The great vastness that is the dharmakaya is not totally blank or void. From the dharmakaya, all kinds of manifestations occur without any effort or thought. They are not separate from or different from the dharma kaya; they are manifestations of the potential of the primordial nature. According to the Dzogchen teachings, from the nonexisting nature— from the basic nature that is nothing whatsoever—all kinds of things arise naturally. Since things do not need to be created forcefully by someone, they are spontaneous. The nature of this spontaneity is known as rigpa, which is the nature of primordial wisdom. From that wisdom energy the five wisdoms naturally arise, and they are reflected as the five dhyani buddhas and all the vidyadharas.
When we do not have a profound understanding of reality, in the ordinary world the five wisdoms appear as the five aggregates, the five elements, the five colors, and the five poisons. Those conceptions arise because they suit our deluded thinking. In reality they are none other than the five wisdoms or the five dhyani buddhas.
Whether they appear as the five wisdoms and the five buddhas, or as the five poisons and the five aggregates, the five wisdoms are based upon the same primordial nature—the great dharmakaya. In whatever form, place, or time they arise, there is not one atom that goes beyond the primordial state. This is the essence of the profound true nature. However, because we are deluded by dualistic perceptions, we make distinctions between subject and object, and when we hold on to those notions, we create many different things around us.
To protect beings from this kind of delusion, the buddhas appear in many different forms. For example, among the various emanations are the buddha families of the five directions. The eastern buddha is Akshobya, the southern buddha is Ratnasambhava, the western buddha is Amitabha, the northern buddha is Amoghasiddhi, and the central buddha is Vairochana. On the absolute level, there is just one emanation of primordial wisdom; ultimately, there are no different levels. But in order to help remove our dualistic concepts or to dispel our ignorance, they appear as different buddhas. These buddha families are not separate families who exist in the various directions, such as the vajra family, the rich family who lives in the east, and the padma family, the aristocratic family in the west; that is not the point. They appear this way in order to lead sentient beings to nondual wisdom.
These symbols of wisdom are used to illustrate profound meaning. For example, the buddhas appear as peaceful, wrathful, or semi-wrathful, and as male or female. In terms of symbolism, the eight great male bodhisattvas represent the transmutation of the eight consciousnesses. The eight great female bodhisattvas represent the transformation of the objects of the eight consciousnesses. The four gatekeepers are the transmutation of the four extreme views about existence and nonexistence. They all have symbolic meanings.
(adapted from The Dark Red Amulet)
What am I doing?
Many sincere and dedicated practitioners on the Vajrayana path might still believe (or unconsciously hope) that the tantric path only deals with some exalted, truly spiritual, and absolute reality on the outside, which has got nothing or little to do with them on a personal level.
While this might even be the case with the outer Buddhist tantras (kriya tantra, charya tantra – the entry-level practices: learning some texts by heart, pujas on the outside, symbolism, wearing robes, ringing bells, voicing mantras, being good and polite girls/boys, etc.), it can not be further from the truth when it comes to the higher or inner Buddhist tantras: yoga tantra and anuttarayoga tantra (not to mention Mahamudra or Dzogchen).
In these high-tech tantric practices, everything is performed within, and the only aim is inner transformation (of ordinary perceptions and inner concepts)…
It is not an easy practice, though.
Well, in my observations, simply because these inner tantras demand from the practitioner this one single thing, this one ability, and willingness which, at first glance, has got nothing to do with nirvana and other exalted Buddhist concepts and religious symbolism.
And yet, this one openness and willingness might be one of the single most important factors in the whole Vajrayana world (when and if one gets that far, of course).
What am I talking about?
Well, let us try to hear Chogyam Trungpa, a well known tantric master:
“Many people try to find a spiritual path where they do not have to face themselves but where they can still liberate themselves–liberate themselves from themselves, in fact.
In truth, this is impossible. We cannot do that.
We have to be honest with ourselves. We have to see our gut, our real shit, our most undesirable parts. We have to see that.
