teachings this morning are going to be an introduction to the
Vajrayana and also an explanation of the significance of the
Empowerment in Vajrayana tradition. Within Tibetan Buddhism we
normally describe what are called the three Vehicles or the
Three Paths. These three different vehicles are the Hinayana
Path, The Mahayana Path and the Secret Mantra - Vajrayana
Path. The day before yesterday I gave you an example. The
example was - if you remember - three different ways of coming
from London to Samye Ling; by walking, in a motorcar or in a
plane. In Tibetan Buddhism we think that the Hinayana Path is
rather like somebody walking to a destination. The Mahayana
Path is rather like driving a car. The view of the Secret
Mantra Vajrayana is rather like an airplane. So which one do
you like best? If you walk you get more exercise!
Generally speaking we are presented with many options
in our life, but this time we don't have to worry about which
one to take. Nowadays in the modern world if we are not able
to have the choice we want or we can't always decide what we
want, then we worry, because we can't decide which thing to
do. There are so many options. This time you do not have to
worry, because you can practise all three! You can do whatever
is easiest for you.
If you think, "Well, there are these three types of
vehicles, which am I going to practise, maybe it's going to be
difficult for me." You don't have to worry. You might be
worried that there isn't just one path to practise but there
are three altogether. You don't have to have this kind of
worry. Actually having the choice of three vehicles makes it
all easier, because you don't have to just stick with one,
which might be difficult for you. You have a choice of three.
As a practitioner you don't have to make a choice between the
three vehicles, one does a union of all three
In the morning you are doing Tara practice, aren't you?
For those who do, in the beginning of Tara practice there is
refuge. That contains the Hinayana type of practice. Also the
refuge recitation has the recitation of bodhicitta, so that's
the Mahayana aspect. Further on in the practice there is the
front visualization and also visualizing oneself as the deity.
This is to do with the development stage of the Secret Mantra
Vajrayana. That's the meaning of the development stage. When
you finish the practice and the deity dissolves into oneself,
and one's mind and the deity's mind are inseparable, that's
the completion stage. Because there is the union of these
three paths, three options, it becomes very easy to practise.
That was the explanation of the differences between different
If you want to divide the three paths into two, we can
put Hinayana and Mahayana together and that will be sutra. You
have one left, Secret Mantra Vajarayana and that belongs to
the classification of tantra. Generally speaking, with the
teachings of Hinayana and Mahayana, which belong to the sutra,
one practises with the cause. What does that mean?
Enlightenment, which the Buddha has, is the cause of practice.
First we are practising fully the result of the wisdom and
enlightenment of the Buddha, that is the purpose of the path.
The tantra path is called the Path of Fruition. Why is that
different, why is it called the Path of Fruition? It is
because all the qualities, enlightenment and wisdom which the
Buddha possesses, we also have at this moment. Yesterday I
said that the wisdom and the enlightenment that the Buddha
has, we have the same. Within this practice of the path, which
is practising the fruition, it is like visualizing oneself in
the development stage as a deity. For example "I am Dorje
Sempa, all the qualities and wisdom which Dorje Sempa
possesses, I also possess. This is an example of practising
the path of fruition.
In the sutra tradition, which is the path of the cause,
we do not have a direct method of realizing Buddha nature or
enlightenment, because this depends on the experience of total
understanding of emptiness and bodhicitta. That is not within
the sutra. Within the tantra path, the path of fruition, we
have a direct method with which we can realize our nature of
mind through emptiness and bodhicitta. Those are basically the
differences between the sutra path and the tantra path.
Within the Secret Mantra Vajrayana path there are two
divisions. The first one is the path of skilful means and the
second is the path of liberation. If we explain further what
the path of skilful means is, there are various methods
through which to realize directly our nature of mind. It is
revealed to us through these various types of practice. With
skilful means we go indirectly to realize the nature of mind,
we don't come directly to that realization. In the sutra
tradition they don't have these skilful means. They don't have
such methods as visualizing oneself as a deity: I am Dorje
Sempa or another deity; they don't have that type of skilful
means. Their point of view rather is that the deity and you
are separate, the deity is above you and you are down below
and you are supplicating to the deities. So there is a big
difference: there is a higher and a lower.
