Introduction to a Vajrayogini Commentary

By Lama Thubten Yeshe
Chenrezig Institute, Australia, September 1979 (Archive #365)

In September 1979 Lama Yeshe conferred the Vajrayogini initiation and gave teachings on the tantric practice of Vajrayogini to a group of students preparing for retreat at Chenrezig Institute in Australia. He addressed subjects that were specific to this Highest Yoga Tantra practice as well as other, more general topics. The transcript, kept largely in Lama Yeshe’s original words, is lightly edited by Nicholas Ribush.

Three introductory discourses, in which Lama taught on renunciation, bodhicitta and emptiness, are available here for the general public to read. These three discourses will be re-edited for Lama Yeshe’s The Enlightened Experience: Collected Teachings, forthcoming from LYWA.

The full transcript is available as a PDF file for individuals who have received a Heruka or Vajrayogini Highest Yoga Tantra initiation. See the Initiates Only section of the store for more information on how to order the text.

Lama Yeshe teaching at Tushita Retreat Centre, Dharamsala, India, 1983. Photo: Ueli Minder.
Second Introductory Discourse

Because of ego the right view is obscured from view and we have the wrong view of existence. The ego mind is the root of all delusion, the root of all human problems.

Now, how the ego mind holds such a wrong entity on the object is very simple. If you look in a simple way, from moment to moment, if you look, “How is my mind thinking what I am?”; if you look closely, “How does my mind interpret my reality?” you can understand. I mean on a gross level you can understand. Actually, it has nothing to do with your reality, even though your mind has the preconception idea, “This is me, so I should not lose this way, should always be this way.” You understand, the kind of preconception built up by the ego. The wrong entity that is held by the ego has nothing whatsoever to do with the reality of any existence, but what happens is from the subject’s side the ego holds, “I am somewhere, existing somewhere, without my mind labeling ‘I am Thubten Yeshe.’” In fact, all existent phenomena are labeled by superstition, or the deluded mind, labeled or called. A certain reality exists but it is labeled, “This is that, John, Francesca, blah blah, blah,” whatever it is. There is something, there is some bubble, there are some atoms—you look at these atoms, like this, and on those you say, “This is that.” So you label, you say, “This is that, that is this.” You tell, your mind says so. This is the reality, but the ego cannot accept that it’s your mind’s projection. You think it kind of comes out, this reality is inherent, self- existent from the object rather than coming from the mind. This is the wrong conception, that view is the wrong view.

In other words, if we say, “This is Thubten,” [Lama holds up a flower and points at it] we label this, I label, I say “This is Peter, Francesca, this is”—I think in my mind, I say “ This is that,” you people will think I’m crazy won’t you? But then if I say, “I’m Thubten Yeshe here,” [Lama points at himself] you’ll think, “Oh, he’s reasonable.” You people think that’s reasonable. As a matter of fact, when I say, “Thubten Yeshe is here,” I put here, Thubten Yeshe here— in this object [Lama points to his body] it appears as if he is somewhere here but there is no Thubten Yeshe existent at all; in this object as pointed out, if you search here, “Oh here, must be somewhere here, where is Thubten Yeshe, he must be here”—there is not Thubten Yeshe existent at all. Same, when I say, “This is Thubten Yeshe,” [Lama again holds up the flower] you laugh, you think I am ridiculous. Because you are going to say, “There is no Thubten Yeshe existent there.” If you search this object [the flower], “Thubten Yeshe, where is Thubten Yeshe?” there is nowhere that you can find, “This is Thubten Yeshe” when we check on this. It’s exactly the same thing—if you check around this bubble here [Lama’s body], nowhere can you find Thubten Yeshe. Is this difficult to accept? Check it out! I hope you don’t freak out.

Then the question comes, the question arises to you, “As when we check this flower there is no way to find Thubten Yeshe, and also you said he cannot be found here on the body, then where is Thubten Yeshe now? Is Thubten Yeshe existent or non-existent?” This question arises to you. The reply is that my superstition has a sort of vision, there is a thinking process vision, on these five aggregates I say, just give the name, just on this atmosphere I give the name, that “This is Thubten Yeshe”—are you communicating or not communicating?—which has no value: when you search here for where it is, you can’t find it here—it’s only this bubble and on this you just say, “This is him.” So it is only a label on this momentary combination.

Perhaps you can say, some people are going to think, “Oh that doesn’t seem such a good philosophy. It’s better to say that the consciousness, Peter’s consciousness is Peter.” But Peter’s consciousness is not Peter. Peter’s consciousness is his future lives’ existence, his past lives’ existence. His previous time Peter isn’t existing, is it? Before Peter was born he wasn’t existing, he wasn’t Peter; he was a monkey. So you called him a monkey; you called him a monkey, you didn’t call him Peter—even though his consciousness has continued from countless previous lives. 