That is the foundation of warriorship and the basis of conquering fear. We have to face our fear; we have to look at it, study it, work with it, and practice meditation with it.”
– Chögyam Trungpa,
Smile at Fear: Awakening the True Heart of Bravery
Embracing the Science of the mind
From where I stand, it is truly a blessing (or better yet, a simple and undeniable fact) that we do not live in the middle ages anymore and that our science has made huge progress.
We do not need to take refuge in some old and superstitious dogmatic and religious beliefs. What was once described as demonic forces, for instance, are today clearly outlined only as manageable neurotic personal tendencies (based on extensive empirical and scientific research).
Also, we do not need to bow down meekly and a priori to some “spiritual” authority, as this has also been proven over and over again (in psychology research) as a particular childish and easy manageable neurotic personal trait.
Theocracy or cult mentality has also been recognized as quite unnecessary and even destructive in the modern world where personal responsibility is not only desirable, it is a must.
Dietification or worshiping humans as pure divine beings (a standard practice in the East, especially in Tibet and India) has been shown as quite dangerous and completely unnecessary, for donating life energy and responsibility for one’s own progress to some outer factor, well, that is neither wise nor practical in modern times (it never was, actually).
“If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change.” – HH the 14th Dalai Lama
Of course, I do not feel Buddhism itself ought to change; I do firmly believe that most structures in which Buddhism is offered nowadays are awfully outdated.
And then we have the public enemy number one: the ego. In old times, ego has been blamed for just about anything. Well, not anymore.
Again, we live in modern society and have at our disposal modern means for our personal and spiritual development: humanistic psychology, for example. And in this modern liberal science, the ego is not taken as something bad but as an important part of our overall consciousness that needs to be gently taken care of (see books by Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, and Marshall Rosenberg, to name a few well-known authors).
And people that are still trying to eradicate, surpass or deny their own ego (and everyday life challenges that come with it) by renunciation, taking (psychiatric) drugs or psychoactive substances (ayahuasca, THC, CBD, etc) or by spiritual bypass (trying to avoid personal issues in everyday life) are meeting with defeats and emotional issues again and again.
I have seen this happen many times, in person. People are not really dealing with their own personal issues (maybe due to the reasons that Chogyam Trungpa has spoken about, see his quote above?) and after some time, they just get angry and disheartened.
It is dangerous to perform Vajrayana without really dealing with personal issues. Very dangerous.
As difficult as this might be to hear, the simple fact of the matter is that Buddhahood or Mahamudra or Dzogchen has got nothing whatsoever to do with any existing religion, tradition, culture, philosophy system or man-made (religious) institution…
…or as Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse said (I am paraphrasing here): “If you think you are a Buddhist (or anything else), you are not a Buddha yet.”
It is a real challenge to perform Vajrayana practices in modern times, in my opinion. Renunciation is not really effective anymore (see what is happening in Nepal, for instance, where the government has withdrawn financial support from Buddhist monasteries and also take into consideration the tragedies that befell Tibetans with their focus on the renunciation for a thousand years…) and assuming personal responsibility seems to be a genuine way ahead…
…if we choose to grow up first, that is.
It is easy to be spiritual, isn’t it? Repeating mantras in a low tone, offering pujas, dressing as monks, traveling to sacred places, learning sacred texts by heart – and at the same time neglecting our own bodies, existential issues, intimate needs, and emotional cravings for love, trust, and connection.
Well, while all of the above is quite acceptable, as far as I am concerned, can it really lead to Buddhahood, Mahamudra and Dzogchen attainment that has time and again been presented as being completely and utterly open?
“Once we know the essence of things, insisting on locking ourselves in any cage not only leads to a conflict with our real state but can also become a source of various problems and difficulties.”
– On Birth, Life and Death, by Chogyal Namkhai Norbu, p. 135
What do you think/feel?
Was Jetsun Milarepa wrong?
I have always felt awe and deep, deep, deep respect for the simple and yet genuinely sincere human being who also happens to be one of the greatest (if not the greatest) tantric masters of all times: Milarepa.
