Vajrayana, Consort Practice and Sublimation

- Jigme Khyentse Rinpoche

The Tantras, which are the almost exclusive preserve of Tibetan Buddhism, form part of the teachings of the Mahāyāna. Like the Mahāyāna sūtras, they are animated by the attitude of Bodhichitta, the determination to attain supreme Buddhahood for the sake of all beings. A number of features distinguish the tāntric teachings, or Vajrayāna, from those of the sūtra. One of these is the great variety of skillful means whereby the process of attainment is vastly accelerated. According to the sūtra teachings, the two accumulations of wisdom and merit required to produce the state of enlightenment are expected to require continuos practice over a period of three countless eons. By contrast, through the implementation of the most advanced tāntric yogas, and given favorable kārmic circumstances, the fruit of Buddhahood may be actualized within the course of a single human life.

The reason for the esoteric character of the tāntric teachings is given by Guru Padmasambhava. He says that they are kept secret not because they are in some way shameful or defective, but because their power renders them proportionately precious and perilous. Being profound, they are easily misunderstood and are to be transmitted only to appropriate persons at the right time. They are likened to the milk of the snow lion, an elixir of such potency that it will shatter a vessel of anything but the purest gold.

In contrast with the ascetic approach of the Hīnayāna teachings, and unlike the meditative antidotes used on the Mahāyāna sūtra path to counteract emotional defilement, the Vajrayāna is characterized by its direct utilization of emotion, as well as the psychophysical energies of the mind and the body. The external supports of ritual, visualization, mantra recitation and yoga are all of great importance. It is convenient to speak of the tāntric path in terms of four initiations or four levels of empowerment that introduce the disciple to the different aspects of the fully enlightened state. In the simplest terms, the first of the four initiations empowers the disciple to undertake the yogas of the Generation Stage. These aim at the realization of the true nature of all phenomena and mainly involve the practice of visualization and recitation. The second initiation introduces the disciple to the practices of the Perfection Stage, in which the subtle channels, energies and essences of his or her own body are meditated upon and brought under control. When this has been perfectly accomplished, the disciple is ready to receive the third initiation, which empowers him or her to practice a similar type of yoga but this time taking support of another person, in other words a consort. Finally, the fourth initiation is directly concerned with the introduction to the nature of the mind itself.

The most striking aspect of the yoga related with the third initiation and one that many will find intriguing and perhaps troubling, is that it specifically involves the use of sexual energy. Given that Tantra works directly with the emotions and utilizes various physical and psychic yogas, it would be surprising if it neglected what is after all a driving impulse in human existence. Even so, for many people, the idea of using the sexual act as a spiritual path may seem strange if not actually contradictory. perhaps this is due to the fact that in western religions, the morally correct environment for sexual activity is considered to be marriage, and the spiritual dimension of sex is intimately associated with the begetting of children. At the other end of the spectrum, it is evident in secular life that sex is often trivialized and debased in exploitative and degrading ways. These two contrasting attitudes are apt to complicate our approach to this aspect of the tantra, and in the task of interpretation it is hard to find a vocabulary able to express the notions of both physical intercourse and spiritual purity in ways that are not either unduly diffident or else tainted by prurience and vulgarity. In Tibetan Buddhism, the instructions associated with the third initiation are regarded as extremely high teachings and are the object of profound respect. they are not widely disseminated and are well beyond the reach of the majority of practitioners.

The ability to feel but not to crave, to experience and yet not hanker for more, or indeed for anything at all, is the mark of long training and a sign of great spiritual stature. The practice of the third initiation can only be implemented by people who are able to feel and yet remain without attachment, even in the situation of physical climax. It stands to reason that individuals who are genuinely able to practice in this way (as distinct from those who merely think they are) are few and far between. On the other hand, for those who can implement it, the yoga of the third initiation is said to be of immense power and swiftness. At the same time, it is a profoundly dangerous path, involving an area in which people are particularly fragile and prone to self-deceit. It is hazardous even for advanced and sincere practitioners because the arising of attachment can be extremely subtle, with the result that they may go astray and fall from the path. It is no doubt for this reason that few people are encouraged to attempt these practices. Active discouragement is much more likely to be encountered.

