7 mins read + a video
Now carrying on from this conversation about Tantra. And, by the way, this is the 400th article on Kadampa Life …
In The New Guide to Dakini Land, Geshe Kelsang says:
The ordinary deluded pride that I have had until now results only in suffering and continued rebirth in samsara, but divine pride will lead me to liberation and Vajrayogini’s Pure Land. Therefore, I will never give up this pure pride of being Vajrayogini.
We don’t need to use self-deprecating language on ourselves, thinking, “I am trying to be Vajrayogini” — we can just be her! Or “This is too hard” — instead we think “I am already doing it!” Bliss and emptiness are actually not that complicated — it is our delusions and over-conceptualization that are complicated, weighing things down with elaboration.
Who are we anyway?!
As Geshe Kelsang says in The Oral Instructions of the Mahamudra:
Many of Je Tsongkhapa’s disciples and their disciples in turn became enlightened Buddhas in their lifetime by attaining the realization of the union of great bliss and emptiness through practicing the instructions of the Ganden Oral Lineage. However, it is difficult for people to believe that this is true because their minds are obstructed by ordinary appearance.
Not surprisingly, due to beginningless familiarity with everything appearing as ordinary and impure, it is a stretch of our imagination at first to conceive of things as extraordinary and pure. But just because we haven’t experienced ourselves or our reality like this before doesn’t mean we cannot do it now. There is always a first time. We have been busy creating our suffering beginningless time; now we can start creating our happiness.
And we need to be convinced that this new experience is just as “real” as what we are currently experiencing.
Our current self is mere name, mere label, imputed by our ordinary imagination or conception on the basis of a hallucinatory meaty body and deluded mind. It cannot be found upon investigation. As Geshe Kelsang says:
What does taking rebirth in samsara mean? It means that in each of our lives due to ignorance we grasp our body and mind as our self, thinking, ‘I’, ‘I’, where there is no I, or self. Through this we experience the sufferings of this life and countless future lives as hallucinations endlessly. ~ The Oral Instructions of the Mahamudra
Think about this … how can we NOT experience suffering if we think we are a meaty body and a deluded mind?! Our self-grasping ignorance has trapped us in the very sources of suffering, so the most we can ever hope for is temporary liberation from particular sufferings – which is never going to be good enough.
Finding the self
Trying to find the self or me I normally perceive is like trying to touch the water of a mirage.
If this real me existed, it must be findable in its parts or separate from its parts. We should be able to point to it without pointing at anything that is not it. But luckily we cannot find a me or I if we look for it with analytical wisdom. I am not the body, not the mind, and not the collection of the body and mind — yet take the body and mind away and I disappear. (Thank goodness.)
These four essential points are explained in detail in this recent article. And you might find this video helpful – a hair is not the macrofibrils, microfibrils, or protofibrils, for example, but take any of those parts away and there is no hair. Everything is unfindable.
So there is no self separate from a sense (or thought) of self – self is mere appearance to that sense of self. There is no self, or anything else for that matter, other than its mere name. You will never find your self outside the mind, existing objectively or from its own side, however hard you look. (This probably explains why no one else can see your self! And why they come up with their own crazy versions all the time 😄) All there is is the emptiness of the self appearing as the self due to our mistaken minds.
Do what you like!
Thing is, if the self doesn’t exist from its own side but depends upon our thoughts, then why can’t we change our self by changing our thoughts? We can! In which case we can impute Me (or identify Me with) the pure body and mind of a Buddha, “I am a Buddha;” and this is just as “real”, or indeed more valid. This is because the body and mind of a Buddha, albeit still projections or appearances of mind like everything else, are non-dual with bliss and emptiness.
Pure mind = pure identity
When talking about making mandala offerings in The Oral Instructions of the Mahamudra, Geshe Kelsang interestingly says:
Offering the mandala is offering a Pure Land generated through the power of correct imagination. There is no difference between offering a Pure Land generated through the power of correct imagination and offering an actual Pure Land – both are mere appearance to the mind. If we have a pure mind both exist, and if we do not have a pure mind neither exists.
I think this explanation of Pure Lands applies to self-generation as well.
Using clear appearance to overcome delusions
From a daily practical point of view, we can rely upon clear appearance to overcome specific delusions.
We impute ourselves as Vajrayogini mainly on the basis of the Truth Body (or Dharmakaya) of bliss and emptiness, ultimate bodhichitta; but many times in and out of meditation I find it immensely helpful to remember the features of Vajrayogini and her mandala as a way to overcome the delusions that come up in everyday life. These features are not other than the bliss and emptiness of the Truth Body, but they teach us what to abandon and what to practice.
