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Buddhist Tantra Teachings


Part 2. The Six Yogas of Naropa [in Tsong-Kha-Pa's Commentary] [FN 1]

Entering the Profound Path through the Successive Teaching of the Six Yogas of Naropa, Which Is Named the Book of the Three Faiths [1].

1. Three Faiths: The enumerative terminology of Buddhism becomes very complicated, so that unless one belongs to a particular school it is not always possible to say with certainty what terms like "The Three Faiths" and "The Four Hindrances" refer to. Here it may be presumed, however, that the Three Faiths refer to the disciple's progress in Buddhism through three stages: Veneration (respect for Buddha and practice of the precepts); Understanding (reached by studying Buddhist philosophy); and Realization (highest personal attainment through practice of meditation and other Yogic practices. Likewise in understanding the Six Yogas, the disciple who hears of them, venerates them. Next, he gains the faith of understanding by studying them. Third, he achieves the faith of realization by practicing them. Hence, the relevance of calling the Six Yogas also The Book of the Three Faiths [or The Book of Threefold Faith Ed.].

[p. 124, 125}


With great respect I bow down to the Lotus-Feet of the revered gurus who are identical with the great Vajra Dhara [2].

2. Vajra Dhara: (Rdor-rje-chang, in Tibetan) lit. "Thunderbolt Holder." This is the Buddha from whom all Tantric teachings originated, according to tradition.

I prostrate myself in front of His supreme Body, Mouth and Mind!

I bow down to my guru and his omnipresent miraculous powers!

He who grants all wishes (of ours),

He who possesses all the merits and virtues,

He who is the mighty master, the embodiment of Vajra Dhara!

To him, the mighty lord of eight merits, I render my obeisance,

Gathering all the quintessence of the profound Tantras.

The accomplished masters Deropa and Naropa, through their lineage, handed down this teaching!

It is known as the Six Yogas of Naropa,

It is the teaching heard in all directions!

Following its path, the hard-working and well-gifted disciples

Are led to the plane of the saviours!

Through a careful and continuous study

Of the teachings by the successive gurus in the lineage,

I now elucidate for you the way to liberation!

Chapter 1. Introduction

It is the intention of the author to relate the secret, yet famous teachings of the profound Six Yogas of Naropa in two steps. First, the preparatory practice. Second, the main practice of the teaching itself.

The first step includes two groups of teachings, the ordinary preparatory works of Mahayana Buddhism, and the extraordinary preparations for the Supreme Vehicle [3]. About the first group two questions must be answered: (1) Why is it necessary to make an effort in the ordinary practice of Mahayana Buddhism? (2) How should one actually practice them? Let us discuss the first point. It is absolutely necessary to work step by step on the preparations both for the Paramita Vehicle [4] and the True Word Vehicle [5]. As admonished by Lama Rngog-pa [6], the one who held the traditional way of preaching of Marpa (he quoted from the Tantra of Two Forms [7]):

3. Supreme Vehicle: Tantric teachings, the Diamond Vehicle (Vajrayana). The term "Tantricism" is not used in Buddhist countries, instead the terms Hinayana, Mahayana, and for the esoteric teachings, Vajrayana, are used.

4. Paramita Vehicle: the Bodhisattva's Path; the esoteric teaching of the practice of Mahayana Buddhism.

5. True Word Vehicle: Vajravana (Buddhist Tantricism); the esoteric teaching. [Literally "Thunderbolt Vehicle", associated with doctrines of sudden enlightenment and the Short Path to liberation for those who take the Kingdom by storm. The cognate Tibetan term rDo-rje connotes "Diamond," i.e. pure and irresistible.—Ed.]

6. Lama Rngog-pa: One of the chief disciples of Marpa (See Biography of Milarepa).

7. Tantra of Two Forms (Tibetan Stags-gnyis): The main Tantra of Hevajra.

The disciple must first give and offer . . . till . . .

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

After that, he is to be given

The teaching of the Middle Way [8].

8. The implication of this quotation is that the student should advance step by step from the practices of a novice serving [p. 271} his guru until he understands the Doctrine of the Middle Way (Madhyamika).

Both schools (exoteric and esoteric) of Mahayana Buddhism exhort the disciples to observe the basic practices and teachings of Buddha, there is no exception, even in Tantra. The Jetsun Milarepa also said that if one wants to know how to liberate oneself in Bardo, one should first practice the prayer of Taking the Three Refuges, then bring forth the Bodhi Heart of Vow and the Bodhi Heart [p. 127} of Performance (see note 15). Even then it should be known the misfortune-bringer always turns out to be one's close friend. The fallers in the abyss are the men who follow the cattle.

Thus, if anyone does not observe the precepts strictly after having taken the oath of Tantra, both he and his guru will fall into danger. It is also said that by merely hearing the advantages of the esoteric teachings one may apply (the initiations) in an easy-going manner which is very dangerous and often leads to disasters. The Jetsun Mila was blessed by the Goddess [9] for having preached the Bardo preparation in such a manner. Thus we know that the fundamental teachings of Buddha are essential and necessary to all schools. His holiness Gampopa also urged in his Commentary on the Four Dharmas that all Buddhists should follow the Three Gradual Paths of Lam-rim [10] in the beginning stage of his way to Buddhahood.

