Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Precious Tantra

When Sakyamuni Buddha attained the full enlightenment, He did not want to preach the teachings because they were simply too profound for men. During His time, India was rich of philosophies and there were numerous philosophical and religious schools that were constantly debating with one another, including the ancient Hinduism and Jnana that existed before Buddhism. The world during His time was rich of philosophers with great wisdom including the Greek philosophers, the Chinese followers of Confucianism and Taoism etc. Men of that era were great thinkers, who thought hard about achieving the highest accomplishment in the universe. Sakyamuni Buddha learnt all the teachings at that time including asceticism which He later abandoned before attaining His full enlightenment.

When He attained his full enlightenment, He realized that no men could comprehend His state of being. He decided to enter the Parinirvana and return to His pureland. However, Bhrama and Indra (kings of heaven) supplicated the Buddha for His teachings. Buddha finally agreed to remain in this world in order to pass on the teachings.

Initially, Buddha tried to relate the fully enlightened state of being as expounded in the Avatamsaka Sutra, with the audience completely lost in its profundity. He decided to start from the more basic teachings – the Hinayana. The Hinayana teachings include the Four Noble Truths, Precepts, Cyclic Existence (samsara) and the Suffering of the Human Realm etc. This is known as the First Wheel of Dharma where Buddha gave the first round of teachings.

When Buddha gave the second round of teachings, known as the Second Wheel of Dharma, He expounded the teachings of Prajna (wisdom), Emptiness, Middle Way etc. Buddha knew that the first round of teachings were just the fundamental ones that, despite rigorous training by His students, will not bring about the highest level of enlightenment. The Hinanaya teachings can only help one attain the level of enlightenment of Arahat. So, He taught His students the Mahayana teachings next including Compassion, Emptiness, The Six Perfections, The Middle Way, The Relative Truth and The Ultimate Truth etc., which could help them attain a higher level of enlightenment.

Although all phenomena appeared to be real to us, they do not truly exist; this is the teaching of The Ultimate Truth. “All phenomena are like dreams and bubbles, like lightning and morning dew. One should view them as such.” This is a verse within the Diamond Sutra. All the objects that we saw including the lamps, chairs, you, me and everybody else are just compounded existence that should be viewed as similar to lightning, reflection in a mirror and dream.

Our existence is liken to an existence in a dream, where “I”, Acho, am here giving you the teachings; “Konde” is also sitting here giving you the teachings; “you” are sitting here listening to the teachings. After this prayer session, in this dream, you will return home and meet your children, teaching them their school works and also going to your work…… However, everything in a dream cannot be truly obtained and accomplished, and with many things happening against your will like suffering from illness, cancer etc. Therefore, you must apply the teaching of the Diamond Sutra – view everything in life as a dream and free yourself from its attachment. You will realise that it is actually a dream when you finally awaken, and by then you will attain the ultimate freedom.

Sakyamuni Buddha did not ask you to abandon everything in life immediately. Of course, it will be great if you are able to do so immediately. As long as you are still unable to do so, you should view all phenomena as illusory and dream-like existence that ultimately speaking, do not truly exist. This is the teaching of The Ultimate Truth that can help you break free from the illusory existence. As long as you still take it as real, “there is suffering”, you will never be able to break free from it. At most, you will run away from it by going into a retreat in a mountain and attain the level of Arahat far from the level of Buddhahood.

The Middle Way shows us the way to view this worldly existence as a relative truth that it does exist but in the form of an illusion which is non-graspable. The Middle Way examines the true nature of an existence beyond its appearance. Does this book have its true nature or not? Ultimately speaking, it does not truly exist. To an ant, this book does not exist and it is meaningless. However, this book means something to us because we see it at the right time and at the right place. Before the mobile phone was invented, no one knew what it was. Had you invented the mobile phone 100 years ago and showed it to others, no one would have known that it was a “mobile phone”. Actually, it does not truly exist because it too, lacks a self-nature. This is the Dharma – teachings that will free us from the illusory existence and experience.

Finally, Sakyamuni gave the third round of teachings – the Third Wheel of Dharma. The inconceivable Tantra was a new class of teachings transmitted by the Buddha during this period. This time, Buddha negated all the teachings He gave previously and transmitted the Tantra to only one worthy student - the King of the Shambala Kingdom. The king was the only suitable vessel for Tantra. The king did not want to abandon his kingdom and family, and he did not want to go into a retreat nor abide by the precepts.

Sakyamuni Buddha said, “Alright then, since you are a special vessel for such teachings!” So, He transmitted the inconceivable Tantra to the king. The king accomplished the Tantra soon after practising them, despite his worldly possessions. So, you see, this is how inconceivable the Trantra is. However, you cannot view the Tantra from the perspective of Hinayana. The King did not practise the precepts and meditation taugh in the first two rounds, yet he accomplished his practice of the Tantra taugh in the third round. Why was it so unfair? Sakyamuni Buddha explained that the king was a suitable vessel for the Tantra. The Tantra is simply inconceivable.

The Vajrayana (or Tantrayana) is so special because of its “lineage power”. The Mahayana regards the teachings more important than the teacher and that its practitioner can only attain Buddhahood after practicing for Three Big Aeons. However, the Vajrayana thinks that it is possible for a practitioner to attain Buddhahood in the present lifetime through an inconceivable method. Guru Yoga is such superior method. H.H Dilgo Kyentse Rinpoche once said, “A qualified master is the path to enlightenment breaking free from the samsara. A qualified master is likened to the yacht of a boat, carrying the latter across an ocean. One must rely upon a qualified master in order to break free from the samsara. Actually, the only way to attain Buddhahood is to rely on a qualified master.”

There is no other method to accomplish the Tantra besides relying on a qualified master. The Tantra is indeed inconceivable. Why does Vajrayana provide the fastest path to enlightenment? A qualified master represents the Buddha and he is the embodiment of all lineages and the lineage power of all the past patriarchs of the lineages. This is the secret of the attainment of Buddhahood within one single or at most, a few lifetimes. There is no other method besides the Guru Yoga that can help achieve this.

Although other methods like the Mahayana can also help its practitioner attain Buddhahood, it is a much slower process. It is the same for the Hinayana where an Arahat must continue to practice for numerous aeons and progress to the Mahayana before finally entering the Vajrayana. The Vajrayana has the fastest method and a qualified Vajra Master can help a practitioner accomplish his practice swiftly. However, it will still require its practitioner to truly regard his own master as a Buddha as a pre-condition. A Vajrayana student cannot be suspicious of his master’s conduct but instead, must have full faith in the latter in order to accomplish his practice.

The Vajrayana is the quickest path to enlightenment but it is certainly not an easy one. First, you must develop a full faith in your master. When he asks you to jump, you jump; when he instructs you to do anything, you do; even though he may appear unreasonable at times. A qualified Vajrayana master is just inconceivable. All the past patriarchs accomplished their practice in the same manner. How can we be different? How can we be more superior than Vajrasattva, Guru Padmasambhava and the likes? We must trust their words and practice accordingly in order to break free from samsara within a very short span of time. Or we will continue to be stranded in the Six Realms of Existence (god, demi-god, human, animal, hell and hunger ghost) forever.

It is actually very difficult for a human being to reincarnate in a human form again in his next life. In most cases, he will just fall into the Three Lower Realms of Existence (animal, hell and hungry ghost). Please cherish this precious human condition and the opportunity to practise the Tantra in this life.