Fujisan's Kyareng

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Brief Introduction to Yoga Tantra

Teaching on Yoga Tantra
by Geshe Dorjee Damdul, Director of Tibet House
New Delhi, India

To understand Tantra practice, Arya Nagarjuna's work on Dharmadhatu and Arya Maitriya's Uttratantra are very helpful. Buddha had at various occasions taught Tantra like Shri Kalachakra, Shri Heruka, Shri Guhyasamaja, Shri Bhairava and so forth. It is the third turning of the wheel of Dharma by Buddha that links Sutra with Tantra teaching. The first stanza of Arya Nagarjuna's "In Praise of Dharmadhatu" has:
                             I bow to the Dharmadhatu
                             Who resides in every sentient being
                             But if they aren't aware of it
                             They circle through three realms

Dharmadhatu, the Buddha nature is present in all of us. But we don't realize it. We don't see the reality. So we see distorted version of reality under the sway of ignorance. With ignorance, we are in Samsara. The moment we see Dharmadhatu, wisdom is born in us, ignorance disappears, Samsara comes to an end.
What is Tantra, and what distinguish Tantra from Sutra. One of the distinctive features of Tantra is employment of subtle mind and subtle energy. Sutra is referred to as causal vehicle. It makes effort to understand the cause of full enlightenment and engage in the practice accordingly. In Tantra, it is more of taking the result into the path rather than cause into the path. Grabbing the result directly and using that as path to achieve the result is the practice of Tantra. But Sutra is foundation of Tantra. Without Sutra, Tantra makes no sense. Proper understanding of Emptiness and Bodhicitta is very important for Tantra.

In Sutra, teaching on subtle mind is there, but there is no clear explanation about the subtle mind, such as experience of subtle mind of people in sleeping and unconscious state or one who is dying. In Tantra, explanation is given with regard to how to activate these subtle minds in normal state. In Sutra, when non-dual experience of emptiness is realized, it is the gross mind, not the subtle mind. As the experience of Emptiness is a remedy to dispel ignorance, with the experience of Emptiness at gross level of mind only the gross ignorance is overcome, not the subtle ignorance. Sutra teaching does have meditation on gross and subtle mind, but the mind realizing Emptiness in Sutra is the gross mind.
Buddhahood is within us, but it is obscured by two obscurations: afflictive obscuration and cognitive obscuration. There are many layers of obscurations due to ignorance. These obscurations are also at gross and subtle level of mind. Obscurations at grosser level of mind are eliminated through the practice of Sutra. Tantra offers us the wisdom to overcome the obscurations both at gross and subtle level of mind. To achieve subtle wisdom is uniqueness of Tantra. This subtle mind has two elements: subtlety and wisdom. But this subtlety may not necessarily have anything to do with the wisdom, and vice versa. Now, in Tantra practice, we have to merge the two through the activation of subtle level of mind and subtle wisdom mind.

Wisdom refers to the one whose apprehension of the object tallies with reality, knowing the object in its subtlest form. It is the subtlest wisdom which realizes the subtlest reality, Shunyata or Emptiness. This Emptiness becomes objective clear light. And the subtlest of the mind is subjective clear light. Now, we need to bring these two minds into one mind; same mind should be subtlest wisdom at the same time subtlest clear mind. Tantra practice is to have the subtlest subjective clear light focus on the subtlest objective clear light. Objective clear light is Emptiness and subjective clear light is the subtlest of the mind.
There is no difference in objective clear light [emptiness] in Sutra and Tantra; it is same. Difference lies in subjective clear light. In Sutra, we don't find any ways to activate subjective clear light. In Tantra, it is mostly about activating this subjective clear light and then merging it with objective clear light. Now, to activate this objective clear light, there are many traditions like dZogchen tradition, Mahamudra, Practice taught by Arya Nagarjuna and Chandrakirti, Meditation on channel and drops etc. Through one of these practices subtlest subjective clear light is activated.

But with only subjective clear light realization without Bodhcitta push, it cannot move further. There are many Hindu Tantrics who have realized this subjective clear light. But they have not achieved objective clear light because of lack of Boddhicitta mind. Subjective clear light needs special powerful push at higher level, this push comes from Boddhicitta element. The mind will not become subtler anymore at certain point without this great push.   

This subjective clear light, in order to be a remedy for the subtlest of mental defilements due to ignorance, subject clear light should be in the form of wisdom. This wisdom to see the reality, i.e. seeing Emptiness is objective clear light (OCL). Without the realization of objective clear light, subjective clear light alone cannot serve as remedy to clear the subtlest of mental defilements. Without objective clear light, it lacks Bodhicitta mind to untangle the knots of the six vital chakras in our body. Subjective clear light should reach the subtlest level to be able to untangle these knots, for which special technique is needed, i.e. Bodhicitta. Emptiness and Bodhicitta is very important to push the subjective clear light to be able to remedy the subtlest of mental defilements.
Mental defilement has elements of ignorance, which has to be eliminated. Bodhicitta and objective clear light (emptiness) are very important to make the practice of Tantra effective and meaningful in realizing the Buddhahood. As Bodhicitta and Emptiness is the highlight of Sutra practice, Sutra is therefore, the ground and foundation of Tantra practice. As Arya Nagarjuna has said in his work, "In Praise of Dharmadhatu", Buddhahood is to be sought within not without. It is within us, we only need to make effort to realize or see it. But it is obscured by our mental defilements. These mental defilements are exhibited through our body, speech and mind. They are contaminated and not pure. We need to cleanse or purify them. For this reason, in Tantra, there are special techniques for purifying them through series of stages. First stage is Body, Speech and Mind Isolation.

