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Buddhadharma : Fall 2015
50 buDDhaDharma: the practitioner’s quarterly fall 2015 visualize a principal yidam as well as four yidams in each direction surrounding the main one, so five in total corresponding energetically to the five ele- ments, the five Buddha families, five winds or pranic forces, and you practice to open the channels, con- nect with and cultivate the winds, and transform into the tigle, eventually becoming the yidam. ROB PREECE: In working with the energy body, we cultivate the capacity for spacious awareness within the felt experience of our energy-winds and emotional life. This involves releasing our habitual contracted state so that energy can begin to move where it needs to go. We need to be care- ful about how we work with our energy because as we awaken this experience, we also awaken the emotional and psychological life that is often held unconsciously within the body. There are two differing approaches on how to work with the energy body. One method involves strong energetic practices that can be very activating and clearing, but they need to be practiced skillfully to avoid creating more psychological problems. The other approach works to create the condi- tions in which energy can naturally move toward a healthier, liberated state. I find this approach more helpful in avoiding any detrimental psychological side effects. Once we have established a sound basis of awareness in the body and its energy, bringing the deity into relationship with the process is pro- foundly transformational. BuDDhADhARMA: In tantra, the approach to the kle- shas and the conventional notion of good and evil is different from other Buddhist traditions. Can you elaborate more on the idea of poison as medicine? ROB PREECE: The notion of good or evil isn’t as pres- ent in the East as it is in the West; the dichotomy highlighted is generally that of ignorance and wis- dom. Certainly there are aspects of ourselves that are quite dark, wild, and in our shadow, but in the tantric tradition, everything that we are is consid- ered part of the alchemical process of transforma- tion. So we’re not judging certain things as being intrinsically bad. What we’re trying to do is provide a context within which whatever arises can be given the opportunity to transform and become liber- ated into its essential nature. This means that it is important for us to face those aspects of ourselves that are raw, untamed, and potentially destructive yet are not easily accessed because of our tendency to repress them. They are poisonous only in the sense that they have not been brought into the light of wisdom and transformed. LAMA PALDEN: Taking the example of anger, a Mahayana or Theravada approach would be work- ing toward the cessation of anger. In Mahayana, we would cultivate loving-kindness and patience as antidotes. In tantra, we bring anger into the practice and have the practice itself transform and liberate that anger. TENzIN WANGyAL RINPOChE: Yes, in the sutra tradition, anger is seen as a poison to be renounced. In tantra, the approach is to go toward anger and transform it. Anger is related to the heart, and it’s related to the wind, called the life-force wind, and also to the right channel in our body. We use a specific chan- nel, chakra, and wind associated with anger to clear it, creating a new space in the heart that better supports awareness. Through that awareness, the visualization of the yidam is supported, so when the image of Tara appears as a loving image, you expe- rience love in the openness of your heart, brought about by anger’s cessation, released through formal exercise. So there is a very specific approach to using channels, winds, and the presence of the deity to overcome these negative emotions. LAMA PALDEN: We might be also be given a wrathful yidam or protector practice for working with anger, which is then transformed into power, strength, and courage. BuDDhADhARMA: I want to turn now to the question of enlightenment, which it seems is talked about quite differently in Vajrayana than it is in other tra- ditions. What is enlightenment from the standpoint of Vajrayana? TENzIN WANGyAL RINPOChE: In Vajrayana, enlighten- ment is becoming one with the yidam with full awareness, full consciousness. The realization of the illusory body is enlightenment. In Dzogchen, the full expression will be becoming a rainbow body, a body of light, like the body of a yidam. It’s the ultimate enlightenment. That is a simple way of saying it.