Within the skilful means there are also two divisions:
the development stage and the completion stage. What does the
development stage mean? It means to realize the wisdom of the
Buddha and to practise visualizing ourselves as a deity, the
buddha body relates to the visualization of the physical form
of the deity one is practising. The speech aspect is the
mantra recitation. The mind aspect is to do with visualizing
in the heart centre various objects. Sometimes it's a letter:
hung or hri, it can be a Dorje and so on. These aspects
together define the development stage practice. The wisdom of
the Buddha has no shape or colour, however, we practise with
shape and colour.
Some people like this method. If people feel positive
towards this type of practise, then they should do that. But
some people don't like that kind of practice. For people who
don't feel drawn to this type of practice, they shouldn't do
it too strongly, just a little bit. That's the explanation of
the development stage.
What does completion stage mean? Within our mind we
have wisdom and awareness the same as a Buddha, and our body
is also the same as the buddha body. When we are practising
the completion stage we have the idea that our body is the
wisdom aspect of the Buddha. Then we practise with the body,
we train with the body physically. Having trained physically,
the channels and the wind energy and the essence which travels
around in the channels are slowly transformed. Because our
physical nature is transformed, our mind also becomes
transformed. The main point is practising with one's body. So
then, if one is training with the wisdom wind which moves
through the channels and the precious drops, then one adopts
the posture and holds the vase breath and does the trulkor or
the yoga practice and it's very physical. When one gradually
over time purifies the impure winds, impure channels and
impure drops, then all of one's defilements and obscurations
are purified. One will naturally give rise to recognition of
the nature of mind. That's the explanation of the completion
Now we have the second aspect of the Vajrayana which is
the path of liberation. When we practise the path of
liberation, we have a direct method to realize the nature of
mind, but there is no shape or colour for that. This is the
mahamudra. We all possess what is called Buddha nature. All
beings have it, people have it and also animals have it. All
beings within the six realms of existence possess Buddha
nature. westerners have it and easterners have it. Fat people
have it, thin people have it. People who follow a religious
path, they have it and people who don't, they also have Buddha
nature. So we have to realize that we possess Buddha nature.
We don't have to have an image of it; we just realize that we
possess this. We don't have to feel at that point: I am the
deity, I am Dorje Sempa. One doesn't think like that. There is
no image for the nature of one's mind, Buddha nature. No image
goes along with that. You don't have to do like you do on the
path of skilful means: holding the breath for a long time and
then doing the trulkor, which is physical yoga. One doesn't
need to get tired out doing that kind of thing. With this
direct approach in the mind one doesn't base it on the body,
the physical, so much. It is based within the mind itself.
Then one has a relaxed body.
Generally speaking we can say it is very, very easy to
do this. Everybody can. You don't have to visualize it or
meditate about it. You don't have to practise it; you don't
have to abandon it. You just have to have recognition. Easy,
isn't it! But, why it's difficult is because it's so easy, too
easy. Because it is so easy you think: "Can't be like that, I
can't have confidence in that, I don't believe it. [Rinpoche
says in English:] It's nothing special. I need meditation!
Relaxation, clarity: oh, this is nature of mind, now I see it!
[Translator:] So, some people think they have to do that, as
just described: stay relaxed when one is not relaxed.
[Rinpoche:] Peaceful!! (Laughter)
The Vajrayana path can be divided into three sections.
There is the development stage, completion stage and path of
liberation (kyerim, dzogrim and drollam). Within these three
paths one can decide whatever one likes to do, whatever one is
feeling positive towards. But the best actually is the path of
liberation. Practising the development stage, one can quickly
get to the completion stage; and based on practising the
completion stage, one can get quickly to the path of
liberation. Do you have any questions?
Q: Can many methods be used simultaneously?
