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.
Third Introductory Discourse

From the tantric point of view the main human problem is the repeated cycling in samsara. This is the main thing to release. What we try to eliminate is the three things—rebirth, dying and the intermediate state, we call kye wa, chi wa, bardo. These three things are the way we circle—rebirth, dying, intermediate state—and then again come back here, then again like this, cycling like this, we human beings are running round and round and round. So, our way of practice has to cut this. But I hope you don’t worry when I say we have to cut this—“No, I don’t want to cut this because I want to live. I want to reincarnate when I die.”

Ordinarily, these three, the ordinary death, ordinary intermediate state, we experience because of uncontrolled mind. It is almost as if we are just running, running, running without knowing what we are doing. Also, the ordinary conception that, “I am this,” gives us a low opinion of what I am, who I am. Like Western science has some kind of low opinion that human beings are like monkeys, are hassled like monkeys. Monkeys are always sort of up and down, and destroy things; and they have some kind of opinion that human beings are similar to hungry ghosts in that wherever we go there is some kind of problem: if you put a human being there, there’s some problem; put human beings somewhere else, again there are problems. We have the scientific way of explanation, you put it here, again problems come; if put there, again problems; put in space, problem, put in ocean, problem. Wherever the human beings go they make dirt and problems. This is the low opinion of what the human quality is. From the point of view of tantric yoga this is the main kind of samsaric problem, this way of thinking.

So, if each of us closely checks up how we identify ourselves at such a low level, we find all that this mind that identifies us does is produce a reaction of depression. You check it out. It’s because we interpret ourselves in such a small, narrow, mundane way. For example, any lady or gentlemen in the world who decides, when looking in the mirror, “I’m beautiful!” As soon as they say this, most times the reaction in their mind will be that something is not right, something is not right. When they look in the mirror and say, “I am beautiful, really good,” the reaction to their deciding they are beautiful or handsome is that something is not right. It comes immediately. But that “something” that is not right may vary greatly, perhaps “This is not long enough” or “That is not long enough” or “I am not muscular enough even though I am such a manly kind of man.” All these things actually don’t make them worthwhile, but it’s so important, the thing that is missing becomes so important and causes psychological bother and irritation. “I have such a beautiful body, but this something is wrong. I cannot fix this so my heart is broken.” With this kind of thinking, thinking that something is wrong; getting aggravated or irritated, the conclusion that comes is “I am not perfect, I am not good enough.” So already you put yourself down, for a reason of so little value. For example, perhaps you think your ear should be this way but it’s too much that way. The reason is so small, such little value, but you see it as a big thing and beat yourself for twenty-four hours thinking, “I’m no good, I’m no good, I’m no good.” The result is restlessness.

And also, we are thinking about this, but suddenly we pick up that. Our mind is here but suddenly we pick up something there—half is here, half is there, so no concentration, no focus to channel our energy, energy is lost. Even ordinarily when we work, living in the house, sometimes we go one side doing something, suddenly we have to go downstairs to the basement, then suddenly we have to go up there in the house, but if we check up actually we are doing almost nothing, we are almost like a crazy monkey already. So, the penetrative focus doesn’t happen, there is splitting—we are split, half is here, half is there. Anyway, we know, if we are so confused, half thinking here, doing something there, no integration, we can never be successful even in the material worldly life. So it’s very important to penetrate, to focus. 

In tantric yoga, the tantric yoga method, the whole thing is to transform the ordinary vision, this object identified ordinarily, into a transcendental, blissful experience. That is the whole method. The reason why we need intelligence to practice this is that the mind that feels blissful, has the blissful experience, the pleasurable and joyful experience, has to be the wisdom that can penetrate into the reality of the blissful experience. At the moment, when we have pleasure and happiness, normally we become ignorant, we don’t see the totality of what’s happening while we are having the blissful experience. We just become something else and have some kind of darkness experience instead of being penetrative and open. So the difference is that the ordinary mind having this experience, the ordinary pleasure, has the impression of darkness and unclarity and the reaction is grasping, grasping. And what grasping makes is more confusion, like the big waves we talked about yesterday. You know, the big wave, the big ocean wave. It is similar, the consciousness is clean clear, suddenly this wave of blissful emotion comes and we get confused, the reaction is unclarity. 

