Revealing holy Dharma to those with no faith.
We incur this downfall if we teach Secret Mantra to those who have received an empowerment but who have no faith in Secret Mantra.
In general, we don’t explain Secret Mantra to those who have not received the empowerment and to those who have no faith, but of the two, faith is more important. The reason why we don’t explain how to practice Tantra to those who have not received an empowerment is if they try practice without having received the empowerment, it simply won’t work. You can explain to people how to ride a bike until the end of time, and they can understand it perfectly, but if they don’t have a bike, they will never be able to ride one. It is the same with Secret Mantra. During the empowerment we receive the “bike” of our personal Yidam into our mind, and then later in our subsequent practice we learn how to ride it. Without the empowerment, we have no bike. But since such a bike is not something we can see with our eye awareness, there is a danger that we might think we have a bike when we in fact don’t, or we might not even realize we need one to ride. So then we put the instructions into practice, they don’t work, and then we conclude, “Tantra doesn’t work.” This mental conclusion then plants karma on our mind which makes it extremely difficult to ever find the tantric path again, and if we do find it, we will again conclude it is a bunch of nonsense that doesn’t work, and we won’t pick it up.
It is for the exact same reason that even if somebody has received the empowerment, if they lack faith we don’t explain how to engage in Tantric practice. It is said in Tantra, we only need two things: faith and imagination. Somebody may have superb powers of imagination, but if they lack faith the practices will never work. Why is faith so essential? Faith functions to open our mind to receive blessings. It is through receiving blessings that the seed of our Buddha nature can grow. If a seed lays dormant without water, soil or light, it will never germinate nor grow. Blessings are the water, soil and light for germinating and cultivating our Buddha seed. The tantric visualizations and imaginations are merely methods for directing and focusing the blessings in particular ways.
If somebody lacks faith, it is also possible that they might even have a critical mind towards what they hear. If somebody went into a teaching on highest yoga tantra with a mind full of faith, they could receive tremendous benefit and be inspired to put the instructions into practice. If somebody went into the same teaching with a critical mind, they would spend the whole time finding fault with the teachings and the teacher, and each mental action in this regard would create terrible negative karma for themselves. This karma would make it almost impossible to find the Tantric path again, and when they do find it they will again be critical of it. Another danger is their critical attitude might undermine the faith of others if they start speaking about how they reject everything you are saying. We have a tendency to believe what other people believe, and we are also far more likely to believe something negative than something positive.
But what about if somebody has faith but no empowerment? What should we do? The general rule of thumb is you can explain “about” Tantra, but not how to actually do it. By explaining about Tantra, they will generate faith in it and a desire to do it, but since they don’t know how to do it, there is no danger of them trying to do it and it not working. Instead their faith in Tantra combined with their not knowing how to do it will encourage them to go receive the empowerments so that they can start.
When Modern Buddhism first came out, the practice of the Yoga of Buddha Heruka was explained. But the empowerment given was of Guru Sumati Buddha Heruka, or essentially Je Tsongkhapa. It was not an empowerment of Heruka and Vajryogini, yet nonetheless people were given the practice and told they can start. The question is why is this OK but the above is not. The answer is two-fold. First, since Heruka is an aspect of Je Tsongkhapa, by directly receiving an empowerment of Je Tsongkhapa we are indirectly receiving at least a similitude of an empowerment into Heruka. So we may not have a full bike, but we did get some sort of bike. Second, Guru Sumati Buddha Heruka is Heruka, so in many ways it is a Heruka empowerment, just in a more simplified (though no less powerful) form.
Why is it OK for Geshe-la to publicly publish books on Tantra and why is it OK for me to write all of these blog posts on how to maintain the Tantric vows? The answer to the latter question is I think (I hope!) very few people would read anything I write unless they are already a Kadampa practitioner and have enough faith to where they see it is worth their time to read through what I have written. In a similar way, somebody who finds one of Geshe-la’s tantric texts at the bookstore will only pick it up, buy it and read it if they have a good deal of faith. Besides, Geshe-la explains early in the books that without an empowerment it won’t work. There is a risk somebody could pick up the book, have an unfaithful mind and then try it, but that would seem to be a highly rare occurrence. So the benefit of making the path available outweighs the slight risk of some people coming to the wrong conclusions.