Whatever you like and feel positive towards. The final result
of all of the different methods is the same. Because the end
result is the same, one is allowed to change and alternate the
methods. For example: this watch is the level of enlightenment
and I am a long distance away. Then I need to practise a path
of meditation, one method. So I get that far. If one becomes
bored with that practice, and there is no clarity in it, then
one is obstructed at that point, and cannot go any further. If
you change your method, you can go a little bit further. Then
if you get blocked at that point and it's boring again, then
you try another method. You go very slowly, bit by bit,
changing the methods. But what it means is - you get closer
and closer to your goal. One might think: "Well, I'm
practising shine meditation", but then it becomes quite
boring, you come to a block. So you think: "Now I am going to
practise development stage." One doesn't need to think: "I'm
practising the development stage; maybe the shine is going to
be harmful for that." It is not - actually shine is very
beneficial for the practice of development stage.
Q: Is the path of liberation rather like
R: Actually, when you are practising the path
of liberation, it is kind of directly introducing one to the
nature of one's mind, but one starts out by practising shine.
With the practice of shine you definitely need to have
mindfulness. If you can realize the essence of your mind,
sometimes you could put a label to it and say: "This is
mindfulness." But the mindfulness at this point has no subject
or object. It is just labelling something
Q: Regarding liberation and recognition, when you are
doing the practice, can you focus more on the lhaktong
R: The recognition is lhaktong. Lhaktong means
Q: It still has stages related to
R: How is it different? What does lhaktong
mean for you?
Q: Almost like identified with the clear
R: What kind of clear light? Is it like sunlight or
like electric light? Does it have a colour?
Where does it come from?
Q: That's the question I
R: That is the real question then. You have to ask
yourself: "Where is this light coming from?" You said that
when you are doing lhaktong, you have this light and you also
have the questions. So, what kind of questions? Not all of the
methods you described are lhaktong. With lhaktong one doesn't
need to think anything about light. And if there are many
questions, that's not particularly good. In the beginning,
when one starts to practise lhaktong, a few questions are
okay, but then later on, one doesn't have to have questions.
Just have recognition.
Q: Rinpoche, you said it is good to change practices if
you get stuck, to go further, but it is also said we always
want to change, it would be better to stick with one. So how
do you know when it is good to change and when it is good to
stick with one practice?
R: The answer is related to using
the development stage as an example. You are practising a
deity and you have a visualization of a deity. Within the
practice time sometimes one is visualizing or concentrating on
the form of the deity and we can change that to concentrating
on the recitation of the mantra. Then again, you can change
that to resting on the nature of mind. Other times we can just
relax. Within that technique of following a single practice
with one deity, there are many changes that you can make. But
it is not being suggested, that if you get a bit bored, you
just throw away the development stage practice and yidam
practice altogether. That is not being suggested here, but
within one practice you can change the technique or
To illustrate the difference between sutra and tantra,
here is an example. There is a man who is carrying stones. The
man is walking along and he throws his stones at a dog he
sees. He also sees a lion and he throws his stones at the
lion. So what does the dog do? When he threw the stone at the
dog, immediately the dog tried to bite the stone or chase it.
The man throws another stone at the dog. The dog tries to
follow the new stone and bite it. This guy has got a big pile
of stones, so his stones are not going to finish any time
soon. The dog becomes very tired. Then he throws one stone at
the lion. The lion won't look at the stone. He looks: "Where
did that stone come from? Who threw that stone?" He sees the
person who threw the stone and jumps on him. So then he can
only throw one stone.
It's said that when one practises the sutra path, which
we already said was the Hinayana and Mahayana path, it takes
three limitless kalpas to arrive at the state of complete
enlightenment. So it is quite a slow path. But the Secret
Mantra Vajrayana path is rather like the lion immediately
recognizing where the stone is coming from, we are working and
practising with recognition of one's natural state, the nature
of one's mind. Based on that, one can swiftly come to the
level of complete enlightenment. It is said that in one
lifetime, one body, one can reach enlightenment. That's using
an example. Our practice within the Vajrayana is based on the
emptiness of phenomena and compassion. Based on these two and
using skilful methods one can swiftly reach the level of
enlightenment. That's the explanation of the Vajrayana.
Within the Vajrayana teachings the giving of
empowerments is a particularly special thing. The empowerment
is like a seed planted on the path. This seed bears fruit and
that's the result of our practice. The seed, which bears the
fruit on the path of fruition, which is the path of Vajrayana,
is the empowerment.