His sad childhood and family tragedy has left him bitter and bent on vengeance. He has murdered 35 people using the dark practices of black magic.I t was only after he met his teacher, Marpa, that he changed his ways.
And after all the dreadful and degrading actions against other human beings, and after years of performing anuttarayoga tantra, Chod Mahamudra and Mahamudra in solitude, what has he said (amongst other things)?
“My religion is not deceiving myself.”
I have always found this statement intriguing. Why has he said that? Why not: “My religion is Buddhism.”? Or why not “following my guru”, or “tantra” or something else entirely?
Well, in my humble opinion, this one statement conveys the entire wisdom of both tantric and Mahamudra teachings.
“My religion is not deceiving myself” indeed, for as long as I hide behind defense mechanisms (humor, projection, denial, suppression, intellectualization, escapism, altruism, etc.) and until I decide to come out of my own inner deceptions, no amount of “spiritual” practice will do.
“As long as you seek to run away from anything in the outside world,
You will never be liberated from the hallucinations of ignorance.
The time has come for you to renounce all this delusion.”
– Jetsun Milarepa
om ah guru hasavajra sarvasiddhi hum
I am truly blessed to have a Mahasiddha for a teacher.
Mahasiddhas, as far as I can see, are completely free individuals, Buddhas in essence and actuality, completely unconditioned and free from everything, even from the path that lead them to complete freedom.
Mahasiddha Saraha is considered one of the first Masters of Mahamudra and Tantra (seen in the drawing).
Mahasiddhas are far, far beyond puny human intellect and reasoning and completely unfettered by human-made structures (religions, philosophies, various cultures, “spiritual” establishments, dogmas and doctrines, etc.). Being mostly Tantrikas (practitioners of Tantra) and Tantra Masters, they went all the way out of this deceptive world only to return, meaning they did not assume some religious role, or took part in some social charade; quite the opposite: they left all of that drama behind only to come back eventually, embracing everything that material energy (mahamaya) has to offer.
(see more about Mahasiddhas in “Masters of Mahamudra – Songs and Histories of the Eighty-four Buddhist Siddhas“).
What I received
My eternal treasure, my protector, spiritual master, and root guru is Goraknath Mahasiddha (see a photo of one of his emanations below).
Immortal by choice, forever preset here upon this Earth, sounding his damaru for all able adepts to hear.
Over almost three decades (of present life) He taught me many, many things, one being the most important:
There is no jumping
There is no jumping, meaning that no one and I mean no one (whether Joe Blow from some backward village somewhere or some elevated and amazing Guru in some religious establishment) can successfully avoid or jump over, well, anything really. Whatever we try to avoid, suppress, ignore or jump over – it all comes back (screaming, oftentimes), in one way or another, in this life or the next.
And I am not trying to be a smart ass here, I am sharing my observations (subjective observations, I might add, meaning, the present text is relative at best). And what I have observed in real life, is that whatever stage of spiritual development we might have attained (or hope we have), there is one area of human existence that always shows the true state of affairs: how we relate to each other.
Are we letting others be or are we projecting?
Are we really free from different opinions?
Are we really contributing to the well being of others or are we only playing some role?
I have seen (self-proclaimed) advanced Buddhist act like a stupid idiot towards a fellow being; I have witnessed advanced and exalted Vaishnavas (devotees of Vishnu) being arrogant, violent and insulting towards other devotees; and, of course, we have all seen what is going on in Tibetan Buddhist and other “spiritual” communities around the world, haven’t we (I am referring to sexual abuses here).
And on the other hand, I personally met completely unassuming individuals that are sincerely trying to be spiritual and attain at long, long last at least some small measure of inner peace… but all they are attaining are only further inner disharmonies and pain.
Both, the exalted spiritual persons (by their standards) and the lost and ignorant souls, are making one big mistake, it seems: they are still trying to avoid something in their inner psychological climate. The former by trying to play spiritual roles, and the latter by trying to get out of the fuc*ed life they manifested for themselves. And neither are succeeding…
There is no jumping.
There is no jumping.
