When I begun to practice Buddhism I was drawn a great deal to Padmasambhava. The great Vajradhara of Tibet with his Khatvanga, fabulous boots and unique moustache made a huge impression on me as a woman. He was not an ordinary white lotus sitting Buddha. He was a powerful Buddha with a very unique eye on the world, with a huge retinue of what appeared to a lay-person as demons and monsters and magical abilities.
‘I am never far from those with faith,
or even those without it
Though they do not see me.
My children will Always
Always, be protected by my Compassion’
The magical and secret wisdom as well as deep compassion and love is what drew me deeply into Vajrayana, a Tantric tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, promises enlightenment in one life time with a solid practice. Today as a Tara I can tell you that following your own intuitive wisdom into spiritual practice is very rewarding, but not easy.
Vajrayana is mostly focused on esoteric wisdom, dream yoga, and what we would call in the western world – embodiment practices. Through the use of purification practices, mantras, mandalas, healing sounds, meditations (Mahamudra, Dzogchen), visualizations we aim to experience śūnyatā (emptiness) and realize the True Nature or reality as luminosity not separate from emptiness.
For most part when I was teaching yoga in the west I discovered that for the lay westerner, introduction of meditation is the means to help relieve stress, develop a more sincere and authentic connection within one’s community and to improve one’s productivity.
For some this is the end as well. For others meditation practice and improved well being is a new doorway into a world of mystical wisdom, greater compassion and more profound knowledge. For the Buddhists it is a way of life and an understanding that ALL of Life is suffering.
What is very enjoyable about Vajrayana, and what I say to my students is that Vajrayana doesn’t stop. It is never-ending. We practice Vajrayana all the time, and then Vajrayana practices us.
We develop a personal relationship with the Buddha Dharma. The Dharma (one of the three jewels) is an entity and having a good relationship with the Dharma is essential to success of a practitioner. As devoted, or respectful you are to a teacher, and as important as it is to your success, the relationship you have with the Buddha Dharma is more significant to your enlightenment.
It is said that each one of us who is practicing is able to not only reach enlightenment but to also elevate and liberate all other beings. The Buddha Nature lives within all human beings. This is why it is a great gift to have a human life, intelligence, and means to practice.
Most students will like to have a Yidam deity, whether it is Padmasambhava, Green Tara, Manjushri, a protector deity, Avalokiteshwara, VajraYogini, Machig Lapdron, and others.
The practitioner gets to develop a relationship with the essence energy of the yidam deity. Some become those deities during a lifetime, and commit to return in subsequent lives to help liberate sentient beings. This is the way of Vajrayana to purify the obscurations and help resolve inner conflicts so to become a bodhisattva that returns.
A bodhisattva is dedicated to awakening and empowering realization in human beings. A bodhisattva is not an all-giving-provider. Bodhisattva will give you what a bodhisattva can give you, and what they can not give the practitioner must figure that out for themselves.
It is a great practice to remember that not only it is essential to be in the time of regular practice, but to embody the practice in day to day life. To eat, dance, work, play, work, make-love and live in EVERYTHING as the deity you have chosen. Vajrayana is not a part time work, you do for some time once a day. Vajrayana is something that you do/are everyday and every night. This way we get to have not only more fun, we get to experience emptiness further and increase our compassion towards ourselves, our condition and all other sentient beings.
Rev. Dr. K. Sonan Wangmo
Images: Yub-Yum Union Statue, Red Tara Tibetan thangka