The nineteen commitments of the five Buddha families
It is very important to keep our Tantric commitments purely. If we do, and on this basis we practice the generation and completion stages of highest yoga tantra, we can attain Buddhahood in this life; but if we break our vows and commitments we create immense obstacles to our spiritual development.
As was mentioned earlier, our vows and commitments are the essential methods by which we practically bring our own actions in line with our spiritual intentions. Each vow is like a road sign that points in the direction of enlightenment. If we follow all the road signs of the refuge vows, we can maintain the uninterrupted continuum of our Buddhist practice in this and all our future lives; if we follow all the road signs of the pratimoksha vows, we create the causes to maintain the uninterrupted continuum of our path to liberation; if we follow all the road signs of the bodhisattva vows, we maintain the continuum of our path to enlightenment; and if we follow all the road signs of our tantric vows, we maintain the continuum of our Tantric path and we will swiftly attain enlightenment. Just as the Dharma books have a “condensed meaning of the text” we can correctly view the vows and commitments as the condensed meaning of the various paths.
In the Lamrim teachings, it says our chances of finding the Buddhadharma in any given life are about the same as a blind turtle at the bottom of an ocean the size of this world who rises to the surface only once every 100,000 years who manages to put his head right through a golden yoke floating on the surface. I did the math once, and this is something like once every 640 billion lifetimes. Finding the Tantric path is rarer still. It is said only the 4th, 11th and last of the 100 Buddhas of this fortunate aeon will teach Tantra. If we assume an aeon is 1 million years (I think it is much longer, but this is long enough to illustrate the point), and we assume that the Dharma of any given Buddha lasts about 5,000 years, it means the probability of Tantric teachings even being around when the turtle raises its head is only 1.5%. This translates into our finding the Tantric path only once every 42.5 trillion lifetimes! But miraculously we have found it in this lifetime. If we do not want to wait another 42.5 trillion lifetimes to find it again, it would be advisable to keep our tantric vows purely in this life. Doing so enables us to beat the odds, and maintain the continuum of our tantric practice until we attain the final goal.
Keeping commitments is the best means to attain success in our generation and completion stage practices. It is the very life of Tantric practice. When we keep our Tantric vows and commitments, we plant on our mind the karma which will ripen in the form of Tantric realizations. Our practice of moral discipline plants the seeds, our actual practice of generation stage and completion stage function to ripen those seeds. Even knowledge of these vows is like being given the secret code that enables you to unlock the mysteries of the universe. Nothing is more important, and we should consider ourselves incredibly fortunate to even have the opportunity to know of these, much less have the opportunity to put them into practice.
The 19 commitments of the five Buddha families are the very methods by which we acquire the five completely pure aggregates of a Buddha. At present we impute our I onto our five contaminated aggregates (form, feeling, discrimination, compositional factors and consciousness). These are essentially our contaminated body and mind. The only reason why we experience the sufferings of a samsaric being is because we impute our I onto samsaric contaminated aggregates. If instead we imputed our I onto the pure aggregates of a Buddha, we would experience the eternal bliss of enlightenment. We already have an “I”, but the question is how do we generate a qualified five pure aggregates that we can then identify with? The answer is through our practice of the 19 commitments of the five Buddha families.
These will now be explained in detail over the next several posts.