For example, if I am suffering from ignorance, aversion, or attachment, remembering my curved knife immediately reminds me to cut these away; or I remember that I am stamping on the symbolic forms of Bhairawa and Kalarati. If I am suffering from spiritual inertia, I remember that I’m looking up to space, demonstrating my attainment of blissful Dakini Land. We need the joy of unconditional love to help others, and our body blazes with joy like the fire at the end of the aeon. If we are identifying ourself with Heruka, there are even more features to choose from – such as his nine moods. You can read all about the features and their meaning in The New Guide to Dakini Land and Essence of Vajrayana.
We can use pure appearances/perceptions both in and out of meditation to overcome the appearances/perceptions of imperfection and ordinariness of ourselves and others. This is a lot of fun, to be honest, and gives us so much power, confidence, and energy to help others as well.
This is because what we end up doing every day depends on who we think we are.
Dream of the Dharmakaya
These features are mere appearance not other than emptiness – they are bliss and emptiness appearing. Therefore, they are not fixed — but the mandala is the rainbow-like manifestation of the omniscient wisdom of Heruka and Vajrayogini, created and blessed by enlightened beings. Geshe Kelsang once called it the “dream of the Dharmakaya”.
The mandala and Deities are inspirational and powerful because they are the embodiment of every stage of the path and every quality of enlightenment. Just remembering them automatically purifies and empowers our mind. I think of it as like all the Sutra and Tantra realizations appearing in technicolor.
Like every pure AND impure appearance — everything that exists in fact — Vajrayogini and her Pure Land are empty and dream-like; but it would be hard to come up with a better dream. We now have a dynamic, transcendental, pure, and blissful paradigm for relating to ourselves, our world, our enjoyments, our activities, and other people.
Over to you for comments. And Highest Yoga Tantra empowerments and commentary are coming up again soon, this Summer in England – perhaps I’ll see you there.
Bringing the result of our spiritual practice into the present path
Luna, your blogs are becoming more and more astoundingly blessed and wisdom-filled, and deeply powerful to read. Thank you thank you!
Thank you, Clare, for saying so! You have encouraged me to write something right now … (i’ve been very busy of late with family and other stuff, have written far less.)
So inspired!! By reading this I Day my life was changed a small bit but in a huge way. Thank you xx
I’m really glad! x
This just helped a few lights to flicker. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with us. They really are blessings.
What a kind thing to say, thank you.
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Thank you for your inspiring work with this blog Luna. It’s really helped me in times of wavering faith. Hope to meet you in the pure land one day 😊🙏🏻
Haha, yes, of course we will.
Another great article, and many thanks for inspiring me countless (400?) times! Time to dream a different life – especially while at work! I do so hope to have the good fortune to meet you in person at the Summer Festival!
Thank you for reading! Yes, do look out for me, would love to meet you too.
I dint think I could use the words delightful and challenging together but that’s exactly how your articles are!
“These features are not other than the bliss and emptiness of the Truth Body, but they teach us what to abandon and what to practice.“
I particularly found this reminder super helpful as I get a bit too involved in the details of the symbolism (which does function to reduce delusions and helps) but I lose sight of the larger context that’s it all within the bliss and emptiness of the Truth Body.
Hope to see you at Summer Festival.
Thank you Yona! Sorry i haven’t gotten back to your other questions yet 😄 But we’ll be catching up no doubt at the Festival xxx
Thank you for your incredible patience with my questions, they keep arising non-stop. I have (hopefully virtuous) fear that on my deathbed I may just have more questions arise on completion stage! That is one of the concerns that makes me read, study, contemplate and discuss and ask all the more.
Thanks to your and other teachers kind efforts, my attachment questions are beginning to pacify and as my turn my focus on developing compassion, new questions are arising. The main question is can I make my contemplations on suffering of others light hearted and playful and “enjoyable” or joyful, is this possible at all? I get heavy hearted and because of that, my mind doesn’t want to go to compassion naturally, it wants to go to wisdom and tantric vision of everyone being enlightened (which is very light hearted and enjoyable) but it wants to circumvent the contemplation of or dwelling into how others are suffering. I’d love some advice on what I can read and contemplate or any articles as my “home work” until I see you for the summer festival so I can ask more specific, relevant and to-the-point questions (if some questions still arise, that is).
Thanks and love,
What a great way to start a work day on Wall Street in NYC! I received permission last week from operations and HR to wear my robes at work. I have been many places on this planet and in the US in these robes and rarely gotten a second look. For some reason, during my very short walk from the South Ferry station to the JP Morgan building, I encounter a lot of stunned looks and stares. It’s really helpful for identifying the self I normally see and cherish but I’ve also found myself becoming a little less patient and gracious with co-workers asking me a bunch of weird personal questions every time I try to go to the bathroom.
Thanks for the inspiration – much appreciated and much needed.
Good to shake things up a bit around there 😄 I guess when you wear robes it is not personal in some ways, you are representing?
Good point – you are SO right!