Esoteric Teachings of the Tibetan Tantra, by C.A. Musés, , at sacred-texts.com
1. Three Faiths: The enumerative terminology of Buddhism becomes very complicated, so that unless one belongs to a particular school it is not always possible to say with certainty what terms like "The Three Faiths" and "The Four Hindrances" refer to. Here it may be presumed, however, that the Three Faiths refer to the disciple's progress in Buddhism through three stages: Veneration (respect for Buddha and practice of the precepts); Understanding (reached by studying Buddhist philosophy); and Realization (highest personal attainment through practice of meditation and other Yogic practices. Likewise in understanding the Six Yogas, the disciple who hears of them, venerates them. Next, he gains the faith of understanding by studying them. Third, he achieves the faith of realization by practicing them. Hence, the relevance of calling the Six Yogas also The Book of the Three Faiths [or The Book of Threefold Faith Ed.].
2. Vajra Dhara: (Rdor-rje-chang, in Tibetan) lit. "Thunderbolt Holder." This is the Buddha from whom all Tantric teachings originated, according to tradition.
3. Supreme Vehicle: Tantric teachings, the Diamond Vehicle (Vajrayana). The term "Tantricism" is not used in Buddhist countries, instead the terms Hinayana, Mahayana, and for the esoteric teachings, Vajrayana, are used.
4. Paramita Vehicle: the Bodhisattva's Path; the esoteric teaching of the practice of Mahayana Buddhism.
5. True Word Vehicle: Vajravana (Buddhist Tantricism); the esoteric teaching. [Literally "Thunderbolt Vehicle", associated with doctrines of sudden enlightenment and the Short Path to liberation for those who take the Kingdom by storm. The cognate Tibetan term rDo-rje connotes "Diamond," i.e. pure and irresistible.—Ed.]
6. Lama Rngog-pa: One of the chief disciples of Marpa (See Biography of Milarepa).
7. Tantra of Two Forms (Tibetan Stags-gnyis): The main Tantra of Hevajra.
8. The implication of this quotation is chat the student should advance step by step from the practices of a novice serving
his guru until he understands the Doctrine of the Middle Way (Madhyamika).
9. Goddess: Lit. the Sky-traveling-lady (Dakini), female angelic deity.
10. Three Gradual Paths of Lam Rim: Lam Rim (Steps to Buddhahood) was Tsong Khapa's great contribution to Buddhist literature, in which he pointed out the necessity for a gradual progress of the disciple, beginning with the Lower Path (observation of ethics); through the Middle Path (understanding of the Four Noble Truths); to the Highest Path (observation of the Bodhisattva's Vow and Precepts).
11. Adisha (A. D. 980-1052): Famous Indian Buddhist who journeyed to Tibet and founded the Bgha-gdams-b’a School.
12. According to Buddhist belief, the human embodiment is the best in which to work for liberation, since the heaven-body is too blissful, whereas lower births or embodiments are too full of suffering.
13. Dhayana: Buddhist term for a special psychic state of absolute concentration.
14. Terms referring to the illusory, non-real, and void nature of Samsaric existence.
15. The chief aim of Mahayana Buddhism, to develop the Heart-for-Bodhi, includes two aspects: (1) the wish or pure desire for this state, called "Wish-for-Heart-of-Bodhi"; and (2) the vow to practice to achieve this aim. "Practice-for-Heart-of-Bodhi."
16. Eight Non-Freedoms: Conditions in which it is impossible to practice Buddhism, such as falling into the realms of hell, hungry ghosts, or animals; being born at a time when there is no Buddha, or before a Buddha begins preaching, or in a country where there is no Buddhist teaching; lacking the intelligence to understand Buddhism; becoming absorbed in the Samadhi of non-form.
17. Habitual-Thinking: The clinging of ego and the kleśas, is the cause of all sufferings and Saṃsara, and has its roots in the peculiarly human ceaseless, and automatic type of thinking (mentation).
18. Mes-sdon and Ngo-sdon: Two chief disciples of Milarepa. Ngo-sdon is mentioned in Milarepa's biography.
19. Arising Yoga: The first stage of Yoga; Perfect Yoga is the final or complete stage. The purpose of the Arising Yoga is to bring the mind and body to perfect control and to set the mind upon the practice of visionary concentration. The Perfect Yoga emphasizes the transformation of the body and mind. It is a final psycho-physical practice.
20. Pith-Instructions: The essential practical key directions for Yogic practice communicated privately from Guru to disciple.
