To abandon repulsion when tasting bodhichitta. 

If we do lose our drops, we should regard them as the secret substance from the union of the Father and Mother Deities and mentally imagine that we taste them and receive the secret empowerment.  When doing so, we should abandon any feelings of repulsion.

Sometimes our drops are called our “bodhichittas.”  The reason for this is because of their central role in fulfilling our bodhichitta wish to become a Buddha.  During the Highest Yoga Tantra empowerment, at an ordinary physical level, there are people who come around and give us all sorts of different substances to eat or drink.  If we don’t know what is going on, it can all seem quite strange.  There is a part in particular where we taste some yogurt.  How are we to understand all of this?

Lama Action Vajra, the deity who grants the empowerment through whatever spiritual guide is in the room in front of us, will explain to you how you should regard these various substances and what visualizations and meditations you should engage in when you consume them.  Our ordinary eyes may see a temple or a giant tarp tent, but our wisdom eyes of our mental awareness should see ourselves in the pure land, at the feet of Lama Action Vajra, and the people who come around giving us substances as empowering deities and offering goddesses.  Just because we cannot see these things with our eyes does not mean they are not there.  There are sounds we cannot hear that dogs can, there are sights we cannot see the infrared goggles can, etc.  In the same way, there are countless different realms of living beings which are like different mental frequencies or channels that only those with the right signal receiver (namely possessing the body and mind of that realm) can perceive.  In addition to the six realms of samsara, there are also countless different pure lands.  These are actual places where beings take rebirth, and where we can go in our Tantric meditations.  As Venerable Tharchin said, “the location of mind is at the object of cognition,” so if the object of our mind is the pure land, our mind will actually to there.

When we receive the “yogurt” we should consider it to be the completely pure red and white drops of Heruka and Vajrayogini, Father and Mother.  When we taste these drops, we should imagine that their completely pure red and white drops enter into our subtle body and purify all of the drops flowing through our central body, bestowing upon our mind all of the blessings we need to attain the illusory body of completion stage and eventually the Enjoyment Body of a Buddha.  We then imagine that we experience great bliss while believing we are receiving these special blessings.

In the same way, whenever through the course of our life we lose our drops, we should mentally regard them as the completely pure red and white drops of Heruka Father and Mother, and we should imagine that we taste them and receive the secret empowerment just like during the actual empowerment.

Vows, commitments and modern life:  Is it wrong to have an orgasm?

Never to release seminal fluid; to rely upon pure behavior. 

We should try not to release our red and white drops.  Releasing our drops interferes with our development of great bliss.

This is another vow that often gives rise to a good deal of doubt, worry and confusion.  Does this mean it is a Tantric downfall to have an orgasm?  The short answer is eventually, yes; but until then, be natural.

First, why does the release of our drops interfere with the development of great bliss?  While the drops of our subtle body and those of our gross body are not the same things, there is close relationship between them.  When we release our gross seminal fluids, it is also like opening up the floodgates and we lose a tremendous amount of our inner energy drops.  The drops of our subtle body are what give our body and mind vitality.  Losing our drops, then, functions to drain us of our vitality.  From the early Gladiators to modern day boxers, this is a fact that is well known.  Such fighters would refrain from losing their drops before their fights because doing so drains them of the strength they will need in the arena.

When we lose our drops, it does not just drain us of our physical vitality, but also our mental vitality.  Even in the early days of our spiritual training, we can notice a big difference in the quality of our meditation and insight between when we have not released our drops for some time and when we just did last night.  This is the experience of all those who have bothered to check if it is true.

Does this mean we should all become ordained, or if not ordained does this mean we should all stop having orgasms?  I asked Venerable Tharchin this question once.  He said (paraphrasing), “it is extremely difficult for those who are not ordained to do this.  Ordination provides special blessings which helps us control such desires.  But even the ordained frequently lose their drops, if not through masturbation (which weakens, though doesn’t break one’s ordination vows) then during their dreams.  Whether we are ordained or not, though, the logic is the same:  at some point our desire for realizations is greater than our desire for an orgasm, and when this happens we naturally desire to lose our drops less and less.  But we shouldn’t worry that this will destroy our sex life, if truth be told – and I speak from experience here as a child of the 60s – it makes it better.”

