A Collection of Chenian Short Lectures in America, Part I
The Buddhist Yogi C. M. Chen
I. The Nine Steps of Samatha
There is a method of concentration called Samatha, which is divided
into 9 steps.
1. The first step is called Inward Abiding. The mind usually pursues
external objects. The ears hear outside; the eyes see outside. But in Samatha
the mind trains itself to focus on some inward point. This point should
be chosen somewhere along the median nerve either inside or outside. Inward
points are the five chakras (the head chakra, the throat chakra, the heart
chakra, the navel chakra, and the private root chakra). The outward points
are between the eyebrows, on the tip of the nose, on the neck, between
the two breasts, on the navel, or near the private organ, or on the ground
at a distance of about sixteen fingers.
For the disturbed mind select a lower point. Most of the past sages
chose the navel chakra. For the sleepy mind, choose a point on the head,
for example, between the eyebrows or inside the head.
2. Continuous Abiding: When one has selected a point and the mind no
longer dwells on anything excep the point, this is continuous abiding.
Most people don't know the difference between concentration and meditation.
Actually, meditation can never succeed without the foundation of concentration,
so concentration practice is very, very important.
The mind's activity is even greater than the speed of light. Most people
do not know what the mind is; they have never even thought about it. This
includes even psychologists and scientists; they have no idea about the
actual speed of mind. But let us clarify this mind-speed with the following
story about Great Yogi Milarepa:
Once Milarepa told an outsider (non-Buddhist) who was meditating on
the peak of the Himalayas that because he was an outsider he did not deserve
to sit on the peak; he should allow Milarepa to sit on the peak. In doing
so, the outsider would be blessed. The outsider replied, "You are a very
high Lama and I would like to oblige you. But first, would you have some
competition with me?" Milarepa replied, "Yes! Why not? You choose the competition."
The outsider decided that on the following morning they should go to the
foot of the mountain and the first one to fly to the top would be the winner.
The next morning the outsider got up very early and began flying on a magic
drum up the mountain. When he had arrived half way, Milarepa was still
sleeping. All his disciples shouted warnings to Milarepa that the outsider
was already half way up to the top but Milarepa said, "Never mind, never
mind, I want to sleep some more." Then when the outsider had nearly arrived
at the top, the greatly alarmed disciples again shouted warnings but Milarepa
said "Never mind", then, at the same instant that his mind thought of the
peak, his body arrived there.
Such mind-speed is much quicker than light. Science says that light
is much faster than even sound and we know that lightening always comes
before thunder. But still, mind's activity is actually much quicker than
light. Every sentient being has this mind and every second it pursues many,
many objects. Nobody has tried to measure the speed of their minds and
nobody has measured the consciousness of space. But actually the mind of
every sentient being, whether a sage or an insect, goes very quickly pursuing
many objects. So it is very, very difficult to focus on one point. We think
that this next step of continuous abiding is very easy. But it is not so
easy to hold one's thought on one single point because between the first
idea to keep on the one point and the second idea that we must continue
holding to it, many many thoughts occur. But we might not necessarily be
aware of them.
Depending on how much one has practiced concentration in his past lives
he will find it more or less difficult to hold the continuous abiding;
so it is not impossible, but it is very difficult. Whenever one settles
his mind on a point, he must always stick to it, just like sticking it
with a pin, stick, stick, stick, stick. Never let any objects, delusions,
thoughts, etc., come between it, just stick, stick, stick. For people who
have practiced in their past lives it is a little easier. But for those
who have never practiced in their past lives it may be very difficult.
But whether one has practiced in his past lives or not, if one is a new
believer, a young believer, if he has good motives and a deep interest,
for the first few minutes he can prevail.
3. In the third step called Well Abiding, the practitioner must recognize
and stop any distraction from the one-pointed concentration called continuous
abiding. He must return his mind to the point and keep it there, well and
firm. A better name for Well Abiding would be Draw-Back Abiding. We must
draw back mind to the point and not let it stray again.
Therefore, whenever the mind falls from the continuous abiding step,
and the deluded thinking mind manifests daily life activities such as the
first idea, "I have not paid the parking meter" and the second following
idea, "I will get a parking ticket", before the second thought occurs,
the practitioner must return his mind to the continuous abiding point and
hold it there well and settled. If he fails to do so in five attempts,
he must get up from his seat because what we think of is what we become.
