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Buddhist Tantra Teachings


Chapter 8. The Yoga of the Light

The instruction on Light Yoga is given in two parts: The practice of Light Yoga in the waking state, and the practice of Light Yoga in the sleeping state.

This Light Yoga practiced in the daytime refers to the general or common Light (in contrast to the unique Tantric Light practice), which is the fundamental Dharma-essence apart from the realistic and nihilistic extremes [95]. This is the (so-called) Light-of-Object; the understanding or realization of which is (called) the Light-of-Object (literally, the Light-of-Comprehending-the-Object). This teaching is found in both Hinayana and Mahayana, in the Paramita Vehicle as well as in Tantra, and in the three Lower Tantras as well as the Highest Division of Tantra. It is a teaching common to all Buddhist schools. Sometimes it is called the Absolute Light. The unique Light (as taught in Tantra) is no different in essence from the common Light-of-Object. The difference lies in the Light-of-Subject, which (in the Tantric teachings) is the realization of the Innate Great Bliss.

95. Realistic and nihilistic extremes (or the Realistic and Nihilistic Views): According to Buddhism most of the philosophies and religious beliefs in the world are either "realistic" or "nihilistic." Realistic Views are those philosophies and beliefs that assert the absolute existence of beings, god, retribution, etc. Nihilistic Views are those philosophies that do not accept the existence of soul, reason, causation, and the like. Both of these extremes are erroneous, says Buddhism; as a matter of fact, these twoclingings are basic causes of Samsara. The right view is the view that transcends both extremes; namely, the Middle Way Doctrine.

The unique teaching of the Anuttara Tantra for the realization of the Innate Born Great Bliss, requires mainly the entering, remaining, and dissolving of the prana in the Central Channel, or the Bliss-of-the-Perfecting-Yoga. This Innate Great Bliss is not, however, produced through the melting of Thig-le, nor through the concentration practice of ordinary meditation—the no-thought experience apart from drowsiness and distraction. Neither is [p. 239} it produced through the taming of prana. For the Bliss produced through the taming of prana is quite different from the Innate Great Bliss. Through the taming of prana, the experience of brightness, no-thought, and bliss may be produced, but this bliss is different from the Innate Great Bliss. It may also be a Bliss-of-Melting, but it is not the same Bliss of the Arising Yoga—the Melting-Bliss is not produced through the prana entering into the Central Channel, etc. One should carefully distinguish the different Blisses, and understand them well.

As explained before, in the Heat Yoga, the Innate Great Bliss of the Perfecting Yoga should be merged with the well-studied View of the Soleness—thus arises the Void-Bliss Wisdom, called the Light, or the Light of the Path. In the practice of Perfecting Yoga, to unfold this light is required before the Illusory Bodies come to pass. In addition to this, many other practices are required for the raising of the Illusory Bodies. Here, the special Light practice is emphasized. The entering of Light requires a dependence on either the actual Illusory Body or on any similar illusory body.

The subsiding process of the Light [is now discussed].

The explanations on this subject are not very clear in most of the pith-instructions. However, there is a very good one that describes the process as follows:

The yogi should visualize himself as the Father and Mother Yidam. At the Dharma Wheel of the Heart Center in the Central Channel stands a blue Húm word on the Sun Disc.

From this Húm word emanate beams of light shining upon all the cosmos and purifying them; then the beams enter and are absorbed into the bodies of all sentient beings. [p. 240} Thereupon, all the sentient beings melt (and are absorbed) into the Mother Yidam. Then, in the downward absorbing process, the head of the Yidam vanishes, then the neck, the chest, etc., one by one, and are finally absorbed in the Húm word. At the same time, in the upward-absorbing process the toes first vanish into the leg, then the leg into the thigh, thigh into hips, hips into belly, and finally all are absorbed into the Húm word. Thereon, the lower part of the Húm word, the vowel ú, vanishes into theHa, and the Ha vanishes into the half-moon; the half-moon then vanishes into the Thig-le [here to be understood as binduEd.] and the Thig-le vanishes upward into the Nada. Since this Visualization of the absorbing process is concentrated upon the Heart Center in the Central Channel, if one can stabilize the Visualization, the pranas of the Ro-ma and Rkyang-ma will all enter, remain, and dissolve in the Heart Center in the Central Channel; the Four Voidnesses will successively arise; the Light of Path will augment. At this time, with blissful mind, one should unwaveringly meditate upon the Visualization.

As mentioned before, this commentary on the Illusory Body and Light Yoga is prepared on the pith-instructions of the Pao School. The instruction of the Light Yoga given above is based on the unique teaching of the Five Steps of Gsun-adus and it was introduced here as a little adornment for the pith-instructions.

