (or drops). Reversal means reversing the process of the ordinary route. Stabilization means the head. These explanations are given in the Mang-snag, the intimate pith-instruction.

There are a great many pith-instructions. According to one of them when the warmness becomes stabilized, the [p. 194} Bodhi-Heart in the nerve begins to melt; because of the melting of Bodhi-Heart the Bliss arises. When the Bliss becomes steady, the Non-Discrimination (Wisdom) arises. This explanation is very general; it does not give the specific explanations on the up-going and the down-coming Blisses. Nor does it make clear the recognition of the great Innate Bliss. In view of this, I have given the explanations of the Four Blisses in two categories, as stated in the Tantras and instructed by the great accomplished yogis.

Generally speaking, there are two different kinds of Bliss—the Bliss produced through meditation, and the Bliss produced through ordinary ways. Through the dropping of the melted Bodhi-Heart to the Secret Center, one experiences the Bliss; however, even in this process the kindling of Dumo by which the Thig-le is melted is a necessary condition required in the production of such a Bliss. But though the Dumo is kindled and the Bodhi-Heart melted, this by no means implies the entering into the Central Channel. Therefore, it is understood that some individuals may experience the Bliss of Thig-le-Melting but not that of the Entering-into-the-Central-Channel, as experienced by those who practice the vital physical exercises, given in the pith-instructions.

As the Thig-le arrives at the top of the Vajra Jewel, there are great difficulties in holding it. In the beginning, the outer and inner methods are applied to let the Bodhi-Heart drop, but before it reaches the Jewel, it should be reversed with great force. However, if it is not properly spread over all the body, some sickness may arise. In view of this danger, one may try to spread the Thig-le with many different methods. However, he may not go far enough to differentiate between the Thig-le-Melting of the Entering-into-Central [p. 195} Channel and the Thig-le-Melting through the ordinary process. To sense the difficulty or the ease of holding the Thig-le, to carefully weigh whether or not to apply a very forceful halting exercise, to discover whether the Thig-le is properly spread and the danger of sickness avoided—these are necessary safeguards.

The reason and purpose for melting the Thig-le by the Dumo fire through meditation practices is to bring to pass the Innate Wisdom. To produce the Innate Wisdom requires, in general, the standing of the melting Thig-le below the navel; in particular, the halting of it at the Jewel. If it cannot be held for some time, the real Innate Wisdom can hardly arise.

The arising of the Great Bliss of the Innate Wisdom of Perfecting Yoga requires that the prana enter into and remain in the Central Channel. In case of the Thig-le melting through the Entering-into-Central-Channel, the yogi should still hold the Thig-le at the Jewel and not release it until the Innate Wisdom is fully unfolded. The yogi should visualize the Bodhi-Heart waveringly coming down from center to center, as if swayed by the wind, until it reaches the Jewel. This is to safeguard the out-going prana which might expel the Thig le. There are some who merely look for an easy way to produce the Melting Bliss without a fair command of the gathering of prana [into the Central Channel]. By doing this, the melting of the Bodhi-Heart may easily be experienced, but, if the Bodhi-Heart is not reversed to a higher level, it will be extremely difficult to reverse it when the Thig-le comes down too low, unless the melting is weak. Even if it is reversed, it must be reversed to a higher level and be spread well, otherwise certain illnesses will result. [p. 196}

In the case of the Entering-into-the-Central Channel as discussed before, none of these difficulties ever arise. Some may ask what steps one should take to reverse and spread the Thig-le when the disqualified Melting Bliss [73] arises. If the Melting Bliss is produced slowly and gradually, step-by-step, it will not be necessary to apply the forceful methods to reverse it to the Crown Center and spread it over all the Centers of the body. Thereby, should a great Bliss ever arise, the yogi will still be able to reverse and spread it. If a great Melting-Bliss is produced not through the gradual step-by-step process, but in a very quick and vehement manner, the following practices are advised.

73 There are various degrees of the Melting Bliss. Here, "disqualified" refers to a lower, more mundane, bliss, rather than the highest actual Melting Bliss.

