Six Yogas of Naropa


Lama Yeshe - On The Six Yogas of Naropa

By Lama Thubten Yeshe
Vajrapani Institute, California (Archive #372)

This is an excerpt from extensive teachings on Lama Tsongkhapa's commentary on the Six Yogas of Naropa. The teachings were given by Lama Yeshe at Vajrapani Institute in California from May 30 to June 11, 1983. You can watch Lama Yeshe giving this teaching on our YouTube channel.

In this excerpt, Lama introduces the Six Yogas of Naropa, a completion stage practice of Highest Yoga Tantra, originally transmitted from the great mahasiddha Naropa to his disciple, Marpa. Lama discusses Naropa's spiritual journey and advises students to have a nonsectarian approach to these profound teachings.

Lama's teachings on the Six Yogas of Naropa were published by Wisdom Publications in The Bliss of Inner Fire, which combines two commentaries Lama gave on this practice, this one at Vajrapani in 1983 and another at Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa in 1982-83.

Lama Yeshe at Vajrapani Institute, California, 1983. Photo: Carol Royce-Wilder.

We supposedly start today, our job we start today, from the beginning. Better slow down. [Laughter] Now, supposedly I have to teach you this time. It's called Six Yogas of Naropa. Anyway, I'm not sure myself, so therefore always delayed.

Also these Six Yogas of Naropa historically come from Shakyamuni Buddha and then slowly, slowly to Naropa and then also to many, many lineage lamas like Marpa and Milarepa, many lineage lamas. And each of those lamas have also written down their experience and commentary on the subject of Six Yogas of Naropa.

At this time, I received the teaching from the text of Lama Je Tsongkhapa, the text that explains the Six Yogas of Naropa. I guess this is already translated into English by something, something, something. So if I'm going far away from the text, there is this book. If I'm not making sense, you check out in this book, at least. OK?

Also myself, I received this teaching from my guru almost two or three times. And even though I'm not a successful meditator, I try, at least I try, OK? Therefore, you know I mean well, isn't it? At least. [Laughter] That's all I can say.

Then all the historical point of view is Naropa, the great mahasiddha Naropa, was a well-educated monk living in the ancient Nalanda Monastery in India. He learned everything, all the subjects of Sutrayana and Tantrayana. He learned everything. All intellectually.

But then he was a famous distinguished one in the monastery. Maybe many people gave attention to him. But in his mind, he was not so happy. He didn't think he was a great man. Even though he was like a computer; he could tell everything, he could debate, he could remove all sharp criticism. However, somehow he was dissatisfied.

One day, I guess, he told his dissatisfaction to some of his guru. Then his guru gave him the mantra we are doing, OM HRIH HA HA HUM HUM PHAT and he did that one, this mantra, quite a bit. Then after sometime, while he was doing the mantra, suddenly from space making a sound, told him "You are still a baby, long way to go. Your knowledge is just intellectual it is not enough. In order to fulfill total satisfaction, there is some guru such and such place called Tilopa." Something like that.

So he thought maybe that was something special for him to research. So he left the monastery and met Tilopa. Tilopa looked like an immoral man, sitting somewhere eating fishes. Something like that. Anyway, he didn't look like a great yogi, maybe if you saw Tilopa, you'd think, "Who'd want to listen to this man? He is impure, immoral." You would see him that way. However, Naropa saw Tilopa.

Also you know the history of how Naropa went through twelve years of trouble. Each time he had to do outrageous action for his guru with so much struggle, not receiving really what he wished, not receiving mahasiddhi, realization, or initiation, empowerment. Not receiving anything for so long. So it went on and on and on.

However, his history I think is very important for us. Nowadays all of us in the twentieth century, we have so much information, we have so much intellectual information we collect, we all have this, we collect. But very little action and very little success at spiritual attainment, highest destination.

So this is really, I feel is a very good example. Naropa was such highly advanced in intellectual, philosophical, ritual, in both tantra and sutra, and still he's a baby and not discovering satisfaction within himself. So he had to seek a tantra master and struggle all these things. This is a good example for us.

Now maybe a little bit Tibetan style is I have to read a little bit from the commentary.

[Lama recites from the root text in Tibetan]

The meaning of this title is called, how do you translate, three... Yi-chi sum-den the characteristic, Yi-chi sum-den means you have confidence in three characteristic way.

This commentary has three characteristics. Description of meditation clean-clear is number one, maybe. And second is very distinct, distinct explanation rather than like my mind all mixed up. You know I say something and then suddenly I want a flower, you know? I get distracted, I talk about this, I am over here. The commentary says not mixed up, is scientific clean-clear.

And third is the way confidence as explained by Lama Je Tsongkhapa. He did not explain da, da, da, only. He explain da, da, da, because Naropa quote, because Tilopa quote, because Marpa quote, because Milarepa quote. So he explained, what his explanation is how those great lineage gurus' explanation is linked to his.

He did not explain just blah blah blah. He explained this should be this way because Naropa says this way, Tilopa says this way, Milarepa says this way, and Marpa says this way. So he has incredible explanation of how to prove it. All the subjects. So that those who are searching, researching, that becomes clean-clear. Confidence by quoting the various reference. OK?

[Lama recites the root text in Tibetan]

This is you just listening. It's not important, if you pay attention or not pay attention, I don't mind. Just myself enjoy, you know. [Laughter]

[Lama recites the root text in Tibetan]

My enjoyment is finished now. [Laughter]

I tell you some kind of explanation from here. The cream of this explanation. It is important for us to know some kind of firm practicing.

