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Buddhadharma : Fall 2010
how little awareness I generally have about my body. How grounded am I really? Many practitioners are becoming more appreciative of that as we age. The body starts not working so well, and that’s been a wonderful teach ing for me. I was about fifty before I actually began to do anything about it, because the body was really falling apart. anne Klein: Also, what we usually translate as “visualization” is something that is much broader than that word implies. It does a great disservice to what one is actually doing. Buddhadharma: The word “visualization” is very eyesense oriented. anne Klein: Yes. It’s also very subject–object oriented. Our Western notion of visualization conjures up something like watching a movie, or watching TV. In the traditional cultures in which tantra arose, you never saw anything that wasn’t alive in front of you. Seeing has a certain richness and aliveness and freshness in that kind of culture. So, embodying a deity is not just done with the eyes, it’s done with the whole organism. Often people say, “I can’t visualize,” or “I can’t see it clearly.” We can also forget the power of the mantra itself to evoke the deity and her world, and the extent to which one needs to get out of the way and allow it to do that. Too often we stand in the way, and worry and obsess. It becomes a real interference with practice. larry mermelstein: Making the ritual practice relevant and workable requires training, and probably a little more for Westerners, which is one of the jobs that our translation group takes on, in addition to simply translating. We try to help people engage with the texts and the methods in a way that allows it to become a natural extension of their prior Buddhist practice, rather than a bunch of new bells and whistles. anne Klein: Yes. That’s good. I also think it’s very important to bring dharma under standing to the practice you know, so that one really understands absolute and rela tive truth and how the practice of tantra is showing you their union. That does not come automatically, so at the very least some basic Madhyamaka helps a lot. Buddhadharma: As Rinpoche was pointing out earlier, the philosophical tradition provides the underpinning for the ritual. buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly spRing 2 0 10 54 a Relationship like no otheR In the tantric path, the relationship with the guru is everything, explains Sarah Harding. The single most important factor in effective tantric practice of any kind is the relationship between the practitioner and the spiritual master. Although a teacher is also stressed in the other approaches, it is only in the Mantrayana approach that this relationship itself forms the basis of a spiritual evolution. Thus the covenant (Skt. samaya) between master and disciple must be carefully guarded and honored at all times from both sides or the process won’t work. Given the difficulties of relationships in general, and the delicacy and profundity of this tantric relationship in particular, it is not surprising that many misunder standings and abuses have occurred, particularly in the West, where a committed, devotional relationship to another human being is quite alien and often confused with a personality cult. The relationship with the guru informs both creationstage and completion stage practice. In the creation stage, it constitutes the connecting factor between one’s own buddhanature and the visualized deity, which is always conceived of as essentially the guru. The guru becomes the external, identifiable form of the ultimate buddha. All buddha qualities are projected and identified with the guru. Longing and devotion directed toward the guru are so intensified that one is moved to the very core of one’s being; one’s heart is fully opened, providing the space for connection, that is, blessing, to occur. In the development of this relationship, there is more and more capacity for intimacy until finally full union takes place: the guru’s mind and the disciple’s mind are recognized as identical, and all the enlightened attributes of the guru are reclaimed as one’s own. This is the fruition of deity practice and specifically the recognition attained in the completion stage. As the hallmark of tantric practice, guru devotion employs as its means perhaps the most powerful factor of human existence—relationship— both to others and to “other” in an abstract sense. Working with the general projection of self and other, and even more, with all the feelings and affections one develops in relationships, deity practice skillfully uses these affects them selves in devotional practice in order to transcend them. Ultimate completion stage is direct recognition of our fundamental nature, but it is impossible to approach with the conceptual mind. How can we even begin to recognize nonconceptual pure nature? It is like the eye trying to see the eye. The mystery of tantra is that the only thing to do is to pray to the guru for realization to dawn, because there is no other thing to do. A pithy text on great seal (mahamudra), a practice for realization of the ultimate nature, says: Mahamudra has no cause; faith and devotion are the cause of mahamudra. Mahamudra has no condition; the holy lama is the condition for mahamudra. In the usual sense of “cause,” there is nothing that can cause mahamudra, the ultimate realization. The relationship of devotion is the only attitude that creates the condition for it to happen. This is why the guru plays such a crucial role in Vajrayana. From the introduction to Creation and Completion: Essential Points of Tantric Meditation, by Jamgön Kongtul; translated and introduced by Sarah Harding. Published by Wisdom Publications.