Vows, commitments and modern life:  If you are going to have sex, do it right

Engaging in union without three recognitions.

The three recognitions are to recognize our body as the body of a Deity, to recognize our speech as mantra, and to recognize our mind as the Truth Body.  When we engage in union with somebody, we should strive to maintain these three recognitions.  Our motivation for doing so should be as qualified of a bodhichitta as we can generate.  Of course our motivation will not be fully qualified, but we shouldn’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.  Our motivation will be mixed, but we strive to move it in the direction of being increasingly qualified.

To recognize our body as the body of the deity does not mean we should look at our ordinary body and impute upon it “deity body.”  Our ordinary body is not a valid basis of imputation for a deity body, though it is a valid basis of imputation for imputing a human body.  Rather, the meaning here is within our mind we generate the deity body per the instructions explained in the Tantric teachings, and upon this mentally generated deity body we impute “my body.”  In this way, the deity body becomes “our body” and then with this deity body we engage in union.  Likewise, we should mentally generate our tantric consort, and then upon that mental generation impute “my partner’s body.”  Then, mentally we imagine that it is these two imagined deity bodies who are engaging in union.  Of course, there will quite likely still be some awareness of the fact that the two human bodies are also engaging in union, and while still remaining natural in the act, we should mentally practice “non-ascertaining perceivers” with respect to the ordinary bodies engaging in union, and instead focus our attention on the imagined deity bodies doing so.

To recognize our speech as the mantra has two layers of meaning.  The first is whatever sounds arise while we are engaging in union, we should mentally imagine that they are the mantra appearing in the aspect of these sounds.  Alternatively, while our ordinary human ears may be hearing ordinary sounds, we imagine that our pure deity ears are hearing the mantra in exactly the same way as we do with our deity body.  The second layer of meaning is the inner essence of mantra is our inner energy winds.  In Tantric Grounds and Paths it explains the relationship between our inner energy winds and mantras.  The meaning here is as we engage in union, we try stay focused on the flows of our inner energy winds, recognizing them as being inseparable from the mantra.  In Essence of Vajrayana it explains a special practice where we can imagine mantras circling between the two central channels as you engage in union with your consort.  This can be done, while mentally reciting mantras, while you are engaging in union.  Additionally, in a variety of the tantric texts, it explains how we can imagine our winds and drops rising and descending within our central channel giving rise to the four joys.  These can also be done in the context of viewing our speech as the deity’s mantra.

To recognize our mind as the Truth Body likewise has two layers of meaning.  The first is we mentally imagine that the imagined deity bodies engaging in union are like pure waves arising from the ocean of the clear light emptiness of the Truth Body.  While conventionally there are appearances, they are seen as inseparable from the underlying Truth Body, like a wave is inseparable from its ocean or a coin is inseparable from its gold.  If it helps, we can mentally recite “thought it appears, it does not truly exist” over and over to help us maintain this mental recognition.  It is important to remember that in our tantric practices, bliss and emptiness are united inseparably.  An easy way to think about this is while our mental factor discrimination cognizes emptiness, our aggregate of feeling experiences great bliss – or quite simply, bliss is what emptiness feels like.

The second layer of meaning is the purpose of generating bliss is to meditate on emptiness.  It is often said that Tantric practices gives us methods for transforming attachment into the path.  This is not exactly accurate.  Actually, it is transforming the pleasant feelings that normally arise from our objects of attachment into the path.  The way we do this according to Tantra is as follows.  Imagine by engaging in union you generate some pleasant feelings (hopefully, at least!).  Normally, we generate attachment thinking that it is the external object that has some power to give us good feelings.  Instead, here, we try to decouple the external object from the experience of the pleasant feelings.  We meditate on the emptiness of the external object giving rise to our pleasant feelings, in this case our partner we are engaging in union with, while still trying to maintain the continuum of the pleasant feelings themselves.  So whereas before what appeared to our aggregate of discrimination was our partner and what was experienced by our aggregate of feeling was something pleasant, now what appears to our aggregate of discrimination is the clear light emptiness of our partner but our aggregate of feeling still experiences the same pleasant feelings.  Indeed, if done correctly, the pleasant feelings should feel infinitely more qualified and sublime, as if the separation between ourself and the pleasant feelings dissolves away completely.  We then focus our attention on this union of bliss and emptiness for as long as possible.

Of course in the beginning, our practice of any of these methods will not be very qualified.  That’s entirely normal and perfectly OK.  The only way we get good at anything is through practice.  We do not need to actively seek out engaging in union with others for this purpose, rather when through the course of the normal flow of our karma we find ourselves engaging in union, we try to transform it in these ways.

2 thoughts on “Vows, commitments and modern life:  If you are going to have sex, do it right

  1. Ryan,

    I have always appreciated your articles.
    Please take the following as encouraging advice.
    As you wish discard or use. ‘Helpful’ is imputation.

    You have powerful speech and make many excellent points.
    Due to that you are likely to be appreciated in the way that you expound dharma and you will be listened to closely. This is great good fortune and offers you much power to help others.

    In making comments, be sure that you are absolutely correct in accordance with what your spiritual guide has taught. If you are applying interpretive meaning, according your meditative experience or personal insight, it will be useful to say this.

    Because the kind advice you give is so closely aligned to the precious doctrine of our spiritual guide, it is easy to accept everything you say. However i have noticed increasingly that you can go above and beyond what our spiritual guide teaches, and yet you are stating it in a definitive way. Rather that saying “i feel this” or “perhaps this” – you make statements as if they are directly from the page of a dharma text.

    Be humble, be accurate. Your actions are incredibly powerful. Please do not be discouraged.

    With Love.

    • Thank you for your comments, they are well received. As I explain in the “about this blog” page, everything I write is nothing more than my own ramblings about my imperfect understanding of what Geshe-la has provided us. I simply share my understanding for whatever it is worth.

      If there is some deviation between what I write and what Geshe-la has said, of course Geshe-la is right and anything I say is just my honest misunderstanding of his meaning. However, if you see areas where what I am saying is wrong, even if only marginally, I would very much appreciate you pointing it out. If I am wrong, I want to know how so so I can improve. Obviously I am unaware of it since my intention is to be 100% loyal to the teachings I have received. So if you can help me better understand, everyone is better off for it. Feel free to either point out mistakes on the page or email me privately at Kadam.Ryan@gmail.com. Thanks!

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