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Buddhist Tantra Teachings


Chapter 2. Special Preparations

The Jetsün Milarepa also said in his song:

"Good and evil do never fail

To bring about corresponding fruits;

Hence, one should be extremely careful to avoid evil deeds.

Even petty misbehaviours, one must forbid;

For the law of retribution never fails,

And the misery in the Lower Paths is hard to bear!

If anyone realizes not the faults of desire

And the consequences of pleasure,

He can never resign ardent longings!

Then, from the Samsaric Prison he has no way to escape.

One should therefore remind oneself:

All these desires are delusions!

Bearing this understanding in mind

One may work on the cure of the kleshas!"

If one remembers not the gratitude one owes

To the father- and mother-like sentient beings in the Six Paths,

One is liable to fall down to the Small Vehicle, (Hinayana).

Therefore one should foster great compassion,

And learn to nourish the Bodhi-Heart."

Milarepa said in another song:

"I am so much afraid of the Eight Non-Freedoms [16]

That I continuously think of the faults of Samsara

And the transiency of beings! p. 132

I submit myself completely to the care of the Three Precious Ones!

I strictly discipline myself in all karmic doings.

By repeatedly practising the Heart-for-Bodhi,

I dispel the enduring shadow of Habitual-Thinking [17],

Realizing that all the manifestations are delusory magic

Of the Three Miserable Paths, I have no fear nor alarm!"

16. Eight Non-Freedoms: Conditions in which it is impossible to practice Buddhism, such as falling into the realms of hell, hungry ghosts, or animals; being born at a time when there is no Buddha, or before a Buddha begins preaching, or in a country where there is no Buddhist teaching; lacking the intelligence to understand Buddhism; becoming absorbed in the Samadhi of non-form.

17. Habitual-Thinking: The clinging of ego and the kleshas, is the cause of all sufferings and Samsara, and has its roots in the peculiarly human ceaseless, and automatic type of thinking (mentation).

In view of these admonishments (by the celebrated masters), one ought to work hard in the preparatory practices until one's mind is consolidated. One should bear in mind that to complete a perfect journey, a clear knowledge is needed of the route and what is required for the journey. This is not a light matter. In fact, the most important and crucial of all the teachings is the preparation work, or the "Common Foundation of All Practice."

In the second group of teachings, the extraordinary preparations for the Supreme Vehicle, there are also two types of preparations, the general and the special. The general preparation for the Supreme Vehicle means to attain a complete initiation, and to observe the precepts of Tantra. I want to expound the attainment of initiation first.

According to the tradition of the Marpa lineage, as demonstrated by Me-sdon and Ngo-sdon [18], whoever aspires to the practice of the Arising Yoga and of the Secret Doctrine Perfect Yoga [19] must first obtain the complete Four Initiations. When Milarepa first saw Gambopa, he asked Gambopa whether he had obtained the complete initiations before importing to him the teachings of the Six Yogas. Gambopa said, "Like a fine copper utensil ready for filling with butter, I am quite ready." Thereupon, Milarepa bestowed upon him the teachings and Pith Instructions [20]. Milarepa also urged Gambopa to encourage [p. 133} the Bari Translator to come for initiations. Many instances like this have been told.

18. Mes-sdon and Ngo-sdon: Two chief disciples of Milarepa. Ngo-sdon is mentioned in Milarepa's biography.

19. Arising Yoga: The first stage of Yoga; Perfect Yoga is the final or complete stage. The purpose of the Arising Yoga is to bring the mind and body to perfect control and to set the mind upon the practice of visionary concentration. The Perfect Yoga emphasizes the transformation of the body and mind. It is a final psycho-physical practice.

20. Pith-Instructions: The essential practical key directions for Yogic practice communicated privately from Guru to disciple.

The great master Pag-mo-grub-pa also considered the attainment of the Four Initiations was necessary for the disciples. In accordance with the teachings of these great masters of the Marpa Lineage in the past, a disciple must have the complete Four Initiations before the bestowal of Tantric teachings. This point is emphasized in many Tantras; for instance, the Second Ti-Li of the Mahámudra Tantra says:

"When the disciple starts to learn the teaching,

He should first try to obtain an initiation.