In his commentary on the Treasure of Precious Qualities, Khenpo Yonten Gyasto says: The teachings say that those who take and practice explicitly the third initiation must have previously trained their own bodies by the path of skillful means, so that their subtle channels are perfectly straight, the wind energy is purified and the essence-drops brought under control. Trained in the view of the two previous empowerments, they must be able to tread the path with the help of the extraordinary view and meditation, without any craving for pleasure. If a beginner, who lacks this capacity, goes around claiming to be a practitioner of Mantra and becomes enmeshed in ordinary desire, he is destined for the lower realms. It is better to practice according to one’s true capacity and to the limit of one’s ability.

In this advanced yoga, sexual energy is used in a way entirely cleansed of the impurities of ordinary passion and lust.

Srividya Laghu Krama Diksha Vidhi of Unmatta Bhairava

There were several questions regarding Laghu Krama Diksha, and I attempt to answer the same below.

There are three ways to initiate a disciple:

महादीक्षा तथा दीक्षा उपदेशस्ततः परम् ||

Upadeśa is the least recommended but easiest of all, where a Guru gives upadeśa of a mantra to his disciple. This seems to be the most commonly followed method in Southern India especially among worshipers of Srīvidyā.

Dīkṣā refers to Pūrṇadīkṣā within a specific Mahāvidyā such as Srīvidyā which, for example, is taught variously by Tantras such as Paramānanda and Paraśurāma Kalpasūtra. This is considered madhyama or average.

Mahādīkṣā is known as Kramadīkṣā and involves various Mahāvidyās, with the primary focus on either Tripurasundarī or Kālikā. This can be taught only by a Siddha Guru.

There are three main Sampradāyas of Srīvidyā Krama Dīkṣā and they are:

1. Mahāmanthāna Bhairava Krama
2. Unmatta Bhairava Krama of Gauḍas (elaborated by Tantras such as Bṛhadbaḍabānala etc.)
3. Svacchanda Bhairava Krama (detailed in Tantras such as ūrdhvāmnāya Tantra, Shaḍanvaya Mahāratna etc. followed by our lineage)

Our lineage, traced back to Bhagavatī Bimbāmbikā, only teaches Pūrṇa Krama consisting of 360 mantras and there is no Laghu (brief) krama taught. However, The Unmatta Bhairavīya Krama does teach a laghu-krama, which seems to have been co-opted by some in my our lineage as well. For example, Muktakeśānandanātha, who authored the manual Nīlakālī Saparyā (centered around the Krama procedures for Nīlasarasvatī and Ucchiṣṭa Mahāgaṇapati) discusses Laghu-krama for Srīvidyā. Another medieval work, Upāmnāya Ratnakośa, dealing mainly with the vidhi for Triṣakti Chāmuṇḍā also known as Chaṇḍī colloquially and as Ugracaṇḍā in Krama system, also discusses this Laghu-krama of Unmatta Bhairava school.

सर्वाम्नाय प्रभेदेन षड्धा विद्याक्रमः स्मृतः |

The system detailed below is mainly for Kādi Srīvidyā. There are similar systems for Kālī that include both Kādi (Dakṣiṇā) and Hādi (ādyā). And for Tārā that include both Hādi (Nīlasarasvatī) and Sādi (Ugratārā & Ekajaṭā).

पूर्वाम्नाये चोन्मनी च पूर्णेशी भुवनेश्वरी |
द्वीपशाम्भवकं दिव्यं लिङ्गमूले व्यवस्थितम् ||

The deities of Purvāmnāya meditated upon in Svādhiṣthāna Chakra are: Unmanī, Pūrṇeśvarī, Bhuvaneśvarī and Dvīpeśvara - Dvīpeśvarī.