Many old students they have listened to so much Dharma teaching, for about ten years. Then sometimes they say, "Well, now I'm confused. I don't know where I start. [laughs] From where I start. I receive so much teaching from one hundred lamas and I don't know who is my teacher and I don't know what is my meditation," or something it is like that. Sometimes confused, OK? [Laughter]

Now, this is important I think, even though you have studied so many subjects, you have received hundreds of meditations, technical meditation and still you are lost, that shows something's wrong, isn't it? Something's wrong.

Something in the beauty of Tibetan Buddhism. We have clean-clear structure from beginning up to end. We already have [Lama whistles] clean-clear. We have a clean-clear list we can show you how you can check up. That is, from my point of view, to be appreciated, is very much to appreciate.

So if you use your head wisdom you'll be able to see. You'll be able to think. So knowing firm structure is number one important, because then you're not lost.

Also, since you claim you are a meditator, since you claim you are Buddhist now, you know the principle of Buddhism is concerned with the head, isn't it? Concerned with brain, in other words. So much concerned with mind. Come on! [Laughter]

We are concerned very much how the mind is the nucleus of samsara or nirvana, whatever it is. So all the trip what we are having in our life is all manifested from the mind. Remember. So we should have to some extent, since we are getting Buddhist education, we should have some kind of awareness of our needs, at least you should know what you lack and what you need. To some extent, you should know. I believe if you try to know, you will know.

In Buddhism, we talk about human being is great. Automatically, we are great. We are great because we have a nose, we have a mouth. Not because of that reason. The human being is great because when really we want to see, we have inner wisdom, I tell you. I think I trust human being. Through the lam-rim explanation, through the Buddhist teaching.

To some extent you know what you need. So what you need, you take, you eat. When you are hungry, you know you are hungry so you search for food and eat, isn't it? When you are thirsty then you know you need something to drink. You solve problem.

It is similar, absolutely. Similar, that you feel some lack of satisfaction. Of course it can be gross, it can be subtle. But you know the Buddhist way to solve the problem is not try to solve the subtle one but to try to solve the gross one. Remember those things that Maitreya explained. So in order to solve the gross problems, what you really need if you want is to know it, you can really know. So then you can act and eat and take your level of meditation.

Now Lama Je Tsongkhapa explains here the beginning theory and lays out the subject. The subject here he explained is the preliminary subjects and the main body of subject. The preliminary subject has the common Mahayana preliminary and the uncommon particular Vajrayana preliminary. You heard already that Tibetan word, ngön-dro. Most people have heard this word.

The common Mahayana preliminary is the lam-rim, you remember? Explaining from taking refuge, actualizing bodhicitta, knowing your value of life, four noble truths and loving kindness and six paramitas, I know you remember those things. All those things are Mahayana common preliminary meditations.

Then when Lama Je Tsongkhapa explained all this and how it is not only his idea, but Marpa's idea, he refers to Marpa. Then he refers to Milarepa. Then he refers to Gampopa, then Kagyüpa, Pagmo Drupa [other lineage lamas.] Also besides Milarepa, Kagyüpa has many different lineage lamas. All these lamas, Pagmo Drupa, Yang Tsewa... Everybody agrees—there's no distinction.

Even Christian agrees. [Laughter] In a way this is true; Christian has also renunciation, isn't it? Christian has a way of renunciation. Christian, we have refuge. We do. Therefore, all same thing.

All those are important. Many times the sectarianism comes, like Gelugpa think that, “Kagyüpa is, oh, not sure.” Kagyüpa think, “Oh,Gelugpa, not sure.” And Christian think, “Oh, Buddhist people, not sure.” Buddhist people think, “Oh, Christian people, not sure.” [Laughs] They worry about each other.

Not doing exactly business. Just produce superstition. But the business is, what is it? Kagyüpa business, Gelugpa business, Christian business, all these peoples' business is to do good things, serving for others, develop yourself, isn't it? So this business is given up. Then just talk about, “Maybe he is, maybe she is.” Also waste of time, waste of time.

That's why Lama Je Tsongkhapa explains at the beginning, he proves through those Nyingmapa Lamas, those Kagyüpa Lamas, those  are right. So he proved through them.  So it's good. You people as foreigners should get the right idea of Lama Je Tsongkhapa. Like me, I'm a Mickey Mouse, I present Lama Tsongkhapa as a Mickey Mouse or as hungry ghost maybe.

So therefore, to know this is important for you, OK? So yourself also not involving in a ridiculous waste of your time. We are concerned so much with time, money and life. Now we do something meaningful, get something yourself. That is more worthwhile than just to poison each other with negative energy. This not so worthwhile. I'm not making anything special because what Lama Je Tsongkhapa is telling here is so important, significant to all of us.

Then also remember there are many, many different lamas. They claim themselves as a different religion. They try to make distinction in such a way. Lama Je Tsongkhapa says here there is no differentiation. Kagyüpa practices, Marpa, Milarepa, Gampopa practicing—is same thing as we do. Kagyüpa shunyata point of view and Gelugpa shunyata point of view is the same thing. Here it says, now I'm talking about Lama Je Tsongkhapa's point of view.

And of course, some different rituals are definitely there. But then what is different? Different ritual does not make real difference. It's like how all of us are different, isn't it? We have big difference in proportion of nose each of us, each of us eye color different, so we are all different. If you consider some slight difference making distinction, then I don't think that proves you and me are different. Not sure.

Anyway I'm not worried about how you people are, really. Most of you I know, I trust you, that you are not involving in any this kind of sectarian negative poisoning conversation and these things. You are not involved. I'm very happy. And I try also to accord with Lama Je Tsongkhapa's explanation; I try to make clean-clear your view and practice.