After the attainment of initiation,

He will then become a candidate

Capable of receiving the grand esoteric teachings!

"Without Initiations there will be no accomplishment!

If he grinds sand, no butter will ever come out of it.

If he has obtained no initiation

And unscrupulously relates the teaching of Tantra,

Both he and his disciples will go to hell immediately after their deaths,

Even if they are accomplished beings!

Therefore, all diligent persons should look for a Guru for Initiation."

The Second Tantra of Rdor-bred says:

"The most important matter is initiation;

All the accomplishments depend on it.

I now tell you this essential truth;

To it, you should pay first attention.

When one intends to be a follower of Tantra,

One should first attain a perfect initiation.

Having attained this initiation, one is thus p. 134

Capable of practicing the Perfecting Yoga!

If a disciple has all knowledge about Tantra

But never attained the initiation,

Both he and his followers will fall into the great hell!"

Both the acquisition of the Pith-Instructions, and (the transformation from common capacity to) the competency-in-Tantra depend on initiation. Therefore, initiation is the root of all accomplishments. Without initiation, no matter how diligently one may strive, he will achieve no accomplishments whatsoever. Also, there is a definite danger that both the guru and disciples are liable to fall into hell.

The Tantra of Bde-mchog says:

"If a Tantric Yogi who desires to practice a certain

Yoga, has never seen the Mandala,

All his efforts will be in vain,

As a man trying to beat the sky with his fist,

Or a fool taking the mirage for water."

According to these sayings, the disciples should first be sent into the Mandala and given the complete Water and Crown Initiations. This is necessary, for if one depends on the Partial Initiation, such as the consecration from one particular Buddha and the fragmentary performance of initiation, it can only be considered a preparatory work preceding the "real, complete Initiation." Although there is no fault in depending on the Partial or Concise Initiation, it is by no means sufficient. A great and complete Initiation is necessary, as admonished in many Tantras and by many learned and accomplished teachers.

Having attained the Initiation of Hevajra [21], if one can also obtain the initiation of Bde-mchog, it will be very useful to him, because these two teachings are very closely connected with each other. [p. 135}

The explanation for the necessity of observing the Tantra precepts follows.

21. Hevajra and Bde-mchog: names of two important Tantric Buddhas.

During the ceremony when the Guru and all the Buddhas' Sons [22] imparted the initiation to the disciple, the disciple had sworn to observe the precepts and to follow all the admonishments. Having been shown how the precepts should be observed in the initiation ceremony, he was made fully aware of his responsibilities. He should observe the precepts accordingly. As said in the basic Tantra of Bde-mchog:

22. Buddha's Sons: The Bodhisattvas.

"The experts in Dhyana, the advanced Yogis,

Should always observe their precepts carefully.

Whoever violates the Tantric precepts

Will never accomplish anything in Mandala,

He will attain no Siddhis whatsoever."

The Tantra of Mnyam-sbyor (Balanced Actions) says:

"If one has never entered the Mandala,

If one violates one's oaths,

If one knows not the esoteric Pith-Instruction,

No matter how hard one practices,

There will be no accomplishment!"

It is clearly stated that if the disciple has not entered the Mandala and obtained the initiation, or if he does not observe the precepts and know the teaching of the Two Steps of the Arising Yoga thoroughly, he will never attain any accomplishments—even if he practises a long time.

If he has attained the teachings of the Highest Division of Tantra and claims to be a Tantric Yogi, he must know the Fundamental and Secondary Precepts of Tantricism [23]. Therefore, he should discipline himself well and observe the precepts carefully.