In a field, if we want to grow something, whatever it
is, we need to put a seed in the ground first. We actually
possess all of the qualities of a Buddha and we have Buddha
nature, but we don't recognize it. From beginningless time we
have been travelling in samsara and the reason for that is
because we haven't practised successfully so far. The seed,
which is on the path, it can be likened to an
We have two things: the wang (empowerment) which brings
fruition and the liberating instructions. And the lung is the
scriptural authority, a companion or friend on the path. The
Buddha Sakyamuni practised for three immeasurable kalpas
following the sutra path and then, when he came to Bodhgaya,
all the Buddhas of the three times gave him an empowerment of
light. After receiving that he was placed on the path of
Vajrayana. Then very swiftly he became enlightened and then he
So, what is the foundation or cause of all of these
things coming about - complete enlightenment and realization
of the nature of mind - it all depends on the basis, which is
the nature of one's mind, one's Buddha nature.
There are four points that relate to purification. We
can use the example of a big lump of crystal obscured by mud.
The crystal is what we call an object. The mud, which is
obscuring the crystal, is what is to be purified, and the
method of purifying or cleaning away the mud is soap and
water. The result of these three is the complete cleansing of
the crystal and its true nature is revealed. The object - the
crystal - if we relate that back to ourselves, our crystal is
our Buddha nature. What is our mud which obscures our crystal?
Our Buddha nature is obscured by illusions. The illusions
cover everything. They include impure body, impure speech,
impure mind and the impure external perceptions. The
purification process is our path of practice. There are two
paths: the sutra path and the Vajrayana path. The fruition of
cleansing is complete enlightenment. If you understand this,
you understand everything.
follows a brief explanation specifically about the Dorje Sempa
empowerment which you will receive this afternoon. Generally
speaking there are many types of Buddhas. We can say there are
a hundred types of Buddhas and also they can be divided into
seven types and twenty one types. But if one brings them all
into the smallest division it will be five types or the five
Buddha Families. If you want you can reduce that into one, it
will be Dorje Sempa. Dorje Sempa is actually the union of all
of the different types of Buddhas.
If you want to understand what Dorje Sempa looks like,
he has a white body, he holds a dorje in his right hand at the
heart and a silver bell on his knee. If you were to look at
him, that's how he appears to you. But that's what we call the
visualised shape. The real meaning of Dorje Sempa is one's own
nature of mind. If you want to perceive that externally, then
he appears as described. Basing our practice on the external
Dorje Sempa, our internal Dorje Sempa will be purified. Within
the Vajrayana practice, the empowerment of Dorje Sempa is
considered extremely important. The empowerment I give you
this afternoon is a very brief empowerment. There is not very
much in it, but the meaning is very good.
So there are four types of empowerment. There is the
vase empowerment, secret empowerment, wisdom-knowledge
empowerment and the word empowerment or mahamudra empowerment.
What's the reason for having four types of empowerment? To
remove the body's impurities and defilements and to purify and
liberate oneself from physical illusions one needs the
empowerment of the vase. So when one has received this
empowerment of the body and purified all the bodily illusions,
one is empowered to practise the development stage.
The secret empowerment relates to speech and this
purifies all the illusions of speech. Within the body there
are many types of wind. Based on the wind is speech. Having
received the secret empowerment which is related to speech and
the winds, one is empowered to practise what they call channel
and wind and secret drop practices, such as trulkor and
breathing exercises and so on. So we can do the vase breathing
The wisdom empowerment is related to the mind, and this
purifies the obscurations and illusions of mind. One is
empowered to do the practice of bliss and emptiness.
The fourth empowerment is that of the word or
mahamudra. It's like talking or pointing out instructions with
the words. But the meaning is mahamudra. So then one practises
with the essence of one's mind. This is the complete removal
of all of the mental illusions. So there are these four types
of empowerments. If you want to reduce all the empowerments
into just one, it will be the last one, which is the word or
mahamudra empowerment. That's finished.