But when we practice tantric yoga, when there is the pleasurable or blissful experience, the wisdom itself has the ability to penetrate and to unify the non-duality of bliss. And tantric yoga also explains that in our body we have the potential to grow physically blissful energy, or kundalini. Our meditation demonstrates that each of us has, contained within us, the female energy and male energy that function to produce the growth of the kundalini or the blissful experience through these two energies unifying. This unified energy is contained within us—we are not missing it. If the tantric practitioner who has this kind of body, this kind of physical body, can energize such a blissful kundalini realization, it is so powerful.

The way to practice is that you use as a tool for obtaining liberation, the entire energy, whatever energy you have in your daily physical life. For example, perhaps you have seen some examples of Tibetan tantric art, in which a female is being embraced. This has nothing to do with physical sense gratification. It signifies the inner unification of such divine qualities of male and female energy. Actually, what it means is that the great blissful wisdom is like the male and the embracing means that blissful experience is unified with the non-duality of the shunyata female. So now we should not try just to intellectualize, we should check out whether it is easy or difficult. We all have, to some extent, some happy, joyful experience, some pleasurable, blissful experience; we all have. But check out whether that’s controlled or uncontrolled as I have just described—is that unified with the shunyata female or split? It means that the mind that is experiencing the pleasure itself becomes wisdom, absolute wisdom; in other words, seeing completely totality nature rather than darkness.

In fact, all human beings on earth can marry a non-duality female, embrace a non-duality female. Thus, we are practicing tantric yoga to develop the totality of the human being, the totality of enlightenment, by developing the male and female energy to express or demonstrate it totally within ourselves, rather than hiding it—men hiding their female side so it does not function, and women hiding their male energy so that it does not function. Psychologically, men are always missing female energy and women are always missing male energy so that we are in conflict and world problems arise. Also, there is no distinction. Both men and women have the capacity to discover totality; both have equal reality potential and the ability to unify with this totality. There is no distinction.

And visualization, when we say to have visualization, some people think it is some kind of huge effort. Many of my students say, “Lama, I am sorry, I don’t have any visualization; I can’t make any visualization.” They are so worried. Often I like to ask them, instead of making good gentle harmony, I say “Do you see spaghetti?” I like to shock them instead of being gentle, “Oh, you’re so young; I’m sorry.” Remember, the consciousness—our mind is like an ocean, it always has clarity and allows any reflection to come. There is no problem of reflection not coming. And when we visualize certain things, put our mind into some certain location, automatically a certain reflection comes, a visualization comes. It’s kind of intuitive because it is a contrast vibration.

Therefore, I want you continuously to contemplate on the clarity of mind or consciousness, and whenever any thought comes it is like a reflection, like a reflection of the moon coming onto the ocean. It has a certain reality but it’s not absolute. Even if you were to pray for that moon reflection to please stay always, when the time comes for it to pass it has to go; it comes, time passes, it goes. 

Similarly when that distracting thought comes, coming and going is its nature. But that doesn’t mean I want you to invite thought, to energize thought. Stop any kind of effort of intellectual thinking; just leave your mind as much as possible in non-discrimination.

To contemplate or concentrate just means to keep your mind on that memory, that’s all. You should not think to yourself, “I don’t have concentration.” You should not cry, “I don’t have concentration.” That’s not true. For example, last year you did certain things—this year, do you remember them or not? Do you remember last year’s experience? Of course you remember. That memory comes from the concentration of the previous experience, brings the recollection of that memory this year. That’s why concentration is putting unforgetfully the mind onto that memory. That is concentration.

Student: Concentration means memory?

Lama: Concentration means just having memory. So we all have concentration. As I said, last year you had an experience and this year you remember it. Why? Your having concentration at the time you had that previous experience leaves an imprint which comes out later, so you have memory. You contemplate by having continuity of that memory.

So here your concentration meditation, contemplating on the clarity of consciousness, brings some kind of happy feeling or blissful sensation. Try to unify this experience with non-duality, absolute nature, non-self-existent nature; try to unify that feeling, without reacting “Hah, good meditation; hah, very good, happy.” Instead of reacting, don’t react. I can’t actually say, “Ignore it”—sometimes there are difficulties with language, language also has dualistic function. If I tell you to ignore it then you will interpret, “Oh, ignore—I thought that meditation was to wake me up, to develop the consciousness, but now Lama is telling me to ignore.” What I mean is, emotionally, don’t pay attention but at the same time be aware.

So, tomorrow we will give the initiation of this deity, and slowly, slowly after the initiation I will give meditation instruction on how to practice the yoga method.