Practicing Tantra is not as hard as you may think


8.5 mins read

As promised in the last article on Tantra, I’m now going to share a little of what I like to do on a daily basis. Please don’t take my word for any of what I’m about to say – once you have your empowerments (next opportunity is in England this Summer), you need to read the commentary to the practice, The New Guide to Dakini Land, yourselves! But in the hopes that some of this might help some of you, here goes …

VajrayoginiYes, as I said here, in general we self-generate as Vajrayogini (and/or Heruka) in dependence upon renunciation, bodhichitta, and wisdom. We can deepen our familiarity with this over time – getting a feeling for how transcendent it is to be a Buddha, so that we can come back to this when we forget.

But … we don’t have to wait to perfect all these minds before we practice self-generation or every time we practice self-generation. Self-generation need not always be the culmination of all our other meditations — it can also function as a jumping off point. (As I explained here, it can be useful to meditate backwards … )

So, whether I am about to meditate on the stages of the path (Lamrim) or on Tantra, I jump straight in as Vajrayogini. I base this self-generation on renunciation, bodhichitta, feeling the Spiritual Guide in my heart, compassion for someone, or anything else — whatever you love about Dharma, start there. I don’t think it really matters which positive mind we start with — you can evoke some familiar happy mind, starting where you are, as it were (explained more here). And then use that as your basis for thinking, “This is me; I’m Vajrayogini”.

Blissings

happy mindI find that instantly the blessings are there, the positive mind becomes far more powerful, and I’m in flow. (It works even better if I think, “I am Guru Vajrayogini”, that is, one with my Spiritual Guide.)

Whenever our mind is peaceful, we are already connected to Guru Buddha’s blessings. So it’s not that much of a stretch to impute ourselves on that.

Blessings lift our awareness and make us happy, and believing we are a Buddha is a quick way to get them. It’s hard sometimes these days to stay peaceful and positive for even an hour without feeling tuned into some kind of blessings. As it says in Essence of Vajrayana:

In these impure times it is only through receiving the blessings of the enlightened beings that we can maintain the mental peace that is the root of our daily happiness.

Then, for example, if I want to meditate on love or compassion, it is within that context that I go on to deepen this. It is not that I am clinging tightly to “I am Vajrayogini, I am Vajrayogini” so much as not approaching my meditation as an ordinary, limited being, with an unbridgeable gap between a rigid immovable unloving state of mind and the blissful fluid universal love I am aiming for.

jump for joy 2In that space that opens up, in that flow of blessings, there is so much more room for Dharma minds, all Dharma minds; and then it’s much easier to gain deep, blissful, sustained feelings for all the Lamrim and Tantra.

If instead we are supposing, “I have to work myself up to generating myself as Vajrayogini — I have to have perfect renunciation, bodhichitta, and wisdom, not to mention get through every practice in the sadhana, before I can authentically be Vajrayogini,” then I think we rarely get there. We probably never even get started, to be honest.

I am a great believer in finding time for a daily Tantric sadhana, btw, long or short depending on time and inclination, and especially in spending quality time dissolving everything into the clear light. But there’s a reason why most sadhanas start with instantaneous self-generation.

Switching channels

As Buddha said:

All phenomena are mere name.

We are not inherently anybody or anything — there is no self to be found behind the name or label. And names have power. “I am Luna” brings up various associations, for example, that free me up to write this blog. “I am mere appearance not other than the emptiness of all phenomena” sets me free. “I am Vajrayogini” brings up enormously positive, light, and blissful connotations.

As soon as we think, “I am Vajrayogini,” then the basis of imputation for ourselves has changed because we have changed the imputed object.

VajradharaFor example, I was asking a monk called Chodor, whose name means “Vajradhara”, if he felt different when he was given that name. “Yes”, he said, “Instantly”. The moment he got his new name he felt a shift. This didn’t mean that he was real Vajradhara — rather that the space and possibility and connotation opened up so that he could flow toward being Vajradhara rather than struggling for many years with no Vajradhara qualities.

Tantra is about bringing the result into the path, so there’s no way around it; we jump in.

I would submit we jump in as often as possible, both in and out of meditation. Switch from the Samsara channel to the Pure Land channel. And then ignore the temptation to switch back just in case we might be missing something — we’re not. There’s nothing on at all.

Changing the trajectory of our lives

We have to change the narrative of who we are if we are to overcome the inertia to escape from samsara. That is, we cannot keep identifying ourselves as an ordinary samsaric being and then expect to ever be a pure being.