So I'm going to tell you a little story. It's about
empowerments. In India there was a great siddha. This great
siddha or yogi was able to fly in the sky and walk through
walls. One day the siddha went to town and met the king. The
king said to the yogi, "Who are you?" He said: "I'm a great
yogi." "If that's the case, you must have a method to become
immortal. Could you give me this method of freeing oneself
from death?" Yogi said: "Yes, fine." "How are you going to do
it?" "Bring me a bumpa (vase)." He brought a big vase. Inside
the vase was empty. He said to the king, "Now you look at that
vase very closely." Then the yogi put his hand inside the vase
and pulled his hand out. He said: "Inside, here is something:
emptiness! That's the method to avoid death." The king
thought: "There is no meaning to that; maybe he is trying to
fool me." So he put the yogi in prison. He made the yogi stay
in jail for six months.
Six months later the many students of the yogi, quite
clever themselves, thought: "Where has our teacher gone?" With
their clairvoyance they realized he was in jail. They all got
a bit annoyed and jumped up into the sky and started flying
all over the place. "We are going to get our teacher." They
were all in space above the king's palace, flying around. The
king saw them. "They must be great yogis." He lit lots of
incense and said: "Please come down." They all flew down in
front of the king. The king with great devotion said, "Please
give me a method for avoiding death." They agreed. They made a
very big mandala. On top of it they made a sand mandala. On
top of this they placed many parasols and victory banners and
many types of various offerings. They made it very beautiful.
The king saw this preparation and how nice it all was and he
thought: "Wow, I'm really going to get the method of avoiding
death this time. Just look at that!" The yogis all gave an
empowerment in a very beautiful way, very nice. They gave the
vase empowerment, the secret empowerment, the wisdom-knowledge
empowerment. Then they said to him, "Now, the fourth
empowerment is the most important one. The true method of
avoiding death is this fourth empowerment. So, now I'm going
to give it to you. Give me a vase." The king came and offered
a big vase. They said to the king, "Now you watch that vase
really well." One of the yogis put his hand inside the vase.
Then he said: "Inside in my hand is something: it's emptiness.
That's it." The king said: "Oh, that method is such an
important method, I didn't realize before. This yogi six
months ago, he gave me the same thing. I threw him in a jail."
"I think that's a bit of a mistake." "What can I do now?" "Go
and get him out of the jail and bring him here."
He brought the yogi, who had been in prison for six
months, before the king. The king asked the yogi: "What was
the meaning of the contents of the vase, you tried to tell me?
First he said: "The vase was a round shape, wasn't it?" Within
that was a sphere of space, I put my hand in and pulled it
out. It was empty. The emptiness has no birth or death. Within
the vase is emptiness but the external appearance is of a
vase. That's clarity. So then, the union of the two, the
external appearance of the vase, which is clarity, and the
internal emptiness, is the union of appearance and emptiness.
And your nature of mind is like that. So then the king
realized the meaning. Then the king made many apologies and
confessions to the yogi. The yogi said to the king, "You don't
need to make any confession to me, because I have had six
months in jail, and because of my previous karma I had to go
to jail. Then the king turned around to all the students of
the great yogi and said: "You have done very well, you made a
very beautiful mandala and you gave me an empowerment, but
actually the real empowerment came from the yogi from before."
That's the end of the story.
Q: You gave the example of three different ways to
reach Samye Ling from London. If I take a plane, I won't see
the views. If I walk I will see the scenery and it will be a
more direct experience. Are we lacking something if we go very
R: You can put it like that, yes. But the final result
is the same; you all end up in Samye Ling. When you get to the
final result, which is total enlightenment, you become
omniscient, you know everything. All experiences are contained
Regarding the sutra path and the tantra path, the sutra
path is very slow and you gradually go higher and higher
through the various levels. When one reaches the first bhumi
or the first level in the sutra path, that gives rise to many
qualities in one's mind. In the Vajrayana path one is
introduced to the nature of mind very quickly, but regarding
the qualities and having some experience of the nature of mind
at that beginning point, then externally looking at it, the
sutra experience of first bhumi is a little bit more than the
For example what one can do on the first bhumi level is
that one can multiply one's body a hundred times. In the
vajrayanan way, when one reaches the first level, one is not
able to emanate oneself in a hundred bodies. There is a
difference. But the final result of both sutra and tantra is
buddhahood, enlightenment. There is no difference.