23. The Fundamental Precepts: Contain Fourteen Rules; the Secondary Precepts are the so-called Eight Transgressions.

After these general preparations we now consider [p. 136} special preparations, which are the supreme preparation practice. After the disciple has learned the necessary supreme preparation practices such as the general virtuous deeds, the attainment of Initiation, and the observation of Tantric Precepts, he should then begin the essential Tantric practice: the Guru Yoga, Vajrasattva Yoga, and the Mandala Offering Performance. Based upon the traditional sayings of the Gurus in the past, the explanation of the Vajrasattva Yoga and the Guru Yoga follows:

Vajrasattva Yoga is designed for cleansing the sins and removing the obstacles of the disciples, while the Guru Yoga is designed for the bestowal of blessing and grace on the disciples. First, the Vajrasattva Yoga:

He should earnestly devote himself to taking refuge in the Three Precious Ones like a hunted prey. He should also think of his fellow men, the infinite sentient beings, who are drowned in the ocean of suffering with him. As a matter of fact, they were all once his own mothers [24]. Hence he should remind himself of the immense debt of gratitude that he owes them—think how much work has to be done by a mother to bring up a child; think how a mother protects her child from dangers, illness, hunger. By constantly bearing such thoughts in mind, a resolute will to benefit the mother-like sentient beings will arise in one's heart. Then he should think further that all the seeming pleasures they may enjoy in Samsara will end in vanity and pain, and he should make a fervent oath: "I will bring all happiness by all possible means to sentient beings. I will set them free from all sufferings and unhappiness." He realizes that to materialize this wish there is no other way but to look for attainment of Buddhahood; thus a genuine Heart-for-Bodhi may arise within him. He fully understands that it is for [p. 137} the sake of sentient beings that he hopes for the Supreme Enlightenment and practices the Yoga of this Tutelary Buddha—Vajrasattva. The Tantra of the Essence of Adornment says:

"He (Vajrasattva), who is the body of all Buddhas,

Sits on the Moon Wheel upon the white lotus

Holding the Thunderbolt and Bell with all ornaments.

A devotee should visualize the Vajrasattva in this manner.

He should also practice the Incantation of the Hundred Words [25]

For twenty times in one performance.

By doing this, even the sinful ones will be blessed."

24. According to the philosophy of reincarnation, in endless cycles of rebirths every sentient being is related as parent to child.

25. The incantation of Vajrasattva, which comprises one hundred words.

Those accomplished masters also said:

"In between the meditation periods

One should recite the incantation.

If one recites it one hundred thousand times, one's sins will be completely purified."

This means if he practices the Hundred Words Incantation of Vajrasattva twenty-one times in the interval of meditation periods, his transgressional sins in the Yoga practice will not grow; if he recites the incantation one hundred thousand times, his sins will all be cleansed. Thus one should practice this Yoga according to the following procedure.

Visualize a white lotus on the top of your head. In the center of the lotus is an Ah word which is transformed into a Moon Wheel. Upon the Moon Wheel stands a Húm word, which transforms into a Thunderbolt, and from this Thunderbolt's lower part a Húm word radiates infinite beams of light (by which the Two Acts [26] are performed). It shines forth reaching to the Buddha's Pure Land and [p. 138} renders offerings and services. Then it returns and shines downwards into the lower Lokas to relieve the sufferings of the sentient beings. Then the light retracts to the Húm word and instantaneously becomes the Buddha Vajrasattva—his body is white, his right hand holds a Thunderbolt, and his left hand holds a bell. He also holds the Mother Buddha, the White Mother of Elegance. She has all the ornaments adorning her body and holds the Curved Knife and Human Skull. Her beauty and elegance are beyond description. She sits in a Lotus Posture and her body bears the thirty-two glorified marks and eight subsidiary signs of Buddha's body. In the Mother's heart lies a moon, upon which the white Húm word radiates infinite light to the Buddha's land inviting the Wisdom Buddha to come down. When the Wisdom Buddha descends, remember to perform the Five Offerings and say Tsa Húm Bom Hoo—to consolidate the Buddha. And, from the Mother's heart, the light again emanates to invite all the Buddhas in the universe to come down. You should earnestly pray them to grant you the Initiation. Then think that from all the nectar-filled vases held in the hands of all the Mother Buddhas, there begins to flow out the nectar to fill your body. Thus the Initiation is given to you. Meanwhile you should recite: Aum Sarwa Da Ta Ga Da Ah Bi Ke Gada Samaya Shir Ye Húm! After the initiation, the over-flowing nectar gathers over your head and crystallizes into an image of the immutable Buddha (Me Gy Ba) to adorn your head. Thereupon, with the greatest sincerity of your body, mouth, and mind, you should pray as follows:

"O! Bhagavat Vajrasattva! Pray cleanse all the sins and transgressional evils of mine and of other sentient beings!"