9. Goddess: Lit. the Sky-traveling-lady (Dakini), female angelic deity.

10. Three Gradual Paths of Lam Rim: Lam Rim (Steps to Buddhahood) was Tsong Khapa's great contribution to Buddhist literature, in which he pointed out the necessity for a gradual progress of the disciple, beginning with the Lower Path (observation of ethics); through the Middle Path (understanding of the Four Noble Truths); to the Highest Path (observation of the Bodhisattva's Vow and Precepts).

Some disciples may raise the question: Why did not Jet-sun Pag-mo-grubpa and other great masters mention any of these preparations in their books on the Six Yogas? This is simply because the preparatory teachings had already been given, and the teachings of the Six Yogas were to be given to those who had already completed the preparatory practice. In their admonishments to the monastic orders, the masters clearly emphasized the importance of the preparatory practices. If one follows these instructions one will be freed from partiality. This is the vital point of both esoteric and exoteric Buddhism; the reader should especially note it.

Now the second question. How should one actually practice the preparatory teaching? According to the Great Jetsun (Adisha) [11], the disciple should first find a qualified [p. 128} guru of Mahayana Buddhism, think of his teachings and practice them under his instructions wholeheartedly.

11. Adisha (A. D. 980-1052): Famous Indian Buddhist who journeyed to Tibet and founded the Bgha-gdams-b'a School.

After this, he should then follow the guru's instruction to contemplate the difficulties of attaining this present precious and meaningful human birth. Thus he fervently determines to make right use of this human body; he also learns that to make the most of it is to enter the path of Mahayana in which the first step is to awaken the Heart-for-Bodhi. If the Heart-for-Bodhi is actually awakened in one's heart, he is then able to practice Mahayana Buddhism truly and naturally, otherwise his Malayana will merely be a word. Therefore, the wise Buddhist must strive step by step to put an end to the wrong thoughts adverse to the Heart-for-Bodhi [12].

12. According to Buddhist belief, the human embodiment is the best in which to work for liberation, since the heaven-body is too blissful, whereas lower births or embodiments are too full of suffering.

If he does not completely give up thoughts concerned with the wordly affairs of this life, he will encounter many difficulties in the practice of both Hinayana and Mahayana. Always he should remind himself that this life is short. Always he should think of his inevitable death and warn himself of the possibility of falling into a lower birth after his departure from this world. Furthermore, he should realize that to strive for a happier birth in his next life is still of no avail, for everything in Samsara is transient and untenable. Rather he should exert himself to attain Liberation, he should continuously make an effort to widen his compassion and kindness as these qualities are the roots of the Heart-for-Bodhi. He should try to reach a state in which the compassionate Bodhi-Heart arises spontaneously without effort.

With a desire for learning the way of the Bodhisattva's actions, he should gladly undertake the Bodhisattvas’ responsibilities and compassionate deeds. With this in [p. 129} mind, he is to observe the precepts of the Bodhisattva and study and practice the Six Paramitas in general. He should particularly pay attention to the preparatory works for Dhayana [13], namely, the fitness and readiness of his mind for meditation. He should also study and practice the teachings of the Prajana Paramita, contemplating on the magic-like and space-like [14]nature of all beings. Thereafter, if he is capable of taking the Tantric precepts on himself, he should study the Guru's Fifty Stanza and follow its instructions to serve his guru. In this manner, he should set about the practices of Tantra.

13. Dhayana: Buddhist term for a special psychic state of absolute concentration.

14. Terms referring to the illusory, non-real, and void nature of Samsaric existence.

If he has not undergone these preparatory works step by step, he can never conquer the craving of this life. Thus he has no chance to become a steady and unwavering devotee. By no means then shall he possess unfeigned faith, or an absolute devotion in his heart. He is uncertain about the law of Karma, and he will become an unscrupulous Buddhist who observes no precepts whatsoever. He will have no abomination for Samsara. There will be no tranquility in his mind; therefore, his striving for liberation is merely a talking with no meaning at all. Since kindness and compassion cannot grow within him, he has no chance of developing the spontaneous Wish-for-Heart-of-Bodhi [15]. At most he is a nominal Mahayana Buddhist. He lacks a strong desire to learn the actions of a Bodhisattva so that the peacefulness of abiding-in-goodness will never come to him. A steadfast understanding of Meditation and Wisdom will never come to him; he will always be confused at the delicate discriminations on Samadhis. Nor is there a chance for him to attain, an unwavering understanding of the non-Ego truth. If one wants to avoid the aforementioned dangers, he should work hard on the preparatory [p. 130} practices for Mahayana. This is clearly advocated and elucidated by His Holiness Adisha, who received the teaching from the Maitreya-Asanga lineage and also the teachings from the Manjushri Nagra-juna-Ziwala lineage, and put them together as if to combine the three rivers into one to show that preparatory works are necessary both to the Paramita Path and to the Diamond Path.

15. The chief aim of Mahayana Buddhism, to develop the Heart-for-Bodhi, includes two aspects: (1) the wish or pure desire for this state, called "Wish-for-Heart-of-Bodhi"; and (2) the vow to practice to achieve this aim. "Practice-for-Heart-of-Bodhi."

Buddhist Tantra Teachings, END MATTER

Buddhist Tantra Teachings, LITERATURE  

FN 1 (p. 123). We have, in the text, allowed the translator's Naropa, frequent Milarepa and Dumo to stand, instead of correcting to Náropá, Milaraspa and Gtum-mo, since the loose orthography in such instances does no severe violence to the actual pronunciation. Similar instances were treated likewise. Ed.


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