21. Hevajra and Bde-mchog: names of two important Tantric Buddhas.
22. Buddha's Sons: The Bodhisattvas.
23. The Fundamental Precepts: Contain Fourteen Rules; the Secondary Precepts are the so-called Eight Transgressions.
24. According to the philosophy of reincarnation, in endless cycles of rebirths every sentient being is related as parent to child.
25. The incantation of Vajrasattva, which comprises one hundred words.
26. The Two Acts: Offering self to Buddha, and offering self for the liberation of sentient beings.
27. Four Mighty Ways: (1) Public confession of one's past wrongdoings; (2) Taking an oath never to repeat these wrong acts; (3) Performance of meritorious deeds; (4) Meditation on Śūnyatā.
28. The sin, sinner, and act of sin are likened to wheels turning about and keeping the world of Saṃsara in manifestation.
29. Offerings are more than acts of reverence. According to the law of Cause and Effect, one reaps merits through sowing offerings. The more enlightened the recipient, the greater the blessing; hence, the Buddhas and Gurus are the best Fields of Merits for the disciples.
30. Six Buddhas: In most Tantric mandalas these are deities of the four directions and of the center, together with the all encompassing primordial Buddha Rdo-rje-chang, making six in all.
31. The translator does not agree with Tsong Khapa's reasoning here, since it implies that a Buddha may refuse to accept a sincere offering. This would mean that the Buddha could be less than all-compassionate, an impossibility. [The sense of the text, however, rather appears to be not that the Buddha would refuse to accept any offering, but that there is no necessity that the Buddha will or should make a special miraculous appearance in a personal nirmanakāya (body of transformation) to do so, when the yogi's guru, who is already personally accessible, can act as just such a vehicle or channel.—Ed.]
32. Mandal: a bowl-like utensil, symbol of the universe, which is offered to Buddha. The treasure in it are symbols of the most perfect wealth and gifts of heaven and earth.
33. The Inner Offerings and Secret Offerings: The Inner Offerings are the bliss and enlightenment produced in the Tantric meditation—the meditation with breathing and physical exercises. The Secret Offerings are the highest bliss and ecstasy produced by the Third Initiation.
34. The Three Vajras: The perfecting of body, speech, and mind. Vajra may be translated as Diamond, meaning the strongest most precious; here, it means the highest perfection.
35. All the Gates: all the pores of the body, in addition to the nine chief gates—two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, the mouth, the anus, and the sex organ.
36. Subtle defilements: According to Mahayana Buddhism these are the subtle, or fine, Clinging of Dharma, only to be destroyed in the Eight, Ninth and Tenth Bhumis in the advanced stage of the Bodhisattva's path. (See Avatansaga Sutra and Yogacara Bhumi.)
37. These names are the title of the sub-schools or branches of Kagyutpa (the White School, or the School of Marpa.)
38. This quotation from the Tantra of G’ye-rdo-rje is incomplete, being only a part or the original stanza. It therefore can be given many different interpretations.
39. The Tantric Yogi: The original text is Brtul-zugs-chans, meaning literally "the one with oath."
40. The Yoga of Forms and Non-Forms: This is not a perfect but an expressive translation. The Tibetan term Spros-pa means "Nonsense" or "Play-Words" which implies that all the conceptions and patterns of human thought are relative and illusory; they are "play-words" when applied to reality. For convenience, the translator has used the term "Yoga of Forms," because in the practice of Arising Yoga one cannot free oneself from conceptualism and symbolism. All visualizations, recitations, and prayers practiced in the Arising Yoga have form, while Mahamudra or the Yoga of Non-Forms transcends all these practices.
The reader may consider "The Yoga of Away-From-the Play-Words" and "The Yoga with Play-Words" as alternative translations.
41. Four Castes: the four castes of India.
42. Four Periods: Morning, noon, afternoon, and evening. Here Tsong Khapa's commentary is not explicit. The translator presumes that he means that the Yogi meditates on a different part of the body (corresponding to the Five Buddhas and their adornments) during each of the four periods.
43. "Sketchy Visualization": a general, non particularized mind-picture of the tutelary deity.
44. Tutelary Pride: to cure the Saṃsaric Pride-of-Ego, Tantricism teaches the yogi to expand instead of abandon, as Hinayana Buddhism taught, this pride to a cosmic scale—to the identification of one's self with Buddha, this being the highest pride of all.
45. Superb Visions: When the Yogi reaches this stage he no longer views the world and its objects in the ordinary, common, Saṃsaric way but sees the outer world as the Palace-Beyond-Measure and himself as the tutelary Buddha.
46. Bodhi-heart means in this case, the male life-force or semen. Pad symbolizes the stability and the union of the two forces (male and female). *
47. Mind-Functions: Buddhism distinguishes between the mind and its activity. Mind is that which acts, but the functions are the different ways in which this mind manifests. According to Yogacara, the mind or the No. 6 Consciousness has 51 mind functions.
48. The eighteen dhatus (groups): The six outer-objects, the six sense-organs, and the six consciousnesses.
49. Ayatanas: The six places where the consciousnesses abide and the six objects observed.
50. Medrepa: The Guru of Marpa, an accomplished Indian Yogi.
51. The philosophies of these schools are very complicated. Because of the limitation of space, the translator cannot explain all their differences here.
52. This is Tsong Khapa's view and does not reflect that of Tibetan scholars in general.
53. Innate Wisdom: The perfect wisdom of Buddhahood, which is not made by humans but is inborn in every sentient being.
54. This complicated conception is unique in Tsong Khapa's philosophy. Tsong Khapa's definition of the self-nature is very peculiar; his philosophy of Middle-way is greatly different from those of the old schools and is refuted [rather, "opposed," for the Middle Way doctrine's meaning is really not different from Mahamudra] by many outstanding scholars of these schools. Since it takes a great deal of careful thought and study to understand Tsong Khapa's philosophy and how it differs from that of the old schools, the translator believes that it is not wise to explain the different views here briefly, for that would definitely lead to misunderstanding. It is the wish of the translator to write an essay on this topic at some later date.
55. Here is shown Tsong Khapa's "timidness" on Śūnyatā, and his materialistic view is clearly reflected *.
56. Rtsa in Tibetan, Nadi in Sanskrit. All the tubular structures of the human body, including the nerves, capable of transforming the fluids and energies of the body. In the text this term is translated usually as nerve or nerves. [See also Part I, Ch. VII, Note 13. Ed.]
57. Literal translation would be "enables me to become Buddha in eight lives in the future."
58. Naropa held a professorship in an Indian college-monastery that had four doors. He held the office of guardian of the North Door.
59. Lacking Marpa's original text, it is felt that the meaning of the Tibetan is substantially conveyed by the three English terms given (barring any esoteric meaning they might have carried and that is now lost).
60. The Father Tantra is one division of the highest, or Annutara Tantra, in which emphasis is on the Skill [upāya in the sense of perfect Love's boundless means to aid. Ed.] Teachings. The other division, called the Mother Tantra by Tibetan scholars, is that which emphasizes the Wisdom [prajñā, in the sense of transcendental wisdom. Ed.] Teachings.
61. "Light" is the term used to symbolize the transparent nature of the pure consciousness. This consciousness has, however, many degrees, hence many terms are used to describe these gradations and manifestations of consciousness, such as the Original or Mother Light, the Light-of-Sleep, Light-of-Death, and Light-of-Bardo.
62. Roma and Rg’yng-ma: the Right and Left Channels.
62a. gTum-ma: Tibetan name for the Heat-Yoga. Ed.
63. Tantrism provides two types of teachings. The Skill Teachings instruct in those methods used to carry the yogi beyond the habitual patterns of human thought so that he may grasp that real beyond thought, the Pure Consciousness. The Wisdom Teachings begin with the mind to penetrate beyond it to the Realm of Pure Consciousness. [Such skill is technically called thabs. Ed.]
64. Here, Tsong Khapa wishes to emphasize the differences between the blisses produced by the experiences of ordinary meditation and those produced by Tantric meditation.
65. Brave Ones (Dpao Wo in Tibetan): The male heavenly beings who practice Tantricism.
66. In tantric meditation, the yogi visualizes himself as becoming the Patron Buddha or yidam; he is no longer of human form.
67. The special belt wrapped around the body to keep it in the right posture for meditation.
68. This is Tsong Khapa's own view which is refuted by Gamaba VIII of the White School.
69. Two pranas: the up-going air and the down-going air; one negative and the other positive.
70. There are a great number of pranas in the body of many different natures and functions. In the past, thousands of different pranas were named and classified. Today there still exists well-defined knowledge of fifty or sixty pranas, but most of the traditional prana-knowledge has been lost.
71. Two lower gates: the anus and urethra.
71a. Tur Sel Prana: The down-going Prana.
72. Great Symbol Thig-le: A commentary on a Tantric book.
73 There are various degrees of the Melting Bliss. Here, "disqualified" refers to a lower, more mundane, bliss, rather than the highest actual Melting Bliss.
74 Peaceful-Mind: This refers to a special system of Tantric teaching given by the Gsan Adus Tantra. "Peaceful-Mind" is an expedient translation of a Tibetan term (Sems Dben) which can be translated variously.