We should become acutely aware of the relationship between our losing of our drops and the decline in our vitality and ability to meditate effectively.  As we deepen our experience of Dharma, and in particular the lamrim, there will come a point where we start to want realizations more than we want the pleasant feelings of an orgasm.  We will see the trade-off between the two, and from our own side choose to refrain from losing our drops, even if only for a short while.  Over time, we will start to want to refrain for longer and longer, not out of some feeling that losing our drops is some “sin,” but rather we simply want realizations more.  We forgo all sorts of samsaric pleasures for the sake of gaining Dharma realizations, willingly and gladly.  Losing our drops is just one more example.

In my view, the best analogy for understanding the process by which we gradually forgo more and more samsaric pleasures is one of a child outgrowing their toys.  When my first born was a baby, her favorite toy was a Pampers Wipies box.  It was quite fascinating for her.  She could open the lid, put things in, close the lid and everything would disappear.  She could then re-open the lid and they would magically reappear!  She could then take things out and start all over again.  Like all samsaric enjoyments, gradually, though the wonder of it all wore off and she started to become interested in new, better toys like Pet Shop Pets and Barbies.  There was never a point where she felt guilty about playing with her Pampers box like doing so was “wrong,” she rather just naturally left it behind as she moved on to more sophisticated pleasures.  Now, she would never choose to play with a Pampers box for the simple reason of she has outgrown it.  In exactly the same way, as our experience of Dharma increases we gradually and quite naturally outgrow our various samsaric pleasures.  We do not abandon them because we feel guilty about it like they are some sin, rather we simply gradually leave them behind as we move on to more qualified spiritual pleasures.  We spiritually outgrow them, even such things as releasing our drops.

Within our sexual relationships, we can begin by saying we will not lose our drops with anybody other than our partner and ourself.  This can combine our refraining from sexual misconduct with this vow.  Then we can start to do it with ourself less and less, while continuing to lose them as normal with our partner.  Eventually we can get to the point where we don’t lose our drops with ourself, except during our dreams.  Over time, even that will become less and less until eventually it stops altogether.  With our partner, we can work to go longer and longer without losing our drops, training to not do so until we can no longer not.  This means longer and often greater pleasure for both you and your partner, and it means making progress with this vow.  Eventually, it is even possible where you could reach the point where you maintain an active sex life with your partner but never lose your drops.  Venerable Tharchin winked, saying, “after I did that, my sex life really took off.”

Vows, commitments and modern life:  How to generate bliss

To strive mainly for the external and internal methods.

The external method for developing spontaneous great bliss is to rely upon a wisdom or action mudra.  The internal method is to meditate on our channels, drops, and winds.

All of the different meditations on the stages of the path can be divided into three:  those that develop our subject mind, those that are virtuous mental objects, and those that unite the two together.  The vast path develops the subject mind.  The profound path generates virtuous objects.  And the Mahamudra meditations unite the two.  The vast path according to Sutra is the first 20 lamrim meditations, from reliance on the Spiritual Guide through to bodhichitta and including tranquil abiding concentration.  The profound path according to Sutra and the profound path according to Tantra are the same, namely the Prasangika view of emptiness as lack of inherent existence of all things.  Je Tsonkghapa said the union of Sutra and Tantra is quite simply the bliss of tantra and the emptiness of Sutra.  However, when we attain this union, our realization of emptiness transforms from a Sutra-Prasangika view to a Tantra-Prasangika view.  The Sutra-Prasangika view says that all phenomena are mere karmic appearances.  The Tantra-Prasangika view says these appearances are by nature the very subtle mind of great bliss.  More specifically, they are the emptiness of the mind of great bliss appearing in the aspect of these appearances.