There are certain differences in opinion regarding Mūlādhāra, Svādhiṣṭhāna and the order of contemplation for Adharāmnāya and Pūrvāmnāya. Some lineages worship Bauddha deities such as āryatārā and Vajraprastāriṇī in the nether āmnāya whereas those such as mine propitiate Ugratārā. In any case, Laghu Krama does not include this lower āmnāya. A detailed discussion on this topic is quite irrelevant here.

आद्या श्यामा दक्षिणा च दक्षिणाम्नायवर्त्मनि |
संवर्तशाम्भवं दिव्यं मणिपूरे व्यवस्थितम् ||

The deities of Dakṣiṇāmnāya meditated upon in Maṇipūraka Chakra are: ādyā kālī, Shyāmā kālī, Dakṣiṇā kālī and Samvarteśvara - Saṃvarteśvarī.

पश्चिमे कुब्जिका वज्रकुब्जिकाऽघोरकुब्जिका |
सर्वाधिकारविद्याख्यं शाम्भवं चतुरन्वयम् ||

The deities of Paścimāmnāya meditated upon in Svādhiṣthāna Chakra are: Samayakubjikā, Vakrakubjikā, Aghorakubjikā and Chaturanvaya-śāmbhava.

उपमार्गे महापूर्वा काली लक्ष्मी सरस्वती |
चामुण्डा च महाविद्येश्वराख्यं शाम्भवं हृदि ||

The deities of Upāmnāya meditated upon in Anāhata Chakra are: Mahākālī, Mahālakṣmī, Mahāsarasvatī and Mahāvidyeśvara mithuna.

उत्तरे सिद्धिलक्ष्मीश्च महासिद्धिकारालिका |
कामकला गुह्यकाली हंसशाम्भव कण्ठजम् ||

The deities of Uttarāmnāya meditated upon in Viśuddi Chakra are: Siddhilakṣmī, Mahāsiddhikarālī (which is a code name for a specific form of Guhyakālī), Kāmakalā Guhyakālī (not to be confused with aṣṭādaśākṣarī) and Haṃseśvara mithuna. There is a less popular version that involves Hiraṇyakaśipūpāsitā Guhyakālī which is rarely practiced on account of it being a Krodhavidyā or Pralayavidyā.

ऊर्ध्वे बाला पञ्चदशी षोडशी परशाम्भवम् |
आज्ञा चक्र स्थितं दिव्यं श्रीविद्या क्रमसंयुतम् ||

The deities of ūrdhvāmnāya meditated upon in ājñā Chakra are: Bālā, Shuddha Pañcadaśī, ṣoḍaśī and Pareśvara śāmbhava kūṭa.

Vishnu Raksha Kavacha Stotram

There are several Kavachas associated with Mahāviṣṇu that are seen in the various purāṇas. Of these, Nārāyaṇa Kavacha which occurs in the sixth skandha of Viṣṇu Bhāgavata Upapurāṇa is the most popular. This is especially true with those that scoff at rituals proclaiming their loyalty to either Jada Vedanta or to some kind of medieval Bhakti cult (to put it less correct politically, the Karma Bhrashtas).

However, the knowers of Mantra śāstra have traditionally recited the Viṣṇu Kavacha from Viṣṇudharmottara Purāṇa. This purāṇa deals extensively with solutions to afflictions by various kinda of Grahas and the Kavacha also occurs in this context. This Kavacha, much older than the Purāṇa, seems to have been inserted later into the Viṣṇudharmottara, on account of its massive popularity with both Smārta and Pāñcarātrika practitioners of Mantra śāstra. Again, many interesting details can be discussed regarding its origin, but we shall save that for a separate topic.

A relatively śuddha pāṭha of this Kavacha has been uploaded to our site. Please access the file here.