Normally we abide with the self we normally perceive – impoverished, exhausted, isolated, deprived, insecure, in pain, worried, overwhelmed, stressed, bitter, or angry (just for starters) … and we cherish this self and protect it at all costs. All our thoughts are wrapped around this self, off in the hallucination

narrative of samsara

That’s enough – we need to think, “I don’t want to do this anymore!” We cannot make samsara work. It’s always frustrating – every step we take gives rise to some inconvenience. We’re so used to it, we think it is normal. A mildly disturbing day is seen as a “good day.” Self-grasping disturbs our inner peace all the time. Even our happiness is inadequate, a changing suffering. We do not want to fully accept that samsara is miserable so we tend to be ½ in and ½ out. We need to leave samsara, also, so we know how to get other people out of it.

We need to switch channels. We need to go to the Pure Land and stay there.

We need vision

There is a question posed in the Tantras that we answer on the occasion of receiving empowerments:

Who are you and what do you seek?

This shows the need for bringing the result into the path, identifying right now with who we want to be and what we really want out of life. This is based on the wisdom understanding that we are not inherently anyone and so can be anyone (as explained more here)

It is worth really thinking through each day who we want to be and what we really want. Everything depends on this – what we do all day, what delusions we have or don’t have. Samsara doesn’t deliver the goods. Wouldn’t it be incredible to have renunciation, bodhichitta, wisdom, and spontaneous great bliss instead?

The answer we give on this occasion is:

I am a fortunate one seeking great bliss.

A “fortunate one” (in Tibetan “Kelsang”) means a Bodhisattva. So, we are identifying with – or thinking “I AM” — a Bodhisattva seeking the great bliss that is the quick path to enlightenment.

Please note that the answer is not: “I am a hopelessly inadequate one seeking some vague sense of peace if at all possible, though knowing my luck it probably isn’t …”

We need that divine pride, that self-confidence, if we are to conquer our discouragement and other delusions – we have to feel stronger than them or they will continue to trample on us.

samsaric lifeOn this point, next time you have a delusion, check who you think you are at that time and as a result what you think you need. Chances are you are identifying with being an ordinary being in samsara who really needs things like jobs, money, relationships, and reputation to go well. For example, “I can’t be happy if I’m not coupled up; I’ll just be lonely my whole life!” Or “I need to accomplish something in my career or I’m just a failure!” Or the guilty, “I’m such a good for nothing son/partner/parent/person.” Or thinking we actually are this meaty body, “I’m so fat and ugly and getting stiffer every year!” etc, etc.

If we are identifying as Vajrayogini or Heruka, with built-in renunciation, compassion, and wisdom, these concerns are no longer an issue and so we drop our delusions with respect to them. We love everyone and are surrounded by Dakas and Dakinis, so there is no basis for loneliness. Far from being a failure, we are spontaneously benefiting all living beings. Far from being fat, ugly, or uncomfortable, we are blissful Deities made of wisdom light, transcending samsara and lifting everyone else out as well. And so on. Switch channels from ordinariness to pure view … and see why Buddha has always wanted to introduce us to this incredible spiritual technology.

Dakas and DakinisAs the Tantric Master Geshe Kelsang Gyatso puts it:

When we cling to being an ordinary person, thinking “I am Peter”, “I am Sarah”, etc, we are developing ordinary conceptions. Because we cling to an ordinary identity, if someone attacks us we feel fear, or if we run out of money we become anxious. If instead of clinging to an ordinary identity we were to overcome ordinary conceptions by developing the divine pride of being Heruka or Vajrayogini, we would not develop fear, anxiety, or any other negative state of mind. How can anyone harm Heruka? How can Vajrayogini run out of money?  ~ Tantric Grounds and Paths page 14.

More coming up soon on how Tantra helps us to destroy our everyday delusions. Meantime I hope you’re enjoying these articles and, if you don’t have them already, might be inspired to receive empowerments soon … 😇❤️😊

Author: Luna Kadampa

Based on 36 years' experience, I write about applying meditation and modern Buddhism to our everyday lives, and vice versa. I try to make it accessible to everyone who wants more inner peace and profound tools to help our world, not just Buddhists. Do make comments any time and I'll write you back!