In all aforementioned cases, individuals still are (or were in the past), trying to ignore or suppress personal issues, inner intimate disharmonies, traumas from childhood (of this life) and all of them are still trying to be someone else. The question I am asking here is: how can we become truly enlightened if we can not or do not want to face our personal issues?
There is no jumping over personal issues, it is simply impossible. Emotional energy does not just vanish and disappear, it gets stored up in our subconsciousness. And no amount of pujas and mantras and whatnot will eradicate these suppressed emotions and destructive mental patterns.
“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.”
– C.G. Jung
One really has to learn to walk first before one can run. And individuals in the above cases are still only playing roles, none of them really walking on their own two feet, in my opinion.
One has first to learn how to control the mind and emotions before truly spiritual attainments are to be attained. And, according to the Path Mahasiddha Goraknath is sharing with me, this can truly and thoroughly be done only on the path of embracing everything, including everyday life: our jobs, relationships, money, spare time, health, etc…
Surprisengly enough, even a Tibetan master (obviously free) shares simmilar notion:
“Once we know the essence of things, insisting on locking ourselves in any cage not only leads to a conflict with our real state but can also become a source of various problems and difficulties.”
– On Birth, Life and Death, by Chogyal Namkhai Norbu, p. 135
I don’t know about you, but I do not want to remain just a Little Buddha, all spiritual on the outside, but a mere insecure child on the inside.
“Moral concepts practiced without understanding can be the greatest of obstacles to fulfilling the Bodhisattva’s vow of uncompromising compassion.
Do not cultivate virtue and renounce vice. Rather, learn to accept all things as they arise. Penetrate the essence of each experience until you have achieved the one taste.”
— Mahasiddha Ghantapa
The world we live in is getting smaller and people’s actions have tremendous impact.
In the era in which we live people cannot get away with clinging to their beliefs.
I don’t have any personal attachment or clinging to being a Buddhist.
We need to step outside the boundaries of Buddhism and really go out
and share the benefits of our Buddhist practice with the rest of the world.
– The 17th Karmapa
“The Sanskrit word Karmamudra is a technical term utilized in Tibetan Buddhism, specifically in Tantra.
The term can be translated as “action seal” or “desire seal.” is a Vajrayana Buddhist technique of sexual practice with a physical or visualized consort. It refers to a secret level of Tantra in which specially prepared initiates – one male, one female – join sexually in order to harness the power of sex for spiritual development.
Through the “activity” of sexual energy, the initiate can “seal” their consciousness in the clear light (bodhichitta). Karmamudra refers both to this type of practice and sometimes to the woman who practices it.
Karmamudra practice is known in all major Tibetan schools, especially in the Kalachakra Tantra. The prerequisites for this teaching include initiation into the tradition, proven comprehension of the Sutrayana and Mahayana teachings, and the ability to restrain the sexual energy. That is, emission of the sexual energy (orgasm) is not allowed.
By relying upon a Karmamudra as the external condition, the yogi on the high levels of the completion stage practices is led to great bliss…
…here one relies upon one of the four types of mudra, such as the lotus like mudra who possesses all characteristics, has been matured by tantric initiation, and has a high degree of spiritual liberation. Such a consort is known as a mudra, or a Wisdom Lady. For this practice one must understand the oral teachings well and have complete control of the two principal vital energies.
One enters into sexual union with the mudra, which gives rise to the special innate bliss. This causes the vital energies to dissolve just as at the time of death, inducing the clear light of mind to arise with great strength.
This is to be performed not only at the time of controlling the life energies, but also at the time of the three higher activities.
However, this practice is extremely secret and it is not appropriate to say more here. There I will not go into greater detail.”
– Excerpted from “Treatise on the Six Yogas of Niguma” by the Second Dalai Lama.
“Just as bubbles arise and dissolve in the water of the limpid sea,
Just so, conceptual thinking is nothing other than dharma nature.
Don’t see it as a problem — relax.
Whatever arises, whatever is born,
that itself is free by itself without fixation to it.
Aside from mind, there is no other phenomena.