26. The Two Acts: Offering self to Buddha, and offering self for the liberation of sentient beings.

Moved by your sincere prayer, Buddha Vajrasattva [p. 139} radiates beams of light from his heart, which shine upon the bodies of all sentient beings in the cosmos; thereby, their sins and hindrances are cleared. The light again shines forth to the Buddha's Pure Land, rendering service and offerings, and finally collecting the merits of Buddha's body, mouth, mind, virtue, and performance before retracting to the Húm word. Having been enforced by the merits of all the Buddhas, the Vajrasattva becomes more grandiose, powerful, and compassionate. Circling the Húm word in his heart-center is the following sacred incantation:

Om Ba-tsa Heruga Samaya Manubabaya Heruga Delobaditsa Dri Dor Mabawa Sudokayo Mabawa Subodayo Mabawa Ah Hu Rado Mabawa Sarwa Sidhi Mebaryatsa Sarwagarma Su Tsame Tse Dar Shirya Guru Húm Ha Ha Ha Ha Ho Bhagavan Bentsa Heruga Mamemutssa Heruga Bava Mahasamaya Satta Ah Um Pai!

When reciting the incantation, you should visualize the incantation-circle rotating on and on. As the speed of the rotation steadily increases, beams of light emanate from this incantation-spin and shine upon the bodies of all sentient beings, cleansing their sins and removing obstacles. The light again travels to the myriads of Buddha's Pure Land, rendering offerings to the Buddhas and gathering the wave of grace [FN 1] from Buddha's body, mouth, and mind before returning to the incantation letters. (Through this inspiration) a stream of pure nectar begins to flow out from the body of Vajrasattva. It flows into your body through the Pure Gate on the top of the head, until the whole body is full of nectar. At the same time, this incoming stream of nectar washes away all filthy and putrid matters— [p. 140} which symbolizes the sins. One should think that through the pores over all the body the filthy matters, representing the sins and kleshas, are squeezed out and washed away. The body is filled with nothing but the pure and clean nectar. Thereupon, with a confidence of benefiting others and self, you should recite the incantation. When the recitation is finished, the devotee should apply the principle of the Four Mighty Ways [27] to confess all his sins and wrong doings to Buddha. Then he should think that all his sins of the Three Wheels [28]—the sin, sinner, and the act of sin—are cleansed thereby.

27. Four Mighty Ways: (1) Public confession of one's past wrongdoings; (2) Taking an oath never to repeat these wrong acts; (3) Performance of meritorious deeds; (4) Meditation on Shúnyatá.

28. The sin, sinner, and act of sin are likened to wheels turning about and keeping the world of Samsara in manifestation.

(At the end of this meditation) the Yogi reads the following prayer:

"O my protector! Because of my ignorance and desires

I have committed certain transgressions and evil deeds.

My Guru, my refuge! Save me and protect me!

O my lord, the one who holds the immutable Vajra!

Thou art the essence of great kindness and compassion!

The supreme lord of all, in whom I take refuge!"

After reciting this prayer, Buddha Vajrasattva smiles at him and says, "Good man, your sins, transgressions, and hindrances are all cleared." Then the Buddha Vajrasattva transforms himself into great light and enters into the body of the disciple. Then the disciple should think that his body, mouth, and mind are united and identified with the Buddha Vajrasattva. At the end of this meditation, the disciple should dedicate the merits and make an expression of good wishes toward all sentient beings.

In order to obtain blessing and grace from the Guru, the instructions for the practice of Guru Yoga are given as follows:

1. To view the Guru as the Field of Merits [29].

29. Offerings are more than acts of reverence. According to the law of Cause and Effect, one reaps merits through sowing offerings. The more enlightened the recipient, the greater the blessing; hence, the Buddhas and Gurus are the best Fields of Merits for the disciples.