23 thoughts on “Practicing Tantra is not as hard as you may think”

  1. I was wondering, are there prerequisites for receiving HYT, or can any practitioner receive it? Thanks.

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  2. Hi,
    Thank you so much for your articles. They are so easy to read and really help. I love the pictures you choose too!
    I’m excited at receiving my first HYT empowerment from Gen-la at the summer festival. I do wonder how I will fit it in with my daily practice. I do heart jewel most days and have just added the long vajrasattva mantras into that. I love Avalokiteshvara Sadhana and the 35 confession buddha Sadhana but can’t fit it all in! My teachers talk about skilfully encorporating my Dharma practices but I am quite rigid in my approach. How do you do it all? Thanks, lisa x 😊

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    1. That’s great that you have a regular daily practice already! You’ll find out more this Summer, but don’t worry — generally you’ll still do Heart Jewel (including Lamrim) and then a Tantric sadhana, from very short to very long depending on your time, which can include Vajrasattva purification. You can do other Tantric sadhanas, eg, Avalokiteshvara, from time to time, but understanding that whenever you practice Heruka and Vajrayogini you are also practicing these other Deities. Does that help?

      If you can find 30 minutes to an hour a day, that’s wonderful. And, usually, capacity and space to do more formal practice opens up over time if we just get going and as we start to enjoy it more and more.

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  3. Hello Luna,

    Thank you as always for a lovely inspiring and practical article. I have two questions:
    (1) You said we can switch channels. Is it possible to be tuned into two channels at the same time? During a summer festival, being jet lagged, I had this experience on two nights that my dream appearances were beginning to flow in but my waking world awareness had not fully dissolved yet. Is that even technically possible or was I just hallucinating? Regardless of this example, is it possible to be tuned into two worlds simultaneously, for example, I am working at my desk and at the same time, be self generated as Heruka in the celestial mansion? I have a feeling it is but how do I understand it technically? There are two primary gross minds, one imagining my self as human in an office and another imagining my self as Heruka in Keajra?

    (2) Why are some Tantric Buddha’s always solitary (Vajradharma, Tara), some either solitary or with consort (Vajradhara, Vajrasattva) and some always together with consort (Heruka)? Can I visualize Heruka as solitary in my meditation break self-generation practice?
    Are all “coupled Buddhas” just one person (one mind of clear light) appearing in the aspect of two people just like Heruka and Vajrayogini?

    Thank you!

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    1. Thank you for all your questions! 😁 For an answer to (1), we don’t get rid of ordinary appearances for a long time, so you can mainly emphasize remembering emptiness and divine pride while you are at your desk. For (2) Yes, they are one person. Whether they appear in union or not depends — only Highest Yoga Tantra Buddhas appear in union, for a start, and within that sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. Do what works for you in the meditation break but don’t forget Vajrayogini.

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      1. Thank you once again Luna. I would love some further clarification.

        In Essence of Vajrayana in the section on “How to practice during meditation break” on page 182, Geshla says “We should constantly recall that when we engaged in the practice of generating the action Deities, we generated ourself and all sentient beings as the Blessed One Heruka. We believe that this appearance is valid and that our normal ordinary appearance is incorrect and deceptive. By thinking in this way, we prevent ordinary appearances and conceptions during meditation break.”

        Does this mean developing non-ascertaining perceivers towards objects of daily life and going back to re-cognizing meditation experience of everyone in aspect of Heruka since the former are non-existent and the latter is valid? The beings and things of human world in reality have zero correlation with beings and things in Keajra but I practice on the basis of a concocted correlation (such as, my colleague seen as Vajrayogini) as this is the most skillful way to both function in this world and abide in an experience of being Heruka in Keajra at the same time (to the best of one’s ability). This approach acknowledges and accepts my current situation yet leverages the current karmic appearances to propel me to Keajra even during meditation break. Can I attempt to train like this?

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  4. Thanks so much for this. I’ve just spent a few very unpleasant days fully caught up in Samsara,fully believing every confused thought and feeling.
    This has just confirmed that the cost of getting to Summer Festival is not a normal expense but a wonderful investment.

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  5. Thank you so much for simplifying and reminding us how easy it can be. Very much looking forward to summer festival and HYT empowerments to give us more inspiration.

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  6. Over 1,000 of us are in Mexico and received the empowerment’s from Gen-la
    This is just beautiful and inspiring🙏🏼💖🙏🏼💃🏼

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    1. I have been feeling happy about you all this week … tuning in as much as I could! It is so incredible for Mexico and the world that this took place, mind-blowing really.

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