Sri Ramachandra

Nilataradhipataye Namah

उच्छिष्टगण उच्छिष्टगणेशो गणनायकः |

उच्छिष्टगण उत्कृष्टा गणाः शिष्टाश्च यस्य सः |
उच्छिष्टं नामरूपं चेत्यादृचः सप्तविंशतिः |
आथर्वणो यं वदन्ति स गणेशो न चापरः ||
मोदकं भक्षयन्देवो ध्येयो मन्त्रो नवाक्षरैः |
साधकेनेति वोच्छिष्टगणेश इति कथ्यसे ||

ucchiṣṭagaṇa ucchiṣṭagaṇeśo gaṇanāyakaḥ |

ucchiṣṭagaṇa utkṛṣṭā gaṇāḥ śiṣṭāśca yasya saḥ |
ucchiṣṭaṃ nāmarūpaṃ cetyādṛcaḥ saptaviṃśatiḥ |
ātharvaṇo yaṃ vadanti sa gaṇeśo na cāparaḥ ||
modakaṃ bhakṣayandevo dhyeyo mantro navākṣaraiḥ |
sādhakeneti vocchiṣṭagaṇeśa iti kathyase ||

Children's Carnatic Ensemble

Dushtagrahanashaka Unmatta Bhairava Namavali

ॐ उन्मत्ताय नमः
ॐ भैरवाय नमः
ॐ भीमरूपाय नमः
ॐ योगिनीपतये नमः
ॐ मातृकानाथाय नमः
ॐ निर्लज्जाय नमः
ॐ परमानन्दाय नमः
ॐ अष्टभैरवाय नमः
ॐ गणनाथाय नमः
ॐ डाकिनीहन्त्रे नमः
ॐ घोराय नमः
ॐ सात्त्विकाय नमः || १२ ||

|| इति श्रीउन्मत्तभैरवोपाख्याने गुरुरुद्रसंवादे उन्मत्तभैरव द्वादशनामानि ||

OM unmattāya namaḥ
OM bhairavāya namaḥ
OM bhīmarūpāya namaḥ
OM yoginīpataye namaḥ
OM mātṛkānāthāya namaḥ
OM nirlajjāya namaḥ
OM paramānandāya namaḥ
OM aṣṭabhairavāya namaḥ
OM gaṇanāthāya namaḥ
OM ḍākinīhantre namaḥ
OM ghorāya namaḥ
OM sāttvikāya namaḥ || 12 ||

|| iti śrīunmattabhairavopākhyāne gururudrasaṃvāde unmattabhairava dvādaśanāmāni ||

Jai Hanuman

Upasaka and Bhakta

suvarṇatanumekāmranāyakotsaṅgavāsinīm |
dhyāyāmi varadāṃ devīṃ sadānandasvarūpinīm ||

Dear friends,

I have not talked to you all for a while as travel and work are keeping me supremely busy. And some recent puraścaraṇa I have undertaken keeps me busy as well, and happy :)

I finally got a chance to catch up on my email. Glad to know most of my friends and dear students are safe in Chennai. My most sincere gratitude to the lotus feet of Parāmbā, Prāsādaśambhu and Nṛsiṃha.

One of the several emails I received was regarding a program involving the Pārāyaṇa of aṣṭottara śatanāma of Srī Shaṅkarācārya, described as a Yajña. While I appreciate the noble intent behind this task, what is its purpose? I write below the advice that I gave my mother some time ago.

I always like to distinguish between two categories of spiritual aspirants: Bhakta and Upāsaka. Bhakta is devoted to a deity, or several deities and his approach to worship is unstructured. He is possibly in the process of cultivating devotion and doing various activities perceived to be of spiritual nature. More often than not, he has no guidance of a teacher. For such aspirants, programs such as these are of benefit, to a certain extent, in cultivating devotion towards the Guru, also perhaps in developing some body-mind discipline. I am not very sure which version of aṣṭottara is going to be used here, but the one attributed to Vidyāraṇya is heavily based on the hagiographical account - Mādhavīya Shaṅkara Digvijaya. Yes, perhaps there are some inspirational names here worthy of contemplation, amidst the myths and glorification of ācārya’s accomplishments, some true, some others not. Apart from that, I do not see any practical benefit in indulging in such activities.