[p. 141}

2. To serve and revere the Guru.

1. The disciple should think that in the firmament in front of him there is a lion-shaped seat of gems with lotus-moon cushions upon it. On this sits his own Guru, who is the embodiment of the Thunderbolt-Holder, the Great Rdo-rje-chang, the Primordial Buddha of the Six Buddhas [30]. His blue body has one face and two arms. His right hand holds the Thunderbolt and his left hand holds the bell. With heavenly clothes and jewels adorning his body, he embraces the Mother Buddha in a Lotus-Sitting posture. From his body radiates resplendently the five-colored aura. On his forehead is a moon and a white Om word, at his throat there is a lotus and a red Ah word, in his heart there is a sun and a blue Húm word. From these three words emanate beams of light shining forth to the Buddha's Pure Land and inviting the great Rdo-rje-chang and all the Gurus in the lineage to descend here. They all enter the disciple's body and become unified with the disciple.

30. Six Buddhas: In most Tantric mandalas these are deities of the four directions and of the center, together with the all encompassing primordial Buddha Rdo-rje-chang, making six in all.

As said in the Tantra of Sdom-abpung: "Guru is the Buddha, Guru is the Dharma, Guru is also the Sangha . . . " One should thus regard his own Guru as the embodiment of the Three Refuges. The Five Steps Tantra also says:

"The self-born Bhagavan

He who is the supreme heaven of all.

He gives the teaching and Pith-Instructions.

But there is one who is superior even to the Bhagavan,

He is the actual teacher, one's own Guru of Vajrayana."

According to these sayings one must regard one's own Guru as much more important even than the Great Buddha, for only through him can one be benefited. As Buddha says:

"When the appropriate time comes, I shall embody myself [p. 142} in a proper person. Whoever serves him will be blessed, his sins and transgressions cleansed."

This convinces us that whenever we serve the Pith-Instruction-Giver, our Guru, all the Buddhas will embody themselves in him to accept the offerings and to purify the disciples' sins. In the ordinary practice when one renders the offerings to Buddha, no doubt he attains the due merits of serving the Buddhas; however, he cannot be assured that the Buddha will actually come and accept his offerings [31]. Therefore, we know that the very best Merit-Field is one's own Guru. Thus, we should regard the Guru as the embodiment of all Tathagatas, possessing all the merits. In this manner, a pure faith toward one's Guru will grow. If a disciple thinks ill of his Guru or is faultfinding towards his Guru, he is sure to encounter the hindrances in his quest for enlightenment. If a disciple esteems and pays homage to his Guru, he will soon attain the enlightenment. With this and other right manners and considerations, one should think much of the gratitude that he owes to his Guru and faithfully respect and venerate him.

31. The translator does not agree with Tsong Khapa's reasoning here, since it implies that a Buddha may refuse to accept a sincere offering. This would mean that the Buddha could be less than all-compassionate, an impossibility. [The sense of the text, however, rather appears to be not that the Buddha would refuse to accept any offering, but that there is no necessity that the Buddha will or should make a special miraculous appearance in a personal nirmanakáya (body of transformation) to do so, when the yogi's guru, who is already personally accessible, can act as just such a vehicle or channel.—Ed.]

2. To serve and revere the Guru, as said in the Tantra of Five Steps:

"He should give up all other services and offerings

And concentrate on serving and offering to the Guru alone.

If his Guru is pleased,

The disciple will soon attain the All-Knowing Wisdom.

If the disciple serves and offers to his Guru

As he offers and serves the real Buddha,

What accomplishments and merits cannot he attain then?

What easier way to enlightenment can he find?"

