It is said that Vajrayana or Tantric Buddhism (quite dissimilar from Tibetan Buddhism) is the third and last stage of the Buddhist path.
The entry-level Buddhist path is Theravada or the Sutrayana or the Small Vehicle. It focuses on studying sutras and renunciation of the worldly existence.
The middle path is Mahayana Buddhism, the Great Vehicle. It focuses on compassionate transformation.
The exit-level Buddist path is Vajrayana or the Diamond Vehicle. It is the most direct and fast path as it does not entertain renunciation (it really doesn’t have to, despite what monks and nuns are practicing). It takes worldly existence, not as something to be renounced, it uses it as a path. In Vajrayana, the goal is the path (under the guidance of a true Tantric or Mahamudra Master, of course).
In my experiences, there is one attainment that is of paramount importance, no matter what Buddhist path one travels on:
anatta or an-atman insight.
And it really takes a direct empirical knowledge, no amount of sacred texts learned by heart, no mental acrobatics, and no symbolic interpretations will do, not even in a million years.
Without such direct attainment, all one is left with are the Vedic or Advaita level philosophical discussions or aforementioned levels of samadhi…
Here I share my attainment from years before I was introduced to Tantric Nondual Practices (Vajrayana):
The apex of transpersonal insights into Absolute reality as per Vedanta awareness teachings are sabikalpa, nirbikalpa and sahaja samadhi.
There is more to be realized, however.
In the realm of so-called Emptiness teachings or teachings of the kind Buddha, there is no self, no center, no agency, no God involved in the natural ground Reality: anatta or an-atma.
From my upcoming book, After anatta:
“…After three days of enjoying almost constant personal audience with Dr. John Rowan or “the living Buddha”, as I lovingly refer to him, I was sitting on a bench in a park, the sun was shining, and it was a warm, lovely autumn day. I was browsing through a book on integral psychotherapy and transpersonal identity development (Forman 2010), and it all started while reading the information about the Nondual.
But before sharing the anatta insight, certain notions are worth mentioning, I think.
In Kashmir Shivaism, ancient guidelines about obstacles to ultimate reality are outlined, so-called malas or impurities (Forman 2010, p.158):
– anava mala (the belief that any given person occupies particular space, i.e. I am here not there, and certainly not everywhere),
– mayiya mala (the belief that there are other objects outside of us, i.e. John is out there, not here where I am located). Basically that is the root perception of false ego, the illusory center of reference, according to my current understanding.
By the time I got through reading this, Nondual was already present (only seeing the seen, hearing the sound etc…), it seems the first two malas were recognized as false straight away: with the Kindle reader in hands, boundaries just vanished, and the little ego and also the well established and stable Causal realization was gone, gone beyond and what remained was seeing only images, hearing only sounds. It, the “I am Presence” (Causal Self) became only what five aggregates or skandhas, according to Buddhism (Form, Sensation, Perception, Mental Formation, and Consciousness) were offering from moment to moment, arising and ceasing.
It is important to note that I was at that point still able to switch back to the “I am” presence, perceiving the well known impersonal presence of the “True self”. For years I entered that state, hence falling back to the “I am” presence was happening so easily, I guess.
It was different this time, however: I realized with the aha! the moment that the “I am” presence in the center of my consciousness is exactly the same as the arising and ceasing manifestation which was being intimately experienced. The seen, sensed, cognized AS the “I am” presence – only that “I am” presence was not there anymore.
What instigated further insight, it seems, was comprehension of the third mala (or impurity) from Kasmir Shivaism:
– karma mala – belief that a person must perform an action, do something to remedy any given situation, say “I need to meditate to get enlightened”.
It happened a few moments after I read those words (obviously I was using the entry of mental formations and consciousness), everything just became crystal clear, no switching back to “I am” presence, for there was no one here, there, anywhere to switch to!
And I am not talking only about the little false ego (which, in my opinion, may also be called the Authentic Self from Centuar or Authentic level); I am talking about the “I am” presence, The Witness Itself.
For years, I was grateful to abide as a Witness, Omnipresent, and liberated, as it were, relatively free from mental/emotional/physical impressions, laughing at the drama I was continually witnessing. But now, the “I am” presence itself, or the One Witness was gone! Even the Pure abstract potential or the so-called Unmanifested “I am” (higher Causal level) was nowhere to be found! It seems that after years of entering samādhi at will, I was allowed to move on.
Only there isn’t anyone to give permission or anyone to be allowed to move on or do anything else. No one is here, it never was, and it cannot and does not exist, because events are unfolding on their own. No center needed. Phenomena are free, separated from every other phenomenon, not touching and yet interconnected but liberating as they come and go!
Gone (leaving little ego or the authentic self behind), gone (beyond the Causal Self), gone beyond.”