And same thing, perhaps his nose is Peter. No! His nose is not Peter; Peter’s nose is not Peter! That’s important to know. And somewhere here [leg] is not Peter, somewhere here [arm] is not Peter, here, here, here is not Peter. Nothing is Peter. Same thing with chocolate. Chocolate, some energy is there, but our craving mind says chocolate has some kind of inherent existence from this side. You get a combination of various energies and then on that you give the label, saying “Chocolate.” That’s all. So it is a label, just that label on the combination is the chocolate. By searching this energy you cannot find “This is the chocolate.”

If the self-existent I exists, if the I is self-existent, it does not depend on the name, then it becomes concrete. We always do have, in any experience through the sense organs, any information or whatever, we always pick it up as concrete, concrete. This concrete view is the dualistic view, the wrong view. The ego mind holds the preconception idea that there is some inherent existence somewhere within me. The preconception idea, permanent idea, is a total over-estimation and according to the nature of the existence completely unrealistic. If we check up, are aware or sensitive enough, then every time that we decide, “I am this, should be this way,” we will know it’s kind of fantasy, hallucination. It is impossible that you can fix the idea that “I am this.” Every minute that you are looking at yourself in the mirror, there’s a fixed idea, but from the object’s side it is rapidly changing into something else, so that fixed idea is a complete hallucination, nothing whatsoever to do with reality.

If we come to some kind of simple conclusion, we can say that whatever vision comes, any vision of a sense object, it always appears concrete, the entity-ness appears from the side of the object—therefore, what we normally perceive when we look at the world, when we say, “This is true, this is all true; whatever I see, whatever I smell is true,” saying without any question, “Oh yes, because I see, because I smell, it’s true,” this is all wrong.

Perhaps you think that this philosophical way of checking the right view and the wrong view is making things difficult. It’s not difficult. Just be skeptical about whatever appears to your eye, to your ear and so on, instead of just accepting or believing the way it appears. Don’t just leave it, don’t be comfortable accepting the way it appears to the concrete idea. Be a little bit suspicious. “I’m not sure.” So, you see, when we talk about finding the right view, realizing the right view, you don’t have to look into space, you don’t have to look at Lama’s face or Buddha’s face—just look at the face of all your normal views. Don’t think that the right view is up in the sky somewhere and the wrong view is somewhere down here; “All Australia is the wrong view, the right view is somewhere in the Himalayan mountains.” Don’t look that way, “Oh, Buddha has the right view, up there, it must be that I always have to look at Buddha and then sometime later discover the right view.” No—the right view is everywhere, everywhere, anywhere, that’s all. The beautiful face of shunyata exists within all phenomena. So there’s no need to worry about never seeing beautiful—shunyata, the right view, is the most beautiful face there is.

Of course, we understand that we cannot smash or extinguish immediately the concrete appearance of ego. No—it kind of takes a long time for that to vanish totally. But there are levels: gross levels then more subtle, subtle levels we have to purify. But what we can do now, at this moment, is to loosen our tight conceptions, such tight views, completely tight, uptight. We can make these a little bit loose, a little bit loose. Even though the concrete appearance is there you understand, “Well, of course it appears, but it’s not true, it doesn’t exist as it appears.” You have some kind of in-depth understanding and also some experience, so you don’t believe; you don’t follow that interpretation, that version.

The example that Lama Tsongkhapa used in his Madhyamaka commentary is that of the magician who puts magic on a box and transforms the box into a yak or spaghetti. Let’s say I am the magician, and what happens is, I put the box here in front of you, and I have already made magic and put whatever energy is necessary to make it appear as spaghetti or a yak. What happens is that I, the magician, know that I am making a trick, but for you this appears as a huge yak going like this, or like hot spaghetti, ready to eat. Because of the power of the magic, the appearance of the yak or spaghetti also appears to the magician, so real, but inside he is thinking, “Of course, this is because of my magic.” He has no concrete conception, his emotions are not shaking; he is liberated from that magic show and is not at all emotionally disturbed. But the people watching the show, they see some kind of reality until he says to them, “This is because of my magic.” It’s possible that some people believe there is a real yak or real spaghetti here, instead of this box—things which are totally non-existent. I think you all know that kind of trick; it’s common in the West, they show many tricks on television. They say, “I’m going to make tricks,” so they show tricks.

So, it is very important. This example is very actual. We do have the wrong view when we look at the sense world, but inside we have to understand that this appearance is not real; we do not follow the concrete appearance. Is it clear? There are three things. The magician himself has the vision but he is free from holding it as concrete; he has no problem. It appears, but he knows it’s false; he is free even though it appears in his view. Then there are the people who are watching: they have the view and they also hold it as real. And then there is the person who sees it as it is—a box. They have neither the problem with the wrong view nor the problem of holding the wrong view. This example is similar.