Therefore, we should emphasize the quality of mind in concentration practice
rather than the quantity of time. Most teachers have neglected this point
and only recommend to their students to practice for a long time, regardless
of the quality of time, regardless of the quality of meditative mind. This
is a very bad mistake.
If one's thoughts are thinking of fighting and cruelty, the person will
fall into hell. The longer he sits with evil thoughts the deeper he will
fall because the thoughts one produces during meditation have a much deeper
impression upon the consciousness than those of daily life activities.
Thoughts produced in the meditation posture can be compared to engraving
a wooden block; the effect is very deep and lasting. Therefore, if the
thoughts contain too much ignorance, we can even become an animal in another
life. Too much lust makes a hungry ghost and whatever one sees he will
rape. So do not merely prolong the time of concentration unless the mind
is fixed in the good quality of samatha.
If one fails to return to the point in five attempts, then he should
get up from his seat and walk around the altar chanting mantras. So far,
I am the only person who has emphasized the quality of mind in the practice
of concentration and it is very special advice from my own experience.
So please do not merely prolong the quantity of time in a blind and harmful
manner. However, if the concentration is of good quality, the Samatha should
then be held, the longer the better. That is why there is the fourth step.
4. In Near the Good Abiding, all outward thoughts have stopped and the
mind naturally returns to the inward point. This should be prolonged.
5. The fifth step is called Overwhelming. Now all outward thoughts have
been overwhelmed by the inward sight. There are no external thoughts and
no exertion is needed to keep the inward point as in the last four steps.
In so doing one comes to the sixth step.
6. Silence: Here the mind is without distraction and therefore very
still or silent. But one problem arises at this time and that is the sleepy
mind. If it is not subdued, the practitioner will fall over from the meditation
posture. Some practitioners say that the half sleepy mind is a good concentration
state because they see a piece of light or dream-like images, but this
is a mistaken view. Many beginners feel very proud because they have seen
this light or that image. Others see only completely black and this is
the animal realm. After the pig takes food, he always falls asleep and
becomes fat and therefore deserves to be eaten as pork, but we should not
follow his example.
The result of the sleepy mind is very dangerous. We could fall into
any of the lower three states. By cause and effect we see that the cause
is ignorance or sleepy mind, and the effect is the lower three realms.
The sleepy mind is caused by the downward flowing energy never rising up.
When we wake up, shocked, from a bad dream this is caused by our energy
rising up. We should not just think that any blind form of meditation is
a good action. Unless it is accompanied by clear concentration, it will
only make you stupid.
Do not think that every kind of sleep is evil. There is a difference
between sleeping in meditation and sleeping in bed. Sleeping in bed is
natural for a human being. Most hermits sleep in the sitting position.
For example, Kalu Rinpoche guided some students to practice for three years,
three half-months and three days without ever lying down. They sit in wooden
boxes about two feet wide by two feet long. The hermits sit when they sleep
to reduce sleep and keep them awake. This is quite different from the layman
who falls asleep in the sitting posture during samatha practice. For such
layman, it is much better to sleep lying down so that the energy is evenly
distributed throughout the body. If he sleeps in the meditation posture,
it will only cause the downward flow of energy to pass through what the
Buddha calls the three mouths of soreness; that is, penis, anus, vagina,
and he will fall into ignorance. From this point of view, it is much better
to sleep lying down and never in the meditation posture.
So in this stage of Silence we must keep our minds very clear, away
from sleep. Do not just think, Oh, meditation is good! Meditation is wonderful!
One must consider what type of meditation is good and what quality of meditation
is wonderful! So when the point becomes hazy, one should open his eyes
widely, and bring the energy upward. As the Silence step becomes clearer,
one attains the seventh step.
7. Deep Silence: Here both the sleepy mind and the distracted mind have
been completely subdued. But now one should make the mind wide, clear,
and vast, not merely deep and silent. Depth is the silence, and brightness
is the vastness; in this manner, stupid ignorance cannot possibly occur.