In the Heat Yoga practice, if one can raise (unfold) the Innate [Wisdom-Bliss] through the entering of prana into the Central Channel, he will easily be able to raise the Innate Light at the time of Light Yoga practice. At least, he will be able to unfold it through the practice of the absorbing process (without difficulty). [p. 241}

If the practice of the Light of the Sleeping State can be done through holding the Light of Sleeping State by prana, which is the prerequisite practice of Dream Yoga, it accords with the instructions of many gurus. For holding the dream through prana is itself a very good method of practising the Light. At first, one should eat well and abundantly, and dress in very warm clothes (or cover oneself with a warm quilt). Depending on the needs and time the yogi should abandon sleep for two or three days, or sleep as usual (literally, do not abandon sleep). If he abandons sleep for two to three days, he will become too sleepy, and it will be difficult for him to recognize the Light of Sleep. Therefore, for the beginners, it is preferable to practice the Light Yoga in a comparatively light sleeping state. For the advanced yogi, whose meditation has already become steady, it is not necessary to abandon sleep; however, in order to test one's ability to recognize the Light in very deep sleeping state, he may abandon sleep for some days.

In the practice of the Light Yoga, the yogi should render offerings and pray to the Precious Ones, present the Gtor-mas to the Guards, and pray them to assist him in recognizing the Light of Sleep and in subduing all hindrances. He should visualize the Yidam's body, practise the Guru Yoga, and pray earnestly many times that his guru assist him to recognize the Light. The yogi should also repeatedly remind himself not to fall into dreams but to recognize the Voidness-of-Sleep when sleep comes.

The sleeping-posture should be as follows: Lie down on the right side, with the head to the north, the feet pointing south; the back, east; and the mouth, toward the west. Place the left foot on the right foot. This position is called [p. 242} the Lion-Sleep-Posture. Then, the yogi should visualize the self-Yidam body and also visualize a blue Húm word standing in the center of a lotus, with four green leaves extending in each direction, situated at the Heart Center in the Central Channel. On the four leaves there are four words—Ah, Nu, Da, Ra. (In some other instructions no word is visualized on the four leaves). The Ah word sits on the leaf in the east; the Nu word; in the south; the Da, in the west; the Ra, north. When one feels sleepy, he concentrates on the Ah word; when he feels very sleepy or insensible, he should concentrate on the Nu word; thus the First Voidness will appear. When the yogi concentrates on the Da word, the Second Voidness or the Extreme Voidness will emerge; when he concentrates on the Ra word, the Third Voidness or the Voidness of Attainment will emerge. Thereupon, when the yogi concentrates on the Húm word in the center, the Fourth Voidness or the Universal Voidness will emerge.

It is said that successively visualizing these four words will cause the Four Voidnesses to emerge successively. However, this saying makes little sense, because some do not understand that in meditating on these words at the Heart Center in the Central Channel, the life prana will automatically gather; consequently, the Four Voidnesses will arise. Based on this reasoning, one should not misinterpret the text "visualizing the word of the center at the Heart." The essential thing is to visualize at the central point of the Heart Center in the Central Channel. Because the words of the instructions are not clear, it is wrongly said that concentrating on the three words on the three leaves will produce the Three Voidnesses. This opinion completely misses the essential point of the teaching. Therefore, [p. 243} we may dispense with this Ah, Nu, Da, Ra word-practice, which is difficult and results in little benefit.

The important thing is to concentrate on the Húm word in the center.

There are two different kinds of meditator of the Sleeping Light: the yogi who has attained a stable Samadhi of the visualized object before (engaging in this practice), and the yogi who has not attained a stable Samadhi. In the latter case, the yogi will attain a Sleeping Samadhi immediately after he falls into sleep through holding his mind on the instructions given before, but this Sleeping Samadhi will last only a very short while. Therefore, relying merely on the mindfulness of recognizing the sleeping state, through desire will not give one a stable Samadhi even though great efforts are made. For if one cannot "hold" the Light through the prana power, the inhalation and exhalation will still take place. Though the breathing may be very subtle and calm, the breath cannot be completely stopped. Thus a counterpart of the Fourth Emptiness will emerge but not the real Fourth Emptiness. Consequently, the Sleeping Light cannot be (fully) recognized.

In the case of the yogi who has already attained a stable Samadhi and has mastered the Heat Yoga capable of gathering the Life Prana in the Central Channel and raising the Fourth Emptiness, he will have no difficulty in unfolding the Light-of-the Sleeping-State. If he follows the instructions as given before and visualizes the Húm word in the Central Channel at bedtime, he will be able to unfold the Fourth Emptiness of the Sleeping State through the dissolving process of prana within two or three days.