Mind is free of the elaborations of birth and death.
For instance, one who goes to the golden isle cannot find dirt and stone even when sought.
In the equality of the great realm of phenomena,
there is no rejecting or accepting, no equipoise or subsequent attainment.
One’s mind without distraction is dharmakāya.
Non-distraction is the vital point of mediation.
If the tree is cut from the root, the branches will not grow.
Realise the great freedom from limitations.
Rest within the uncontrived natural state.”
From the book:
Niguma, Lady of Illusion, Svayaṁmukti-mahāmudrā
Donating precious energy to others is what is overlooked way too often, especially on the so-called spiritual path, in my opinion.
Instead of looking deeply within and finding what is most alive in there (whatever that is), most human beings look outside…
…and a priori and without ever bothering to really examine what they say and do, follow some gurus, lamas, teachers, instructors.
And although the greatest spiritual masters in human history (Buddha, Krishna, Mohamed, Krishnamurti, Therion, Namkhai Norbu, Goraknath Mahasiddha, to quote a few, see below) have all said not to do that, a lot of human beings still meekly bow down to some authority.
Well, in my opinion, that’s just a phase in the process of growing up, nothing more. A little child does that, a real grown-up person doesn’t need to, does she/he.
Trying to fill in the bigger shoes is still growing up:
Buddha on personal responsibility
The famous Buddha quote “don’t follow me, don’t believe me blindly, etc…” that is floating around all over the internet is, of course, fake, and can be found in none of the available Buddhist Sutras.
This one, however, is not fake:
“Now, Kalamas, don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’
When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to welfare & to happiness’ — then you should enter & remain in them.”
Loosely paraphrasing the Kalama Sutra:
“Do not believe in anything (simply) because you have heard it; Do not believe in traditions, because they been handed down for many generations; Do not believe in anything, because it is spoken and rumored by many; Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books;
But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”
And to drive my point right in:
“You yourselves must strive; the Buddhas only point the way.”
There is no need to give to others (not even to gurus, lamas, teachers) that, which can not be given: responsibility and personal intimate effort.
And other great teachers and sacred texts also say as much:
Krishna on personal responsibility
In essence, the Gita recognizes individual liberty and leaves the ultimate choice in the hands of the seeker. Liberal and without prejudice, the Bhagavad Gita is Lord Krishna’s gift to humankind, to help us deal with the turbulence of life in as rational a manner as is humanly possible.
Sri Krishna, considered by millions and millions of Vaishnavas to be the one Supreme Personality of Godhead, goes all out and shares his wisdom about many many important things (the text we know now as Bhagavad Gita) and in the end, he says to Arjuna: do as you wish:
Thus I have explained to you the most confidential of all knowledge.
Deliberate on this fully, and then do what you wish to do.
There is no need to suppress personal nature:
Even a man of wisdom behaves according to his own nature.
Beings follow (their) nature. What can restraint do?
One’s own duty, though defective, is superior to another’s duty well-performed.
Death is better while engaged in one’s own duty; another’s duty is fraught with fear.
Clearly, Sri Krishna says here that it is better to follow your own path even if it leads to death than follow the path of others.
Quran on personal responsibility
“You began to say: Whence is this? Say: It is from yourselves.” [Sûrah Âl `Imrân: 165]
Allah also tells us:
“Truly, Allah does not change the condition of a people until they change what is within themselves.” [Sûrah al-Anfâl: 53]
No one can do that (change what is within) apart from ourselves, not even Allah/God (if you believe in God), so why seek on the outside?
Jiddu Krishnamurti on personal responsibility
“Responsibility has quite a different meaning when there is freedom. Responsibility does not deny freedom, they go together. When there is the deep fundamental reality of freedom, responsibility is concerned with the whole of life and not with one fragment of life; it is concerned with the whole movement and not with some particular movement; it is concerned with the whole activity of the mind and the heart and not with one particular activity or direction.