Ignorance, quite simply, is believing that an object can exist independent of the mind cognizing it.  We think objects exist out there, waiting to be experienced by mind.  As a result, we think changing our mind changes nothing – the object is still the object.  In reality, mind and its object arise in mutual dependence upon one another.  At a profound level, a single karmic seed pushes up against the fabric of our mind creating a subject-object pair.  If an impure karmic seed ripens, the subject-object pair will be impure; and if a pure karmic seed ripens, the subject-object pair will be pure.

From a practical point of view, however, if we apply effort to change our subject mind it will change the way objects appear to our mind; and if we apply effort to engage pure objects, it will function to make our mind more pure.  If we have an impure mind, it will cause us to see all objects as impure.  If we have a pure mind, we will see all objects as pure.  Likewise, if we engage our mind with an impure object, it will make our mind more impure; and if we engage our mind with a pure object, it will make our mind more pure.

There are two different, mutually supportive, ways of generating great bliss: external and internal.  The external methods are to rely upon a real or an imagined action mudra.  We may wonder, “why is an imagined action mudra considered an external method when the imagined action mudra is generated inside our mind?”  There are two answers.  The first is, as the above discussion indicates, we make a distinction between objects of mind and minds themselves.  All objects of mind are considered to be “external objects” even if the object known is one only known to our mental awareness.  Normally when we refer to external objects our meaning is objects that appear to our sense awareness, but more profoundly it can also include objects that appear only to our mental awareness.  The second answer is external in this context refers to outside our subtle body of channels, drops and winds.  It occurs in the gross deity body, not inside the deity’s subtle body.

It has been explained extensively in the previous posts how we rely upon wisdom and action mudras.  Here, I would like to say a few words about our channels, drops and winds.  Just as our body has different systems to it, such as the circulatory system and the nervous system, so too our mind has different systems to it, such as our gross minds and our subtle body.  Our subtle body is like the mental skeleton of the body of our gross mind.  It is comprised of a series of channels, drops and winds, all of which are described in detail in Mahamudra Tantra, Clear Light of Bliss, Modern Buddhism and Tantric Grounds and Paths.  Briefly, though, our channels are like the system of veins and arteries of our mind.  The drops are like the blood of our mind.  And the winds are like the currents that flow through the channels carrying the drops.  If our channels are blocked, the winds and drops don’t flow through, they then stagnate and imbalances arise.  From the stagnation and imbalances of this inner energy, mental sickness of delusions and physical sicknesses, including cancer, develop.  When the blockages are removed, the winds can flow freely and the drops can circulate effortlessly.  As the drops move through our different channels, we generate a feeling of bliss.  When the drops flow through our central channel, we generate great bliss.  While not physical objects, the quasi-tactile sensation of the mental drops flowing through the mental channels produces an inner experience of bliss.

In particular, it is important to understand the relationship between our mind and winds.  Our mind is likened to somebody with eyes but no legs to move.  The winds are likened to legs with no eyes to see.  When we mount the eyes of our mind onto the legs of our winds, our mind can go anywhere.  Winds and their mounted minds are inseparable.  This has profound practical implication.  It means wherever we send our winds, our mind will automatically go; and wherever we send our mind, our winds will automatically go.  If we want our winds to gather inside our indestructible drop at our heart, we merely need move our mind there.  If we can gather all of our mind there, all our winds will naturally follow.  Likewise, Venerable Tharchin says, “the location of the mind is at the object of cognition.”  If the object of cognition is the moon, our mind and its corresponding winds actually go there.  If the object of cognition is samara, our mind will remain trapped there.  If the object of cognition is the pure land, our mind will actually go there.  Since we naturally impute our I on our mind, if our mind is in the pure land, “we” will also go to the pure land.  If we can keep our mind absorbed in the pure land forever, we will have taken rebirth there and will never fall again.

Vows, commitments and modern life:  From our left? Why?

To perform all physical actions first with our left, to make offerings to our Spiritual Guide, and never to abuse him. 

Whenever we engage in physical actions, if possible we should begin from the left to remember to accomplish the wisdom of clear light, the main practice of Mother Tantra.  Of course, there is nothing intrinsically better about the left than the right, the point is to develop a method for remembering emptiness.  If we train ourselves to always begin with the left, then each time we do so we will be remembering clear light emptiness.  Every time we remember clear light emptiness, we draw ourselves one stop closer to enlightenment.

