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Buddhadharma : Fall 2015
fall 2015 buDDhaDharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 51 LAMA PALDEN: In all of Buddhism, enlightenment is the complete liberation from ignorance, realizing who and what we truly are. The yidam is a pathway into that realization—both the complete removal of ignorance and the complete actualization of all qualities of awakened presence, such as love, com- passion, strength, skillful means, and awakened activity. ROB PREECE: One view is that we achieve a state of liberation when our innate buddhanature is freed from all of the defilements of ignorance that obscure it. We might also see enlightenment as a moment-to- moment process rather than a state. In our day-to- day life, we live an awakening process as we open to the presence of the deity as a kind of gateway bringing with it particular qualities, which I sup- pose is different from how one might talk about enlightenment in other traditions. So, for example, if the deity is Manjushri, we become a vehicle or channel for that awakened quality to come through us and bring a particular flavor. We then emanate a quality that is flavored by that relationship to the deity. This is why tantra is sometimes said to bring the result into the present. BuDDhADhARMA: We’re told that tantra is not suitable for everyone. The suggestion is that if you’re not the right kind of person, the practice could do more harm than good. What are the dangers? ROB PREECE: Westerners are easily seduced by want- ing the best and fastest of everything. In practice we may delude ourselves into thinking we can enter into the highest, most advanced practices, which we actually aren’t ready for. We need to prepare ourselves psychologically for the journey, and not everyone does. If you don’t have a stable psycho- logical ground before you step into this path, the practice can become quite disruptive and disturb- ing. Our emotional experiences are going to be stimulated, and for some people who carry trauma in their body, that can be very destructive. Another danger occurs when people don’t bring the practice into relationship with their psychological pro- cess; rather than engaging in transformation, they become caught by spiritual bypassing. Practitioners have often come to me after three-year retreats with psychological issues that have surfaced that they don’t know how to address. People need to find a safe place where they can work with their experi- ence, with someone who is experienced enough to know how to deal with it. LAMA PALDEN: I completely agree with Rob. We need to have a good, wholesome psychological founda- tion to enter into Vajrayana practice. We need to be able to stay grounded and in touch with “con- sensual reality” while engaging with tantra. Tantra purposefully brings up our psychological issues in order for us to work through them, transform them, or allow them to self-liberate. Tantra ultimately dis- mantles the ego personality with its skillful means and with the direct realization of shunyata, or emp- tiness. Ironically, the ego structure and our sense of self need to be resilient enough to withstand the process so that it is purified, transformed, and can become permeable, transparent to the true nature of mind and reality. TENzIN WANGyAL RINPOChE: Developing a relationship with the yidam is not dangerous. But for a person who might not have the openness to understand the view of the practice or the capacity to process their experience through the practice, it is not advisable. Anything the mind does through repetition without a genuine connection to the practice will not yield positive results and can be harmful. Just as someone can be emotionally and psychologically damaged if they feel forced to stay in a relationship when there is no heartfelt connection, doing any practice with a sense of obligation but no heart connection and put- ting forth effort with no result is never advisable. Initially, the relationship with the deity tends to be more external or hierarchical. Eventually a relationship develops in which the deity becomes more like a friend. Finally, one becomes the deity. —Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche