Deity Yoga

Lama Tharchin Rinpoche

Mahayoga sadhana is also called deity yoga. Maybe this is a good time for me to explain about deity yoga. Iíve noticed many people practicing deity yoga with the idea that the deity is outside or separate from themselves. This is not right and consequently, their practice is not conducive to wisdom and it even reinforces ignorance or becomes rudra.

Although Lord Buddha taught eighty-four thousand paths to enlightenment, he didnít do this because there are eighty-four thousand forms of enlightenment. There is only one state of enlightenment but many paths can lead to the same destination. The Buddha did not present such a wide range of methods in order to confuse us or to play games. His reason was based on the observation that spiritual seekers have different capacities and no single method could serve them all wisely.

It seems to me that people are getting more and more frustrated and confused although they are smart and work hard. They are tired, exhausted, and discouraged. Theyíve tried just about everything yet they have no lasting success. The positive side of this situation is that at least maybe now they are ready to try deity yoga. I think this might be the case because deity yoga is a simple practice. It reduces everything into a single point Ėfinding our natural state. If we understand deity yoga properly and practice it correctly, it leads directly to the core of our nature, the original state before delusion arose. So far, not many people to my knowledge have tried to practice deity yoga in a serious way. They dedicate themselves to becoming better and better radar systems Ė sensitive to the outside world but insensitive to own nature. Always peering outwardly, they overlook the nature of their experience Ė that most important topic that is subject matter of all Buddhist thought. It is like they are looking for butter but churning water. They are seeking enlightenment but developing their intellect. Since enlightenment is not intellectual or scientific, they will never find it. This is a sad predicament.

Right now, we can overcome this problem. We can choose to be buddhas or ordinary beings. What do I mean by this statement? What I mean is that when we recognize the nature of mind just as it is, pure and stainless, we are buddhas and we manifest inconceivable beneficial activity without karma. But when we fall under the sway of duality, the perceived separation of subject and object, we are ordinary beings and our experience is heavy and materialistic, and we create lots of karma that is the source of endless suffering. This choice lies before us.

In Mahayoga, our natural state that we wish to recognize is portrayed as a wisdom deity or divine being. Deity is synonymous with bodhicitta. Deity is a pure state of being that is beyond duality and not constricted by the forces of clinging and grasping. Since all beings have mind, they also have the nature of mind. Therefore, all beings are divine because their nature is pure. However, their pure nature is not manifest. It is like butter in milk. Since have not recognized their divinity they for a very, very long time, their habit of not recognizing is firmly ingrained. In fact, it seems improbable to them that they have a pure nature because they have subjected themselves to so much counter-conditioning for so long. That is precisely why I said that we really need the path of deity yoga. If we practice it, we will experience deity and nonduality even before we are fully realized. Systematically we will go beyond the limitations imposed by the grasping conceptual mind. In the beginning when we practice, it may seem like a fruitless struggle. We may think that that the conceptual framework is usual, the text is in Tibetan, and people do odd movements with their hands. But what I want to say is that you need not feel that way because deity practice is actually very simple and not complicated. All that you need to be the best practitioner in the world is correct view.

So if view is so important, what is the view? Unfortunately, many people meditate without any view at all, or with a wrong view, or with a weak view. They are meditating in or on ignorance although they are not aware it. They are mediating without bodhicitta and without the view of wisdom deity. In the context of Mahayoga, deity yoga meditation is an personal way of experiencing buddha nature and buddha phenomena. This is the Mahayoga approach right from the word go, even for beginners. The premise of Mahayoga is that if I see deity, then I am deity. All we have to remember is that the deity is a symbol of our original state, who we are.

I would like you to verify for yourself how the premise of deity yoga actually works. To do this, change your name every day for ten days. On Monday, ask people to call you Frank, on Tuesday, Michael and so on. By the end of the tenth day, you will probably be wondering who you really are. In the same way, deity yoga is changing our name from ordinary person to deity or buddha. Once you believe your new name, you will experience your life in accord with your new name. In deity yoga, we are creating a new self-image by creating a three-dimensional body of unsubstantial rainbow-light and allowing everything else to also become wisdom light. During the time that we are engaged on this process, it is impossible for misconceptions and grasping to phenomena to carry much weight. Our habitual perception of subject and object shifts into the perception of wisdom light that is our nature. We are naturally freed or liberated in our nature. Thatís simple, isnít it? Actually, as I said before, it is that simple if we understand the view of natural liberation. To understand the view of natural liberation, we study it and then we meditate and assimilate it. When our intellectual knowledge and meditative experience are fully integrated or matured, we have realized buddhahood. So my advice is to get clear about your goal and how to achieve it, and to stay focused through study and meditation. Now maybe itís best to return to our text.

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