75. There are various levels of delusory thoughts to which sentient beings are subject. The crude delusory thoughts such as resentment, anger, and pleasure are easily recognized and felt by all conscious beings as well as by those seeking enlightenment. However, Buddhism says that freedom from these gross illusory thoughts does not result in enlightenment, since there are deeper, more subtle illusory thoughts in sentient beings of which they are ordinarily unaware but which are the source of bondage. These must be struggled with and eliminated before enlightenment is obtained.
76. Two-in-One-with-Learning refers to all these teachings provided for the instruction and enlightenment of those who have progressed up to the stage just before Buddhahood. Two-in-One-without-Learning refers to the stage of final enlightenment, Buddhahood, in which nothing remains to be learned.
77. The Tibetan words Snod and Bjud [pronounced "nu" and "ju". Ed.] mean not only the "Sentient beings" and the "Universe" but also "the supporter" and "that which is supported"—implying the idea of the subjective and the objective.
78. Two Mandalas: Here, Tsong Khapa does not clearly state which Mandalas he refers to. Perhaps he means the Samaya Mandala and Wisdom Mandala. See footnote 6 of Chapter IV (Initiation of Hayagriva) on the "Samaya and Wisdom Buddhas."
79. The original text uses the term Dharma, which has the several meanings of existence, objects, beings, becomings, Perceptions, etc.
80. and 81. These statements reflect the typical thought of Tsong Khapa's own philosophy, according to which there is a Voidness to be realized and a (Reality) Voidness to be observed and contemplated, even from the viewpoint of the Absolute Realm (the final transcendental truth). The Old Schools declare that while in the Mundane Category it is permissible to say that there is a giver and a receiver, a Voidness to meditate upon, and one who meditates, etc.,
from the viewpoint of the Absolute Realm there is no Voidness to be realized, nor anyone to realize this Voidness. As stated in the Diamond Sutra by Gotama Buddha, himself:
"If anyone says, 'I see Buddha',
If anyone says, 'I hear the preaching of Buddha',
He treads a vicious path and will never behold Buddha."
Also in the same Sutra:
"Because there is no Wisdom to be attained, [i.e., because the Buddha knew this Ed.]
Buddha said, 'I attained Wisdom'."
82. This statement reflects Tsong Khapa's philosophy of Voidness to the effect that, briefly, "all conceptions are Void (Empty)" but that beings, themselves, exist.
83. Main-meditation Stage: The period in meditation when the yogi is concerned only with the central object of his meditation-practice in contrast to the After-meditation Stage when he is engaged in daily activities while, nevertheless, keeping his meditation experience in mind.
84. The meaning of this sentence is not entirely clear. The translator presumes that a solitary, isolated place is recommended as being most conducive to the success of this yogic practice.
85. Tantra: This term may refer to a Tantra, a commentary on a Tantra, or to some other book.
86. Perception-of-Mind: (Tib. Snang-wa). Tibetan terms have many meanings; this the reader should keep in mind. In this case, not only 'perceptions' are meant but any subjects, objects, or visions created or apprehended by the mind.
87. The absorbing process: The sinking of the different consciousnesses into one fundamental consciousness during the process of death, enlightenment, the Main-Meditation Stage, etc.
88. Bardo: The intermediate stage between life and death.
89. Beings of Non-Intermission: This refers to the most virtuous beings and the most sinful beings. Both classes, because of their very strong Karma, are said to have no Bardo experience but, instead, reincarnate immediately.
90. Since Tsong Khapa's commentary was designed for Tibetan scholars, the quotations are often incomplete, for it was presumed that the readers were familiar with the various Tantric texts, or had access to the texts. At the time of this translation, these texts were not available to the translator; therefore, it has proved most difficult to translate and comment upon these scattered, fragmentary stanzas.
91, 92. These statements reflect the typical polemic and pedantic characteristics of Tsong Khapa and many other Tibetan scholars who have been busily engaging in controversial argumentations on trifles and matters of secondary importance in the past few centuries. Except for Mahgi (the great woman philosopher of Tibet) and a handful of scholars, few of them had a creative mind capable of producing a new philosophy like the glorious teaching of Hwayan and Zen Buddhism of China. [We do not feel Tsong Khapa's explanations here so useless as the translator alleges and suspect that a bit of understandable partisanship of his own has colored his views here. See too p. 244 note.—Ed.]
93. "Lazy man's teaching": In comparison with other teachings, the Bardo Yoga is much easier and faster for attaining Buddhahood; hence the nickname.