Freedom is the total harmony in which responsibility is as natural as the flower in the field. That response is not induced or imposed; it is the natural outcome of freedom. Without responsibility, there is no freedom. To respond to every challenge out of freedom is responsibility. It is an inadequate response that is irresponsible. The mind that is dependent on attachment becomes irresponsible to the whole.”
(Book: The Whole Movement of Life Is Learning, CH. 66, Without responsibility, there is no freedom.)
To drive his point right in, here is a jackpot:
Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche
Being the first Dzogchen master that openly taught in the West the highly secret and precious teachings of Great Perfection, Namkhai Norbu’s approach was open, real, down-to-earth, and non-dogmatic.
On many occasions, He stressed the importance of an individual over traditions and societies.
He obviously understood the need for individual development (a daring statement for a Tibetan, in my honest opinion):
“The truth is that a better society will only arise through the evolution of the individual. This is because society is made up of millions of individuals.
To count to a million, one has to start with number one, which means one has to start with the individual, the only real place one can actually begin to change something.
This doesn’t mean putting oneself first in an egotistical way, but rather it involves our coming to understand the condition of the whole of humanity through understanding our own experience.
With this experience as our guide, we will know how to behave with awareness in any circumstance in every type of society.”
Thelema, the system of spiritual practices brought forth by Master Therion, is very articulate about the individuality and personal and transpersonal liberty.
He uttered many important things, this being appropriate for the subject under discussion:
“It is necessary that we stop, once for all, this ignorant meddling with other people’s business. Each individual must be left free to follow his own path.”
Mahavatar Babaji on personal responsibility
“I am against non-violence that makes a human being a coward. Fight for Truth! To face life, you must have great courage every day!
Everyone must be courageous, facing the difficulties of life with bravery! Cowardly people are like dead people!
I want a world of brave and courageous people.
Indeed, those who work hard and are agnostics are more acceptable, for a time, than lazy spiritual hypocrites.
Through hard work, you can do what even God cannot! Through hard work, you can change the Nature itself!”
As challenging as these words might sound, the immortal Goraknath here hits the nail straight on, doesn’t He. It is so easy to be “spiritual” and “non-violent” when in truth we are only being silly, passive, childish, and irresponsible and waiting for something to change or happen while nothing ever does. It cannot unless we instigate things.
And we can do it! It is as simple as that; we are all perfectly capable of finding out the Truth for ourselves, no need to blindly follow others.
Still growing up
To donate life and awareness energy to others means to not follow our own Heart. It also means that no real responsibility is being assumed which in turn means that no real progress can be made (because inner personal content of awareness is being ignored or/and suppressed).
In (my) reality, there is no need to do that whatsoever. Personal is not in conflict with the transpersonal. Mahamudra is not some trance devoid of the aliveness of everyday life. Mahamudra is what it is, both personal and transpersonal, and beyond them both.
– Whom do you donate your life and awareness energy to?
– And while you are doing that, who is taking care of YOUR inner needs and YOUR inner tendencies?
Jiddu Krishnamurti, my favorite author when it comes to the non-dual states of awareness and everything else, for that matter.
He is direct, honest, unfettered by any tradition, and in my opinion, a fresh breeze in a world full of dogmatic and traditional hangups that are most difficult to awaken from for many “spiritual masters”.
Jiddu Krishnamurti on the Truth:
“I maintain that truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. That is my point of view, and I adhere to that absolutely and unconditionally.
Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized; nor should any organization be formed to lead or to coerce people along any particular path.
If you first understand that, then you will see how impossible it is to organize a belief. A belief is purely an individual matter, and you cannot and must not organize it. If you do, it becomes dead, crystallized; it becomes a creed, a sect, a religion, to be imposed on others.
This is what everyone throughout the world is attempting to do. Truth is narrowed down and made a plaything for those who are weak, for those who are only momentarily discontented.
Truth cannot be brought down, rather the individual must make the effort to ascend to it. You cannot bring the mountain-top to the valley. If you would attain to the mountain-top you must pass through the valley, climb the steeps, unafraid of the dangerous precipices.”
—Jiddu Krishnamurti, Krishnamurti: 100 Years