If the yogi cannot unfold the Emptiness through the prana power in the daytime, but if he attains a stable Samadhi [p. 244} with the experience of bliss, brightness and non-thought, he may either follow the foregoing instructions or absorb himself in his Samadhi to reach the state of Sleeping Samadhi. Some people say that if one has attained a stable Samadhi of any general type it is not necessary for one to lead the prana entering into the Central Channel. This is not correct, for doing so will not bring about the actual Sleeping-Light of Anuttara Tantra. Nevertheless, if the yogi concentrates at the Heart-Center, through the power of the habitual thought produced by the practice he may well bring about the fruit. Though through the power of any general Dhyana one may induce a certain sleeping samadhi with the capability of contemplating on the Soleness and the Light of the general Paths (Hinayana and Mahayana Path), that is by no means the Light as taught by the teaching of Anuttara Tantra [FN]*.

Recognizing the Light through the prana power by concentrating on the Heart Center will cause the Four Voidnesses to successively arise; the manner of their emergence is explained as follows:

Meditating upon a Thig-le in the Heart Center at the deep-sleeping state in the preparatory stage will cause a perfect Light-of-No-Thought to emerge. Even if it does not emerge and the yogi falls asleep, his prana will naturally gather in the Central Channel. As instructed before, if one [p. 245} is able to gather the pranas in the Central Channel in the daytime practice and practises the concentration of the Húm word at the Heart Center in the Central Channel before bedtime, the pranas will be gathered easily in the Central Channel. The experiences of the emergence of the Voidness are as follows: First, the yogi sees the water-reflection-like mirage, then it vanishes and becomes smoke. The yogi sees many sparkling lights like those of the glowworm, then they vanish again and become the stable light of a lamp. This light vanishes, and the yogi sees the manifestation as the lucid Thig-le like moonlight shining in the clear sky. The serene moonlight spreads over all the universe; this experience is called the "Voidness" or the "Emergence." Then the vision vanishes again, and the yogi experiences all his mental manifestations appearing to be a clear sky and sees the all-spreading glaring sunlight, its color not like the blazing fire-ball but sparkling and gleaming. This experience is called the "Extreme Emptiness" or the "Augmentation of Manifestation." Then the yogi experiences, as the sky extending over all the universe, his mental manifestations appearing to be the dark firmament at night, dark but not black. At this time, if the yogi concentrates on the upper part of the body, the vision will not disappear; if he concentrates on the lower part of the body, the mind will become dim and dull; however, this experience is not harmful. Keeping one's mind on the instruction, the yogi cultivates this experience of darkness and eventually a very stable "Light" will emerge. The emergence of this light is called the "Great Emptiness" or the "Manifestation of Attainment."

When the yogi arises from the darkness, a vision like the clear sky of dawn will emerge, which is neither exactly [p. 246} like the color or shape of the sky, nor like the sunlight, moonlight, or darkness. This stage is called the "Universal Voidness." He should try to absorb himself in this great voidness as long as possible.

In the teaching of Gsun-adus of the Marpa School, one may find instructions for avoiding either the sudden awakening from sleep or the falling into dream state.

The Four Voidnesses are also called the Four Blisses. The Fourth Voidness is identified with the supreme Innate Bliss. The rapturous and non-thought aspects of this Innate Bliss are expediently called "bliss"; actually they are two characteristics among others of the Voidness which are seen as clearly (by the enlightened beings) as one sees his own palm.

The teaching of the identity of Bliss and Void of the Unparalled-Vehicle [96] is to meditate on the View of the Soleness together with the produced Bliss, as mentioned before. Although this term, the Identity-of-Bliss-Void, is claimed by many, there are numerous incorrect and misleading explanations of the teaching. They are similar, [to the true teaching Ed.] but erroneous; one should examine them very carefully.

96. Unparalleled Vehicle: The Highest Division of Tantra, Anuttara Tantra. [This appellation is a term used by the Madhyamika apologists themselves. Many would disagree. See the [p. 281} discourse on the Gotra concept in the Introduction as well as the previous footnote in the text.] Ed.

Although the pith-instructions of this school are many, in this connection there is no mentioning of the "Three Voidnesses." Some people avow the "Four Voidnesses principle," but it seems not befitting here. One may not be able to find this point in the pith-instructions of the Rngog-pa School; nevertheless, it is clearly stated in the book of Spyod-bsdus (Collective Instructions on Performances—commentary of Gsun-adus), which says:

"The skandhas then enter into the subtle elements, the subtle elements into the consciousness, the consciousness [p. 247} into the subtle-consciousness (Sattva), the subtle-consciousness into the Blindness. * Following this proceeding and coordinating with it, the sleeping procedure is reversed. At the time the 'Entering-process' of consciousness, of subtle consciousness, and of the great Blindness takes place, in a split second the yogi forgets his meditation (or completely fails to keep his attention on the meditation-object). Later, when the forgetfulness is overcome, the Light—essence of the wisdom—will shine forth. If one can liberate himself from the forgetfulness, he will attain the 'essence' through the Prana (force). If any dream takes place during this time, the yogi should try to reverse the sleeping-procedure and concentrate as long as possible on the illuminating Light."

