Method and Wisdom in Highest Yoga Tantra Practice

Method and Wisdom in Highest Yoga Tantra Practice

Date of Advice:
June 2018
Date Posted:
June 2021

A student asked about the qualifications needed to engage in the Highest Yoga Tantra practices of transcendental wisdom and great bliss. The student said afflictions and self-grasping often arose and they weren’t sure whether their mind was stable enough to do these practices because they had not achieved calm abiding or special insight, or even come close to that.

Artwork by Lama Zopa Rinpoche

My most dear, most kind, most precious, wish-fulfilling one,
Thank you very much your kind letter. We are in New Mexico for a few weeks, then I am going to the Santa Fe center to give Medicine Buddha great initiation, then to North Carolina to do a course on Lama Atisha’s teachings. After that I am going to Austria and then to Italy for 100 million mani recitations and then to south India for the teachings.

Regarding advice for your practice, first I want to thank from the very inside of my heart, that you do so many prayers and that you are doing all the commitments for the initiations you have taken. That is great, great, great, unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable. Even myself, yes, I have received many initiations, but even myself, because of laziness—of course, many activities, but laziness is the main thing—I do miss. So, for you to do all these prayers, that is incredible, unbelievable. It leaves a positive imprint on the mind when you do the prayers and that brings you to enlightenment, it frees you from samsara, from the oceans of samsara sufferings and brings you to buddhahood, the peerless happiness. Can you imagine? Can you imagine the benefits?

Of course, because each practice is Mahayana, you begin with bodhicitta motivation, which creates the cause for you to achieve enlightenment for sentient beings and to free the numberless sentient beings from each realm, to free them from the oceans of samsara suffering forever and bring them to enlightenment, buddhahood. Can you imagine? Can you imagine?

Some of the practices are Highest Yoga Tantra, but even with lower tantra practices you are able to achieve enlightenment in one life, of course, by first achieving a long life, like being able to live for one thousand eons, and then because of that you are able to actualize the path and achieve enlightenment. Then with Highest Yoga Tantra you can achieve enlightenment in one brief lifetime of degenerate times, because of method and wisdom. This is the most profound and quick way to cease the dualistic view and dualistic mind. It’s amazing, amazing.

One thing I want to tell you, each time, before you do any commitment or practice, make sure to generate strong bodhicitta; generate compassion as strongly as you can for other sentient beings. In order to generate strong compassion for others, you have to realize your own suffering in samsara. It is in the nature of suffering, so then that enables you to generate compassion for others, who are also suffering in samsara. That’s the motivation, the Dharma motivation, and then because of that, the action becomes Dharma. Especially by generating bodhicitta, the action becomes the cause of enlightenment. When you are doing commitments or anything else, you have to pay a lot of attention to this, to make the time most meaningful and most beneficial to sentient beings. Then whatever you are doing—eating, walking, doing your job, sitting, etc.—becomes the cause of enlightenment. This is very important to really understand.

Of course generally, as I asked you to be director of the center, then all the activities that you do there are done to fulfill my wishes and to follow my advice, therefore you collect the highest merit and it is a quick way to achieve enlightenment. In every action you do, you are fulfilling my wishes, following my advice, so then you collect the most merit and it becomes the most powerful purification, the quickest way to purify all the defilements and negative karma. You should rejoice in that, day and night, and in whatever you do. So you should enjoy that.

I am sure you have heard this already, what Sakya Pandita mentioned:

Even if you practice the six paramitas, making charity of your head, legs or hands to others for a thousand eons, and even if the merit you get from that is dedicated for others, you get that much merit when you follow the guru’s wishes and advice. You collect all that merit in one second by following the guru’s path.

This is what Sakya Pandita advises and this is what you are doing; this is the advantage that you get, so you should rejoice all the time. This is the most important practice in your life, because everything happens from here up to enlightenment, and then you are able to enlighten all sentient beings.

In regard to commitments, there was one monk, just an ordinary monk, a very ordinary monk but very sincere, from Tsawa Khangtsen at Sera Je Monastery. Of course, when he came back in the late afternoon after going to a puja or doing pujas in family houses, all the young monks and students were just playing, so then of course he beat them. This is what many monks do. When they come back they beat or scold the young monks who are here and there, running around playing.

Anyway, this young monk was very sincere and he never missed his commitments, Guhyasamaja, Yamantaka, Heruka, and when he died, he died in meditation. This was from not having missed his commitments. That is the benefit, whether there is understanding or not. Just by following the guru’s advice given during the initiation and by doing the commitments, just by not missing them, there are these benefits. He died in meditation, sitting up. That’s kind of an accomplishment in one’s Dharma practice in this life, so it’s fantastic. So that is the story, that he never missed his sadhanas.

There are so many monks like that, not necessarily learned in Dharma, but very sincere, good monks. So many monks die in meditation, either lying down like the Buddha in the snow lion position or sitting up.