We may doubt thinking that our small attempts at realizing emptiness are feeble and meaningless, but we would be wrong to think this way.  The reality is every time we even attempt to think of emptiness, the very foundations of samsara shake.  There is only one door out of samsara, and that door is emptiness.  Samsara does not fear us generating any other mind or going anywhere or doing anything, its only fear – its only weakness – is emptiness.  In reality, enlightenment is only one recognition away.  All of this is a dream.  We either get sucked into it or we wake up from it.  There is no third possibility.  Since getting sucked in is completely unacceptable, our only choice is to wake up.  Every time we recall emptiness, we move closer to that day.

There are many different ways to recall emptiness.  While of course there are the various contemplations taught in the Lamrim, and these are useful during the meditation session, I find in the meditation break it is best to consider various analogies.  If we put on an orange pair of glasses and looked at the world through them, then everything would appear to us as orange.  In the same way, if we bring to mind a powerful analogy and then look at the world through that analogy, then everything would appear to us in the way described by the analogy.

What are some useful analogies we can recall?  The most common one is to view everything as a dream.  We know very clearly that the world and the beings that appears to us in last night’s dream are nothing more than mere projections of our mind.  When we wake up, we don’t ask where did they all go.  We know they were nothing more than mere appearances to our mind, with nothing actually behind any of them.  In the same way, everything that appears to us in our waking state is likewise just a dream.  The only difference is this is a dream to our waking mind, whereas last night’s dream was the dream of our sleeping mind.  But in terms of their quality of being merely dreams, they are exactly the same.  Recalling this analogy, when we look at the world, we should try see it through the lens of this wisdom.  Look at everything and say, “it’s all a karmic dream.  Amazing!”

Another useful analogy is to view everything like waves on the ocean of our mind.  Viewed from the surface, it can seem as if each wave is somehow distinct, but when we look more carefully we see clearly that each wave is equally part of the same ocean, and all of the waves are inseparably one.  In exactly the same way, every being, every phenomena is merely a different wave on the ocean of our mind.  Just as waves rise and fall, so too the appearances of things rise and fall.  They don’t come from anywhere and they don’t go anywhere, they always remain inseparable from the ocean itself.  It is only the appearance that changes.

A third very useful analogy is to view everything like holograms.  The interesting thing about a hologram is when you look at it from one angle, it may appear as a monster; but then when we look at it from a different angle, it may appear as an angel.  So what is really there?  Is it a monster or is it an angel?  The correct answer is, “it is both and it is neither.”  Even though it is neither, it is clear that viewing it as an angel is a more beneficial choice.  In exactly the same way, when we look out at the world from our deluded point of view, we see a samsara.  If we look out at the world from a pure point of view, we will see a pure land.  So what is really there?  Is it a samsara or is it a pure land?  The correct answer is, “it is both and it is neither.”  Even though it is neither, it is clear that viewing it as a pure land is a more beneficial choice.  So we choose to view things from that angle.

So when we do things first with our left, we can recall one of these analogies, or any other of a myriad of different ways of remembering emptiness.

This vow also calls for us to make offerings to our spiritual guide.  Making offerings has been discussed at length in earlier posts, but it is worth recalling here that our greatest offering of all is the offering of our practice, and amongst offerings of our practice, the guru yoga of our highest yoga tantra yidam is supreme.

Finally, this vow calls for us to not abuse our spiritual guide.  Few of us would actually ever physically do this, but we do abuse him every time we misuse or abuse the precious Dharma he has given us or we mistreat any member of his Sangha.  In Offering to the Spiritual Guide it says, “the Guru is Buddha, the Guru is Dharma, the Guru is also Sangha, to all Guru’s I make this offering.”  Every Buddha is actually a different facet of the diamond of our Spiritual Guide.  Every Dharma instruction is a facet of his speech in this world.  And every member of the Sangha is a facet of his body in this world.  If we abuse any of these, we are, in effect, abusing the Spiritual Guide.