Body isolation means to isolate one's ordinary body and to see its divinity. Speech isolation is to see the light of Mantras of various deities within our speech. Mind isolation is to visualize and meditate on the mind of Buddha, Dharmakaya.
The practice of Mantra breathing, channel and drops etc. are some important practices. There are three channels in our body running straight from the crown to the secret point below the navel. Usually, we breath only through the two side channels. The central channel is not used. There are six chakras or knots on the central channel in our body: crown, throat, heart, navel and the secret. Tantra practice here involve the use of central channel and untangle the knots to realize the subjective clear light, which reside at the heart's position. Mantra used here is: OM, AHH, HUM. Mantra is to be visualized and recited in mind only.

Sitting in a lotus position, we imagine a drop at our forehead, breath in with OM and feel the drop moving from our forehead to heart through crown. When it reaches the heart, imagine AHH and abide. As you breath out with HUM, let the drop move back to the forehead. With this the wind or energy enter, abide and dissolves in our body. As the energy of wind enters, abides and dissolves, subtle mind gets activated.
Mind is said to have five states:

1.       Normal mind, our waking state or gross mind
2.       State of mind when we are sleeping or dreaming
3.       State of mind when we are in deep asleep
4.       State of mind when we faint or when we are unconscious
5.       State of mind when we are dying
Normally, we can experience the first two minds only. Through the practice of Tantra, we can experience all these state of mind and achieve subtle mind. Appearance of the subtle mind is in four phases: White appearance, red increase, black near attainment, and clear light.
In Sutra, we have Shamatha mediation as in Tantra. But the Shamatha meditation in Tantra is more sophisticated. When energy dissolves at the heart chakra, subtle mind is activated. Then we have to focus this mind on the wisdom of Emptiness. This subtle mind is subjective clear light mind and wisdom of emptiness is objective clear light mind. When the unity of subjective clear light mind and objective clear light mind is achieved, illusory body is realized. This illusory body is known as contaminated illusory body, because defilement still persists. But once you have achieved this contaminated illusory body, Buddhahood is guaranteed.
In Sutra system, it takes three eons to earn merits to achieve this illusory body. Achievement of this illusory body in short time makes achievement of Buddhahood a reality in a single lifetime. After the achievement of illusory body, although you have achieved clear light, mind is at dual state. This means with illusory body, you have clear light, but this clear light is still on dual experience. Through further practice you reach a stage where you achieve Mini clear light. Now, when this subjective clear light focuses on emptiness (ocl) through non-dual experience, this clear light becomes Mini clear light. This is the fifth stage.
This Mini clear light has power to overcome all afflictions, both innate and acquired simultaneously. In Sutra system, acquired afflictions are eliminated first followed by the elimination of innate afflictions. It is analogous to dismantling a building piece by piece - Sutra, and dismantling it at one go by a powerful explosive - Tantra. The moment you achieve Mini clear light, you become an Arhat according to Tantric system. According to Sutra, you have reached the 8th Boddhisattva Bhumi.
Contaminated illusory body with Mini clear light becomes uncontaminated illusory body. This uncontaminated illusory body is going to be the substantial cause of your Buddha's body, Dharmakaya. The Mini clear light is going to be the substantial cause for Rupakaya.
In Sutra system, substantial cause for Dharmakaya is taught, substantial cause for Rupakaya is missing because illusory body is not taught. Although Rupakaya is taught in Sutra, it is not complete from Tantra's perspective. For Tantra this uncontaminated illusory body is the cause of Rupakaya. This initial stage of uncontaminated illusory body is known as the stage of the union. The completion stage of the Tantra can therefore be explained as follows:
1.       Body isolation
2.       Speech isolation
3.       Mind isolation
4.       Contaminated illusory body
5.       Mini clear light
6.       Union
Union means the union of clear light, union of Mini clear light and union of uncontaminated illusory body. Even after this union, you are still not Buddha. This union is known as the union of the learning stage, and with further practice stage of No More learning is achieved. This union of No More learning is Buddhahood. This is how Buddhahood is achieved through Tantra practice.
In Tantra practice, energy and mind is not seen as different. Sutra never accepts the oneness of energy and mind. Mind travelling freely is movement, movement has connotation of energy. It has ability to see things and cognize. So it is the same object which moves and knows things. Movement, energy and knowing things are same object.

This is a brief note of what Geshe Dorjee Damdul la taught on Tantra at Tibet House in December 2014 in New Delhi. This is a lay student's summary note, error and misinterpretation is bound to be there. Serious students are requested to listen to the Geshe la's recorded tapes available at Tibet House, New Delhi.