Sit in a lotus position and visualize clearly the self-patron Buddha. Holding the two fists tight, cross them in front of the chest forcefully, staring upward with both eyes, contracting the toes, and fixing the mind on the Ham word at the Crown Center. Meanwhile, the yogi should utter a prolonged sound of Húm twenty-one times, thinking that the Thig-le ascends to the Crown Center through the Central Channel that is close to the spine. Then the yogi should practice the mild Vase Breathing and gently carry out the bodily movements. He should also think for many time (repetitions), that all the Thig-le's are thoroughly spread over all the nerves in his body.

How to Practice the Innate Wisdom

If, at the time of down-coming, when the Bodhi-Heart reaches the Jewel, the yogi is able to hold it within, the Innate Bliss will arise. Meanwhile, he should apply his view (on Reality) as instructed before (in the chapter discussing the Middle Way Doctrine). His mind should rest [p. 197} on the View, and safeguard the Void-Bliss feeling. Even if he does not have a good understanding of the View, he should avoid all disturbing thoughts and put himself right in the blissful feeling until it becomes steady.

In the up-going process, when the Thig-le reaches the Crown from the Jewel, the up-going Innate Wisdom will arise. The yogi should try to recognize it. Thus the identity of the Void-Bliss will be realized. He should also try to safeguard the single Bliss of Non-Thought as long as possible, as instructed [in the previous paragraph].

This should be one's practice in the meditation state. The practice of the after-meditation-state is explained as follows:

Generally speaking, whenever the Innate-Bliss arises in the after-meditation-state, automatically and naturally all manifestations appear to be blissful. However, this experience alone is by no means enough. If the yogi reminds himself about the Blissful-Void experiences of the real-meditation-state and identifies this experience with whatever manifests, an extraordinary Great Bliss will arise and he should safeguard it. Although this pith-instruction is not given by others, the Rngog-Pa School of the Marpa Succession gives many instructions on this aspect. This is the instruction of the Hevajra Tantra and other Tantras, and it should be kept from falling into oblivion. Thus, with the visualization of Dumo, the practice of Real-Meditation-State and After-Meditation-State, and the practice of breathing exercises of the Four Blisses, experience will be augmented. [p. 198}

The Outer Practice of Karmayoga

The practice of depending on outer conditions is the Karmayoga practice. (Both self and the Mudra should be the utmost well-gifted sentient being.) They should receive the perfect and pure initiation; observe the main and secondary Tantric precepts in a perfect degree; be proficient in all Mandala practices and affairs, and practice four periods without intermission every day; be acquainted with all the sixty-four qualifications and forms of the condition as instructed in the Books of Bliss; possess the power of halting the Bodhi-Heart within; have a definite understanding on the principle of Voidness and the successive steps of the Four Blisses, and especially be extremely learned in the field of the arising of the Innate Wisdom. These qualifications and requirements are stated in the Tantras and by many accomplished yogis; and they should all be fulfilled without the slightest concession. As to those who claim to have the so-called "profound teachings" and yet carry out the practice unscrupulously, there is nothing else but falling into the miserable path for them. The Tantra of Heruka (Mngong-abyung) says:

"(If one unscrupulously) practices the yoga which is not yoga,

And unconscientiously practices the Mudra,

Or claims the wisdom which is not wisdom,

There is not the slightest doubt that he will fall into hell."

If the outer conditions are utilized without the fulfillment of all requirements and qualifications, the sin is extremely great. This is admonished (by all teachers) and should always be carefully remembered. If one has not [p. 199} attained the capability of practicing this Yoga, one may practice on the (visualized) Vajra Dakini or the Non-Ego Mother, following the teachings of the Wisdom Symbol (Ye-shes-pyag-rgya). If the visualization is clear and steady, through such practice the Four Misses will arise. When the Innate-Bliss arises, if the yogi is capable of acting in the Bliss-Void, he should also apply his View-on-Reality and safeguard the oneness or Void-Bliss. If he cannot do so, through the power of the bliss, he may be able to attain a one-thought Samadhi.

Buddhist Tantra Teachings, END MATTER

Buddhist Tantra Teachings, LITERATURE  


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