17th Gyalwa Karmapa"Buddhism is a way of life through which we develop the qualities of our mind.
This way of life is very unusual, as it is a means to attain happiness without harming others.

THE 17th GYALWA KARMAPA

Teachings

 The Correct Attitude of a Vajrayana Practitioner

by HH Kunzig Shamarpa Rinpoche

The Vajrayana tradition is a quick path to liberation. Vajra symbolizes power which means Vajrayana is very effective. Many people have the wrong perception towards Vajrayana, assuming that it is no difference from the application of magical curse or psychic power. In actual fact, "YANA" is a quest for liberation of the mind and practicing magic and psychic power will not lead us to liberation. If we practice Vajrayana with this wrong view, we are sure to accumulate very bad karma. It is true that in Vajrayana there are a lot of mantra-reciting tantras, but these definitely are not magic or psychic. We must understand this uniqueness of the Vajrayana tradition.

The first criterion in practicing Vajrayana is to start with Hinayana. Hinayana contains the basic teachings of the Buddha and these teachings are not repeated in the Mahayana or Vajrayana. Therefore, the practitioners of the Mahayana of Vajrayana must begin from the basic teachings of Hinayana.

What are Buddha's basic teachings?

The most important ones are meditation and vinaya or discipline and practitioners of the Mahayana or Vajrayana must learn these through Hinayana.

The practice of meditation has two levels and the first is the "samatha" meditation which trains our mind to be calm, peaceful and stable. In the Hinayana teachings, the Buddha emphasized a lot on the practice and techniques of samatha meditation. Mahayana or Vajrayana practitioners should acquire such foundation.

Vinaya is self-discipline. In short, it is to refrain from the 10 unvirtuous acts. These 10 unvirtuous acts include all the bad karma that arise from ego-clinging. The opposite of the 10 unvirtuous acts is the 10 virtuous acts. These virtuous acts are the root of old merits. I am not going to elaborate on them here and those who are not clear of the 10 virtuous acts can refer to the sutra.

At the same time, we must understand that the human body is difficult to obtain and is very precious. This precious human body is a tool to liberation but it is very vulnerable and short-lived. In this world, there are a lot of dangers which can easily destroy such bodies. We do not know at all of our karmic force and how long we are going to live.

The reason for rebirth in samsara is ego-clinging.

All emotions arising from ego-clinging will not be virtuous and with such self-centred ego, there is no way to perform virtues. All the karmic activities will not be virtuous and each of these bad karmic causes will lead to rebirth in lower realms for ten thousands of times. If you can contemplate on this fact, then you will be able to realize how precious the human body is. In the innumerable times of rebirths, the chance of being reborn in the human realm is one to ten millions. Therefore, now that you possess the precious human body, please do not waste it. You must make use of this precious human body to practice. Unless you are already enlightened or else there is no way to be completely liberated.

The above is the first requirement of the basic practice. Next, to be a Vajrayana practitioner the second requirement is to be equipped with great compassion. That is to say, in order to practice Vajrayana, one must be a Bodhisattve. Bodhisattva means a person with bodhicitta and compassion.

Bodhicitta is the seed for Buddhahood and a Bodhisattva must have Bodhicitta and Compassion towards all sentient beings, without the slightest selfishness.

Once you have generated bodhicitta, any merits performed will be transformed limitlessly and can lead to liberation and Buddhahood. Contrary to this, if you do not generate bodhicitta, all merits performed will be limited. Only merits done with bodhicitta can guarantee enlightenment or Buddhahood.

Besides practicing the Bodhisattva path, Vajrayana practitioners also use certain special skillful means in their practice, such as visualization of deites, etc.

In the Vajrayana tradition, the Kalacakra is said to be the highest tantric practice. Kalacakra has a profound meaning and the characteristics of the Kalacakra deity is also very special. It has many faces, many hands and many legs and these represent many meanings of the practice. Another example is the four arm Chenrezig with its white body which symbolizes purity and compassion, lotus flower and crystal rosary held in the hands symbolize compassion and wisdom, and the ornaments worn on the body represent the various qualities of realization.

The deity or yidam can manifest in the form of Sambhogakaya or Nirmanakaya. These manifestations stem from the primordial awareness, that is Dharmakaya. For example whether Chenrezig is perceived as manifestation in the form of a Sambhogakaya or Nirmanakaya depends on the level of practice and capacity of the practitioner.

When you are doing the yidam practice, do not think that you are inviting the deity to you. For example in the practice of Chenrezig, it is not really that Chenrezig will appear in front of you. Certain people think that yidam practice is to invite the deity to come forth or to enter their bodies. These are wrong views. Further, to clear ego-clinging, we must focus our attention on another thing beside the 3 posions, ie. Visualizing a seed syllable. For instance the syllable "HRIH" which contains the blessing of the samadhi of Chenrezig which can transform into the image of Chenrezig. Now with our ordinary bodies we visualize this seed syllable and through this seed syllable, we transform into Chenrezig. This will clear our thoughts and habitual tendencies. From this we will know that yidam practice has a lot of benefits.

- Firstly, it contains samatha meditation because you have to do a lot of visualizations.

- Secondly, yidam practice can clear bad karma and habitual tendencies

- Thirdly we can attain the Dharmakaya or Sambho-gakaya state.

The heart mantra of Chenrezig
Om Ma Ni Pad Me Hung
arises from the samadhi of Chenrezig and by reciting this mantra can help us to increase our concentration and eliminate bad karma of speech. Also, visualization of the deity is not in solid form. Its nature is emptiness, Dharmakaya and its manifestation is the Nirmanakaya.

In the completion stage of yidam practice, we have to visualize Chenrezig dissolving into light and enter into the nature of our mind. At this moment, the power of our meditation dissolves into the natural state of mind. In the sutra, this is called Prajna Paramita.

The visualization of the seed syllable "HRIH" is to clear our habitual tendencies.

Usually, when beings are reborn into human realm, the consciousness will first cling to a body and then enter the womb. Of course with the present technology it is not able to detect the conception of consciousness in the womb. What we can see is only the gradual process of growing. The conception of consciousness is caused by greed and attachment and these are very hard to get rid of. It needs the natural transformation of the mind. Therefore, we visualize our mind and dissolves into "HIRI", which will transform the bodies of sentient beings into the bodies of Chenrezig.

The concept of yidam dissolving into light entering emptiness can change the habitual tendency of death. Usually when sentient beings die, they must enter the bardo stage. By this practice and visualization, it can clear the tendency and enter the state of Dharmakaya.

These are the practices of Vajrayana but most importantly, they require meditation as the basic. The methods of meditation are mostly found in esoteric sutras. If you are practicing Vajrayana and lack of this basic, whatever you practice will go wrong. You will be unable to visualize the empty state of a yidam and you will visualize the yidam's body as a solid form. When you recite the mantra, you will neglect its essence. Therefore, without the basic of esoteric teachings, all practices serve no purpose.

To be a practitioner of Vajrayana, we need to have a thorough understanding of its practice and also the complete bodhisattva vows. Vajrayana should not be taught openly to people who have not taken the bodhisattva vows as it is the teachings of the bodhisattvas. Therefore, only bodhisattvas are eligible to pracitice. However, the practice if Chenrezig consists of exceptionally great compassion and can be taught openly.

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