If one were to possibly seek the advice of ācārya himself, I am most certain he would rather advice folks to study Vedānta, to use his written works which cover the entire gamut of metaphysics, addressing the absolute beginner as well the advanced student. Or, one could spend time propitiating the several deities he invoked, be it in the spirit of devotion, or through his more systematic works such as Prapañcasāra and Saundaryalaharī (or the controversial Yatidaṇḍaiśvaryavidhi). That, in my opinion, would be a better way to appreciate the great Advaitācārya.

As for the Upāsaka, the instructions are clear:

cakrarājārcanaṃ devyā japo nāmnāṃ ca kīrtanam |
bhaktasya kṛtyametāvadanyadabhyudayaṃ viduḥ ||

An upāsaka of Srīvidyā expresses his Bhakti not by singing and dancing, or by reciting names of the Guru, or by pilgrimages etc. His Bhakti is expressed through the systematic worship of Srīcakra involving both antaryāga and bahiryāga, Japa of mahāmantras such as Bālā, Pañcadaśī and Shoḍaśī, and through the contemplative recitation of Lalitā Sahasranāma. There can be other expressions of his Bhakti but not at the cost of his primary responsibility towards his upāsanā.

When I was once a young student of my brilliant Guru, I asked him, “Gurunātha, can I recite Gurucaritra (popular in Mahārāṣṭra) after my daily practices? People say it’s very powerful” He replied, “Well, if you have so much time, then perhaps you are not doing enough Japa! One who does even half of the required Japa, has no free time to spend! And why are you not reciting the mantra of Dattātreya instead, or the Mahāmantra of Lalitā that is propitiated by Dattātreya himself? Would that not be better use of your time and energy than recite a devotional work which is not a revealed scripture or a śāstra?”

Life is precious, and so is time! One should be judicious in their time management and spend every possible minute in Japa and contemplation rather than indulge in other activities 'perceived' to be of spiritual nature. Upāsakas should clearly distinguish themselves from the lay devout and realize their clear responsibility towards sādhanā. I have nothing against my students reciting all kinds of stotras, śatanāmas, songs, chalisas etc., but every time you do that, please question yourself if you have done justice that day to your prescribed upāsanā.

Have a glorious year ahead!

Chaturayatana - Chaturamnaya

पाञ्चरात्रं महातन्त्रं कथितो वैष्णवागमः |
एनमाराध्य देवेशि पालकोऽभूज्जगत्रये ||

विद्याकदम्बचक्रस्थाः शिवविद्या मयेरिताः |
ताः सन्ति बैन्दवे चक्रे तस्माच्छिवमयी शिवा ||

सिद्धरत्नमहातन्त्रे कथितो गणपागमः |
सप्तकोटिमहामन्त्रैर्मण्डितस्तन्मयी शिवा ||

वामदेव महातन्त्रे सौरज्ञानप्रकाशकाः |
मनवस्तन्मयी देवी ज्ञानशक्तिरितीरिताः ||

अथ सेव्या च देवी सा चतुरायतनैः सह |
सिंहासनप्रसङ्गेन चतुराम्नायदेवताः ||

कथिताः परमेशानि संपदेषां न संशयः |
यस्य स्मरणमात्रेण पलायन्ते महापदः ||

pāñcarātraṃ mahātantraṃ kathito vaiṣṇavāgamaḥ |
enamārādhya deveśi pālako.abhūjjagatraye ||

vidyākadambacakrasthāḥ śivavidyā mayeritāḥ |
tāḥ santi baindave cakre tasmācchivamayī śivā ||

siddharatnamahātantre kathito gaṇapāgamaḥ |
saptakoṭimahāmantrairmaṇḍitastanmayī śivā ||

vāmadeva mahātantre saurajñānaprakāśakāḥ |
manavastanmayī devī jñānaśaktiritīritāḥ ||

atha sevyā ca devī sā caturāyatanaiḥ saha |
siṃhāsanaprasaṅgena caturāmnāyadevatāḥ ||

kathitāḥ parameśāni saṃpadeṣāṃ na saṃśayaḥ |
yasya smaraṇamātreṇa palāyante mahāpadaḥ ||