Having fully understood the secret meaning of the books of the accomplished one, I have given the explanations on the Four Voidnesses and the (practical) instructions on holding the Light. These instructions cannot be found anywhere else [97]; one should try to understand them properly and follow them.

97. A little bit presumptuous in the translator's opinion.

In the above quotation, "the skandhas" means the crude visions; "the subtle elements" implies the time when the elements enter into the prana—that is, the time when the earth, water, and fire elements successively subside from one to another until the fire elements enter into prana. "Entering into the consciousness" means that the prana subsides into the consciousness; here, the consciousness means the First Voidness. The "Sattva" implies the stage of the Augmentation; "entering" implies the consciousness enters or (subsides) into this stage. "The Blindness" [p. 248} means the stage of Attainment. "Following this proceeding and coordinating with it" means the yogi should coordinate and combine himself with the Three Voidnesses at the time of sleep.

In short, this quotation from the "Collective Instruction on Performance" is the essence summarized from Ye-shes-rdo-rje. "This time" means the time of sleep. The "entering-process of the three consciousnesses [98]" means that former consciousnesses successively enter into the later consciousnesses, and at the time of the third stage of the third consciousness the mind becomes dim. "Later" implies the time after the attainment, or the "After-stage" of the Attainment. "When the forgetfulness is overcome" denotes the time when one awakes from the non-thought consciousness in the deeply slumbering state—the experience is like beholding the clear sky at dawn. During this time no other visions (or thoughts) come to pass. "If [there is] liberation [from forgetfulness Ed.], the prana arouses the essence [99]." Before the various dreams come in sight, one should try to concentrate on the Light as long as possible. Here, the "liberation" implies the Light Samadhi; if the Samadhi becomes dim or weakened and the yogi is forced to arise from it, through the force of the (moving) prana the flowing-thoughts will also be set in motion; whereupon the dreams also take place. In case no dream whatsoever arises (at this time) the yogi should meditate on the Light without distraction as long as possible.

98. This paragraph is very confusing. Either Tsong Khapa himself made the mistake by quoting this sentence that does not appear in the preceding paragraph, or the negligence of the Tibetan book printer caused the mistake. [The sentence ismentioned and here we have straightforward commentary. See our footnote on page 247.] Ed.

99. Here is another incongruous statement about the quotation. The sentence that appeared in the foregoing paragraph was "Ya!n grol ba na rlu!n gis ra!n bzin rnyeg de." But here Tsong Khapa quotes it as "Ya!n grol ba rlu!n gis ra!n bzin gyos te." The meaning and implications of these two sentences are completely different. Since the original text of the quoted matter is not available at present, the translator has no sure way to correct this mistake. [See editor's note to note 88 and text. We disagree with the translator that there is any essential difficulty here, the reference to the quotation existing and being uniquely determinable.]

If the yogi is able to bring forth the Samadhi of Sleep, but not to produce the "Light" through the prana-holding-practice, he may experience the transparency and clearness in the Samadhi of Sleep, but (since it follows not the way of Light Yoga) the Three Voidnesses preceding the sleeping-stage [p. 249} would never appear. Therefore, it by no means can be considered as having the qualifications and significance of the "Light of Sleep." Besides, in the Samadhi of Sleep, the qualified and plentiful experiences of the mirage, smoke, etc., preceding the First Voidness will never come into being, but only those resembling them.

One should acquaint oneself with the two different Lights of the Light of Sleep, i.e., the Light in Experience and the Light in Realization—also the thick and thin Light, or the bright and dim Light. Though many people declare that the thoughtless, lucid, and transparent Samadhi of Sleep is identical with the Light of Sleep, no sufficient reason is found for this claim.

This exposition, based upon the teaching of the "Holy Father and Son" [see last paragraph, Chapter Two Ed.], of the Light Yoga with both the instructions on the Light of Daytime and the Light of Sleep, is given here after careful studies and contemplations. Thus one should hold it dear as most valuable instruction.

If one has tried his best to remain in the Light, but, because of the drifting prana is unable to hold on, one may then resort to the special teaching on dream-arisings given in the pith-instruction of Gsun-adus of the Marpa School.

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