Secret Buddhism: Vajrayana Practices

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Secret Buddhism reveals the essentials of Vajrayana, mantras, empowerments, the six yogas of Naropa, Chod, Pure Land, and the six bardos. A history of the Kagyupa and Shangpa Lineages and some explanation of the principles of Tibetan medicine complete this survey of Tibetan Buddhism.

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About the Author:

Kalou Rinpoche, a lama of the Kagyu Shangpa Lineage, was born in Eastern Tibet in 1904. One of the first Tibetan masters to teach in the West, he passed away in 1989.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

1 - Foundations of the Vajrayana From Hinayana to Vajrayana Hinayana

The Small Vehicle (Sanskrit, Hinayana) can be condensed into two great principles: - observance of an ethic that avoids all that can harm others - understanding of the emptiness of the subject, also called the "non-I of the individual"

In this way, all conflicting emotions desire, aversion, jealousy, pride, and so on cease, and the mind remains totally absorbed in emptiness.

The state reached is called that of an arhat, that is to say, "conqueror of the enemy." The term "enemy" refers to conflicting emotions. It is, to a certain degree, liberation, but not ultimate Awakening.

Although one can dwell there for an extremely long time, up to several kalpas, the state of an arhat is not definitive. A day comes when the body of a Buddha emits a ray of light that touches the arhat, and awakens the motivation to engage in the Great Vehicle. From then on, the arhat follows this path and continues on to perfect Awakening.

The Small Vehicle is reduced to these two great principles. It does not envision the possibility of becoming a Buddha by the grace of the Buddha, nor does it envision the existence of the Pure Lands, which are concepts developed in the Great Vehicle.

Mahayana The Great Vehicle (Sanskrit, Mahayana) also takes into account the two foundations of the Small Vehicle, but going further, it opens onto a vaster domain: - to the observance of ethics that avoids harming, it adds the will to do everything for the benefit of others - to the understanding of the emptiness of the subject, it adds understanding of emptiness of the object, or the "nonself of phenomena"

The Great Vehicle teaches that all external phenomena grasped by the senses as truly existing objects such as form, sound, smell, taste, or contact are, in fact, lacking a reality. They are engendered by the mind. The mind being empty, they are also necessarily empty. The conclusion is then reached that mind is empty internally, and that phenomena are externally empty also. Dualistic grasping of a subject and an object is illusory.

Furthermore, practitioners of the Great Vehicle never consider their own happiness a sufficient end in itself. Believing that all beings were once their father and mother, they want all beings to obtain the happiness of Awakening. The motivation of practitioners is extremely vast. Seeing that beings do not understand emptiness, and that they conceive a "me" and "other" where there is no me and no other and that they wander in the cycle of existence, Mahayana practitioners develop an infinite compassion toward them. This compassion motivates the Mahayana practitioners to take on themselves the suffering and veils of all beings and to give them some of their own happiness and positive karmic potential. Relying on the union of emptiness and compassion, they practice the six paramitas: giving, ethics, patience, diligence, concentration, and wisdom. Mahayana practitioners exert themselves for many kalpas, purifying themselves, and accumulating merit and wisdom, until they ultimately reach full Awakening or Buddhahood. Taichung, April 13, 1986 and Taipei, April 30, 1986

Vajrayana The Vajrayana, or Diamond Vehicle, retains the foundations of the Small Vehicle and the Great Vehicle: not harming others and helping them, and the emptiness of subject and object. It is based on the use of particularly efficient methods of realization, called the two phases of meditation: creation and completion. The phase of creation, using skillful means, is comparable to a bow. The phase of completion, using wisdom, is comparable to an arrow. The bow speeds the arrow toward the target. Awakening can be reached in a single lifetime. To use another comparison, when one wants to cross the country from one end to the other, one can go on foot which is very long trip or with a car in less time, or one can take a plane, which is very fast. Traveling on foot corresponds to the Small Vehicle, traveling by car to the Great Vehicle, and taking a plane to the Vajrayana.

The Vajrayana considers that everything is fundamentally pure. The state of an ordinary being is only nonrealization of this purity. Likewise, the six classes of beings, if their purity is realized, appear as the six Buddhas' lands. When the mind is impure, all appearances are samsara. When it is pure, they are nirvana. The purpose of the methods of the Vajrayana is to produce the transformation of impure into pure. Taipei, April 30, 1986

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