There was one monk who was very famous in the monastery for being angry. After saying just a few words, the monk got angry. He was famous because of that and everybody was scared to talk to him. When he died, he died in meditation. So then he became famous in a positive way. People couldn’t believe that, because outside he looked so angry, but maybe in reality he was not like that. So you never know who he was, maybe a buddha or bodhisattva.

The very first thing—this is very important—is for you to study the lamrim, to learn that. I know I gave life practice advice to you before, anyway now it comes out for you to study Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand, to read it from beginning to end. You got instructions before for your life practice, so I don’t need to tell you again; you can just follow what I told you before. But study Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand twice through, from beginning to end. Even if you have done this before, still if you can do it two more times, then do effortless meditation on the lamrim.

Regarding the transcendental wisdom of nondual bliss and voidness, first you need the realization of emptiness, the Prasangika view of emptiness, the meaning of subtle dependent arising. Samsara, nirvana, hell, enlightenment, I, action, object—everything exists in mere name. The karmic seed and fruit, the karmic cause and result—everything functions in mere name. From negative karma the result is suffering, but it functions in mere name. Negative karma exists in mere name and the resultant suffering exists in mere name. Good karma exists in mere name and the result of that, happiness, exists in mere name. So everything functions in mere name.

Emptiness, the meaning is subtle dependent arising, existing in mere name, merely imputed by the mind, and subtle dependent arising, meaning emptiness, so [phenomena] exist in mere name and therefore do not exist from their own side. That’s how everything is a unification of emptiness and dependent arising. This is what the Buddha taught and what Lama Tsongkhapa taught.

Also, with the inner experience of meditation, the sign is when your devotion to the guru is stronger, by looking and seeing [the guru as] a buddha, by looking and seeing a buddha, by using quotations and logic. The more you see a buddha, the stronger the devotion which arises, and at those times it is easier to experience [realizations]. Also, if you are meditating on compassion, or if you are meditating on emptiness and renunciation, it is very easy to experience realizations when the devotion is stronger.

By discovering and realizing emptiness, by depending on that, then with devotion to the guru, seeing the guru as a buddha, looking at the guru as a buddha. Everything, all the realizations up to enlightenment—renunciation, bodhicitta, right view—these are the foundation of tantra, up to enlightenment. All the realizations are dependent on the root of path, guru devotion, correctly following the virtuous friend. This is the most important practice; everything is to do with that. It is like the key of a big museum. Without the key you can’t do anything, but with the key you can open the door. That’s the heart advice, what I’m talking about, how to develop the mind.

Regarding the transcendental wisdom of nondual bliss and voidness, the actual one, on the basis of generation stage tantra you then do the completion stage practice. So when the wind comes, it enters the central channel and abides and absorbs. That is like the death time, when the twenty-five absorptions happen. It is a similar meditation during the life. When you succeed in attaining the completion stage path, when the wind enters the central channel and abides and absorbs, then you generate the four blisses. They are greater and greater and greater, and the last one is the greatest, so then the gross mind absorbs. Then only the subtle, very subtle mind actualizes the clear light. Then you see emptiness, the greatest bliss you are experiencing, nondual with emptiness. When you get that realization, the transcendental wisdom, nondual bliss and voidness, clear light—if you are able to achieve that realization in this life, then you are able to be enlightened in this life. That is like an atomic bomb, the quickest way to purify the dualistic mind and dualistic view and to achieve the unified state of Vajradhara in this life.

This has happened to many meditators who are correctly practicing the path and on the basis and realization of guru devotion, seeing the guru as numberless buddhas, by looking with effort, then on the basis of that the realization [is achieved] and the whole path develops. This is done up to enlightenment, along with this transcendental wisdom, nondual emptiness, the clear light. This is the Maha-anuttara Yoga Tantra path.

Also each deity—Yamantaka, Heruka, Guhyasamaja—has method and wisdom, and the two stages, such as the Six Yogas of Naropa. Lama Tsongkhapa explained each of these things that you experience. The bliss in the Heruka teachings is explained by Pabongka Rinpoche. It is said that the sexual pleasure and the culmination, you know that one, so you quickly remember that experience and then expand on that. Then the mind is in the state of emptiness, so that’s an example of how to generate, if you don’t get any feeling. That’s how to start the feeling.

However, for us beginners, even if it is just visualized, even if we don’t actually experience that, even if we just have the visualization, that’s what we should do. At least imagine, at least like that, and in this way gradually the feeling can arise and then we actually have the experience. It can help for that.

So these are just simple examples and advice regarding the practice of Highest Yoga Tantra. It is so important to understand meditation on emptiness in the correct way, therefore studying Lama Tsongkhapa’s teaching and what the Buddha taught is very important.

Thank you very much.

With much love and prayers ...