One should know that among all the offerings and services, [p. 143} these made to one's Guru are the best. Hence, with great faith, one ought to make the best effort to serve one's Guru. The practice of Mandala [32] (a ritual of offering) is briefly expounded as follows: The Mandal, of clay or gems, should be smeared with incense and the Five Nectars. The Yogi then recite the invocation: Om Ba-tsa Bume Ah Húm! By reciting this invocation the great iron wall is laid up. Within the enclosure of the great iron wall are spread clusters of gorgeous flowers, from which emanate the fragrance of perfume and the agreeable odor of the Five Nectars. In the center of the earth looms the great Sumeru Mountain; encircling the Sumeru Mountain are the Four Continents—the East, South, West, and North; and between the continents are scattered small islands. East of the Four Continents is a sacred elephant (The Precious One); in the South, a sacred Family Overseer; in the West, a sacred Supreme Horse; in the North, a sacred Girl Rinbochi; in the Northeast, a sacred Warrior; in the Southwest, the precious Wheel; in the Northwest, the precious Jewel; in the Southeast, a great treasury. In the farther inner circle the sun, moon, planets, and stars are situated in their respective locations.

32. Mandal: a bowl-like utensil, symbol of the universe, which is offered to Buddha. The treasure in it are symbols of the most perfect wealth and gifts of heaven and earth.

"This great Mandal, which includes the entire wealth of the cosmos, is now visualized clearly by my mind. Now I offer it in its entirety together with all the pleasures, merits, and happiness of mine and others in past, present, and future to the Gurus and Deities. I pray you to pity me, to accept my offer, and to grant me your blessing." Thus the yogi should pray. He should also render the Outer Offerings, the flowers and so on; the Inner Offerings, the offerings of nectars; and the Secret Offerings [33]. Thus he should praise Buddha and take Tantric precepts, both [p. 144} general and special, before his Guru. He should pray with earnestness and respect to his Guru to grant him a speedy arising of the understanding and realization of the Mundane and Transcendental Siddhis, to keep him apart from obstacles and bring him to agreeable conditions for his practice. Moved by this sincere prayer, the Guru is pleased. Therefore, he radiates successively from the Three Words (Om Ah Húm) the white, red, and blue lights which enter into the Three Places (forehead, throat, and heart) of the Yogi in order and eventually fill his body wholly. The defilements and sins of body, speech, and mind are thus cleansed, and the Vase Secret and Wisdom Initiations are attained.

33. The Inner Offerings and Secret Offerings: The Inner Offerings are the bliss and enlightenment produced in the Tantric meditation—the meditation with breathing and physical exercises. The Secret Offerings are the highest bliss and ecstasy produced by the Third Initiation.

The Yogi should also think that he has attained the accomplishments of the Three Vajras [34]. Thereupon, from the Three Places of the Guru simultaneously emanate the Three Lights. They enter into the body through all the gates [35]. By means of these lights, the subtle defilements [36] of the body, speech and mind are cleansed; the fourth initiation is thus attained by the Yogi. The Yogi should think that he has attained the Accomplishment of the Identity of the Three Vajras.

34. The Three Vajras: The perfecting of body, speech, and mind. Vajra may be translated as Diamond, meaning the strongest most precious; here, it means the highest perfection.

35. All the Gates: all the pores of the body, in addition to the nine chief gates—two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, the mouth, the anus, and the sex organ.

36. Subtle defilements: According to Mahayana Buddhism these are the subtle, or fine, Clinging of Dharma, only to be destroyed in the Eight, Ninth and Tenth Bhumis in the advanced stage of the Bodhisattva's path. (See Avatansaga Sutra and Yogacara Bhumi.)

The Three Words (Om Ah Húm) are the symbol of the Three Vajras, having the ability to cleanse the defilements of the three gates. Therefore, it is permissible to consider that the three initiations are attained by this practice. And inasmuch as the thought of attaining the Absolute Fourth Initiation (Identity of the Three Vajras) is able to cleanse the Subtle Defilements, thereby the Fourth Initiation is attained. However, these so-called initiations are merely accepted for convenience and are by no means the actual initiations. [p. 145}

"Thereupon, the Guru above and before me descends upon my head, enters my body, and becomes one with me. Thus the Guru's body, speech and mind are identical with mine." Thus the Yogi should think; and then he should recite the Mantra of One Hundred Words to consolidate this unification. This practice should be performed at the beginning and end of the meditation, especially at the beginning.

Buddhist Tantra Teachings, END MATTER

Buddhist Tantra Teachings, LITERATURE  

FN 1 (p. 139). This term is common also in the initiation rituals. It is a term from the Hindu Tantra. Ed.


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