94. The four births of Saṃsara: (1) the metamorphosis-born; (2) the egg-born; (3) the womb-born; (4) the wet-born.
95. Realistic and nihilistic extremes (or the Realistic and Nihilistic Views): According to Buddhism most of the philosophies and religious beliefs in the world are either "realistic" or "nihilistic." Realistic Views are those philosophies and beliefs that assert the absolute existence of beings, god, retribution, etc. Nihilistic Views are those philosophies that do not accept the existence of soul, reason, causation, and the like. Both of these extremes are erroneous, says Buddhism; as a matter of fact, these two clingings are basic causes of Saṃsara. The right view is the view that transcends both extremes; namely, the Middle Way Doctrine.
96. Unparalleled Vehicle: The Highest Division of Tantra, Anuttara Tantra. [This appellation is a term used by the Madhyamika apologists themselves. Many would disagree. See the
discourse on the Gotra concept in the Introduction as well as the previous footnote in the text.] Ed.
97. A little bit presumptuous in the translator's opinion.
98. This paragraph is very confusing. Either Tsong Khapa himself made the mistake by quoting this sentence that does not appear in the preceding paragraph, or the negligence of the Tibetan book printer caused the mistake. [The sentence is mentioned and here we have straightforward commentary. See our footnote on page 247.] Ed.
99. Here is another incongruous statement about the quotation. The sentence that appeared in the foregoing paragraph was "Ya!n grol ba na rlu!n gis ra!n bzin rnyeg de." But here Tsong Khapa quotes it as "Ya!n grol ba rlu!n gis ra!n bzin gyos te." The meaning and implications of these two sentences are completely different. Since the original text of the quoted matter is not available at present, the translator has no sure way to correct this mistake. [See editor's note to note 88 and text. We disagree with the translator that there is any essential difficulty here, the reference to the quotation existing and being uniquely determinable.]
100. Five Paramount Crimes: (1) matricide; (2) patricide; (3) killing an Arhat (Buddhist saint); (4) causing disunion or division among the priesthood; (5) malignantly causing Buddha to bleed.
101. Nine gates of the body: two eyes, two nostrils, two ears, rectum, urethra, top of head.
102. Gate of Purity: another name for the Golden Gate or the gate of the head.
103. According to Tibetan lamas, the essential teachings of the Yoga of Entering Another's Body was lost in Tibet. It was lost after the death of Dharmadorje, son of Marpa.
See the biography of Marpa. [See Tsong Khapa's own statement in the last paragraph of Chapter 9.]
104. Confinement of Contemplation: Any Buddhist who wants to practice meditation in a serious manner must retreat to solitude or strictly confine himself in hermitage for his devotion; he makes a vow not to go beyond the boundary
of his room, hermitage, or the like for a certain period of time in confinement to practice meditation.
105. The translator feels that it is necessary to add this sentence to make the text understandable.
106. This sentence is not clear, nor did the writer clearly state which book he referred to. [The Book of the Collected Pith-Instructions appears to be meant. See in the text five paragraphs above, p. 263. Ed.]
107. Here Tsong Khapa discredits the authenticity of the scriptures of the Nyingmapa. In the translator's opinion Tsong Khapa fails to remember that the entire Mahayana Buddhism, both Paramitayana and Vajrayana—the teaching that he himself follows—was based on the very Sutras and Tantras that have an accountable historical origin, so to speak; for most of the Sutras and Tantras of Mahayana were "brought out" through divine revelations. This is exactly the Nyingmapa way—receiving the teaching from the Heavenly Treasures. According to the Nyingmapa Lamas, the teachings from the visible human lineage are by no means better or more reliable than the teachings received from revelation. As a matter of fact, the latter are much superior, for they are closer, clearer, "warmer," and more direct. Besides, there are less human prejudice and dogmatic hocus-pocus involved.
274:* [The translator here, we feel, is imposing a very restricted interpretation on the text, which may apply just as well to p. 275 a female yogi, who also has Bodhi Heart. This term actually refers to the inner love-power which is released or "melted" by "the taming of prana." It is by no means simply to be conceived in any naive physical sense, which would succeed only in mis-defining it as a false limitation. The same is to be said of Pad.—Ed.]
276:* We cannot agree with the translator here. Tsong Khapa at this point is simply referring to the error of the Nihilistic Extreme (see note 95). The Anuttara Tantra (which Tsong Khapa follows, thus being on no account a materialist, as the very next paragraph in the text also confirms) very explicitly states that to reduce all things to non-existence is as wrong as to affirm naively the ultimate reality of their phenomenal existence. The Sūnyatā is not in question at all here.—Ed.