At first, most of the time we have no idea. We just go on, we just go on, on, on into the darkness of the ego’s projection. At the beginning we both perceive the wrong concrete view and hold it also. Then at a certain point we start to question, we are suspicious. At that stage we are perceiving the wrong view but not holding it; we have loosened it a little bit. And when you discover buddhahood—we say buddha or whatever it is—when you become totally awake, having the intelligence of totality, then there is no wrong view and no wrong holding the conception of ego either. The point is that we should not hold the concrete entity strongly—this is the main bondage of samsara, the main reason for being caught in pain. Not just the perceived view—the perceived view is something else. When you hold the wrong view, believe it, that’s the worst thing. Then you are emotionally ready to transform it into problems. When you don’t believe it, you don’t hold it, then it’s easy. Maybe you are here and something is going on over there. Like when you watch television you aren’t so affected. Of course, some people cry when they watch television too. What to do?

The reason I am telling you all this is not that I am expecting you to have some kind of understanding of Buddhist philosophy. This time I would like you to contemplate on the consciousness or mind or observe the view of consciousness. So, the non-concrete, non-self-existence is the nature of universal existence. We should not think that it’s only some kind of philosophy—no. We are talking about reality. For example, in this room we have all kinds of things: we have wood and people and everything. If you understand the right view, if you understand non-existence, non-concreteness, there is some kind of unity, total unity between yourself and all other existent phenomena. And instead of feeling suffocated or hassled—there is you and me and this, this, this—you feel as if you and me and this are going into space. So there is enough space, we should not worry. There is enough space to allow each of us to flow freely in it, isn’t there. Same thing, in the total reality, the non-duality or shunyata, all existence is kind of coming, going, growing, dying—it’s all functioning within the non-self-existent, non-concrete reality. 

Normally we say, “I am sin. I am negative. I am very poor quality. I am ugly.” Whatever you think, “I am worst quality,” whatever you think worst quality, it’s not the absolute nature. You just worry unreasonably. The preconception, fixed idea makes you worry, worry, worry. “I am not good—bad, good, bad good.” You put yourself up and down like this, you understand. We should understand that the basic human consciousness, or human mind, is of clean clear nature. The ego is like a wave on the ocean. When you go to the beach and there are big waves, perhaps you think the waves are terrible but you say the ocean is beautiful. You are terrified of the waves but if you check out the wave you can see it in such a way that it’s just part of the unity of the ocean. It’s the same thing with the ego mind that holds the wrong entity—it is a part of, a reaction of the ocean of consciousness. In fact it still maintains the clarity. 

When we observe our consciousness we don’t have to be extremely strict, “I have to attain a clean clear mind. I have to obtain it, I am working for it, I am meditating, I am coming to the meditation course, I am meditating every day, I am working for it and I hope to get it by next year.” 

It’s not true; this is also rubbish. This way of thinking becomes an obstacle, it is preventative. Our connotation of the consciousness in being able to see objects clean clear; the consciousness is that which has the ability to see clean clear. That is the consciousness. Therefore, the clean clear is always there. We should not believe that we are totally deluded, that we are turbulent, of turbulent nature. That is really no good. And thinking, “I am completely sin and negative, I will definitely go to hell.” You push yourself too much into a situation, which is not true, not true. As I mentioned, the ego holds it in that way, yet the ego is just a wave, a big wave on the ocean. The ocean is actually clean and clear, and the ego is just part of the ocean.

So therefore, I want you to contemplate on the clean clear nature of your consciousness. Perhaps the question comes, “What is consciousness?” OK, consciousness is the experience, whatever you experience—you feel hot, the physical thing, and the mental experience; two things simultaneously. The mental experience, that has some kind of clean, so I want you to contemplate on that. 

[The tape finished here, but Lama elaborated a little further: contemplating on the consciousness leads to non-duality. It leads automatically to that because the consciousness is so subtle, we feel the gross levels of existence disappear and then we more or less contemplate on the emptiness, nothingness, non-duality when it disappears. The relationship between contemplating on the consciousness and non-duality is a very strong relationship. Contemplating on the clarity of consciousness automatically leads to the non-duality experience. In other words, by concentrating on the clarity of the consciousness we are automatically led to the feeling that everything disappears. At that time instead of being fearful we should feel that this is the real one, rather than thinking dualistically as we normally do, identifying “This is that” in a concretized way. The reason why contemplating on the clarity of consciousness is emphasized is that it is a direct method to lead to the experience of non-duality, and it also helps to enter the tantric yoga—through this we can easily understand the tantric method of transformation, we understand the tantric method of transforming ourselves into the divine quality of the deity. The point is, if we don’t experience some kind of softness, if we don’t knock down the concrete opinion and wrong view, we cannot actualize right view. The reason that this is so important for entering the tantric practice is that we need a suitable foundation by knocking down the concrete preconceptions. Consciousness is of the nature of clarity but Westerners believe it is concrete. We also believe we are sinful and negative. But the human being is made for beauty—the mind is clarity, the basic clarity is always there, therefore the beauty is always there.]