8. The eighth step is named One Pointed Attention. By now we have attained
one-pointed attention and our minds remain on the inward point without
moving or wavering--even a little. But still, we have not reached our destination
so we have to go onto the next step.
9. The ninth step is called Equal Abiding. In the eighth step we still
have an objective point kept by a subjective experiencer, but now we have
gone beyond this fallacy and everywhere can be seen as one point. It can
be inside or outside or everywhere at one time in an equal quality of samatha.
From this point of view, we can say that there is no longer any point or
we can say that there is only one great point. This is the completion of
the samatha practice, and we are now ready for samapatti practice. Without
success in samatha, one can never succeed in meditation. There have been
many wise people who say that they can meditate in action, but they are
only fooling themselves. If you cannot meditate in the sitting posture
how can you mediate in action? The sitting form of meditation is the easiest.
If you can't do the easiest what makes you think you can do the hardest?
After success in sitting meditation, one should try to mediate in the
four common dignified actions, i.e., standing, sitting, walking, sleeping.
After these are accomplished, one may use his mediation force to penetrate
and transmute the five special poisons, i.e., lust, anger, ignorance, pride,
If your sitting mediation is strong enough, you may use it to subdue
all types of sorrowful places--e.g. bars, casinos, houses of prostitution,
etc. In short, there is no activity which you could not subdue, since it
is the truth of Buddhism to use the highest wisdom to subdue the lowest
Those persons who can meditate in action must have many supernatural
powers. If they do not have them, then they are only deceiving themselves.
When the meditation force comes into action, one should be able to bodily
pass through walls or sit in the sky. Many gurus nowadays merely cheat
their students by saying they can meditate in action; but where are their
supernatural powers? Some of them cannot even protect their own bodies
from accidents. Consequently, many American youths have been cheated.
We may further clarify the above discussion by examining the four stages
of Mahamudra. The first stage is One Pointed Yoga, which is different from
the one pointedness of samatha, but we have no time to elaborate here.
The second stage is called Renounce Play-Words Yoga (No False-Talk Yoga).
The third stage is called One Taste Yoga: this is the true state of meditation
in action. Never is it possible before this state for daily-life activities
to be truly connected with meditation. The One Taste Yoga corresponds to
the Eighth Bodhisattva stage and such practitioners have many, many supernatural
powers. They are very close to being Buddhas. Most of the youths do not
understand what meditation in action is, so they continually indulge in
sex and drink, claiming that their Gurus say this is meditation in action.
They say Buddhism is a way of life; they are very proud and speak very
sugary about their Gurus, but actually they are cheating themselves. I
feel very bad about such people cheating themselves and others.
The fourth stage of Mahamudra is called No Practice Yoga. Many people
have also greatly distorted and misinterpreted what No Practice means.
They claim there is no need to practice meditation, but of course, such
views are very wrong. The One Taste Yoga of Mahamudra belongs to the fourth
initiation of the highest Tantra. If the practitioner has not gotten the
first three initiations of the highest Tantra, how can he get the fourth?
But before these initiations, he must get the initiations of the lower
three Tantras. These also have prerequisites which include several practices
in the Mahayana and Hinayana, e.g., the nine steps of samatha just mentioned
are merely the foundation (starting point) for the exploration of the Hinayana.
So let us not think we will discover the mystery of life over a can of
beer or a casual sexual relationship. Such idle chatter about meditation
in action cannot lead one to liberation.
Today I have spoken these words and I hope they will clarify some of
the false practices now existing. I have no wish to open a shop to sell
the Dharma. I have no intention of gathering many students with false teachings
so that I may take their money; I just have mercy on them and want to help
them distinguish deluded practices. I do not want them to make Buddhism
a cheap subject which can be sold from a store. You cannot buy enlightenment
with gold. It can only be attained by one hundred percent complete devotion
and discipline. Do not cheat people to believe that the Dharma may be purchased
like a ticket to a movie theater. You must lay down your entire life, open
your entire heart, and beyond that is the fruit.
II. The Three Identifications of the Great Perfection
Today is a very fine day and on our way to the Adi-Buddha Mandala in
Sonoma County we sighted a rainbow, a full 180 degree rainbow, brightly
colored running east to west, directly over the road. As we were headed
in a northerly direction, we drove below and through the center of the
arch. Immediately, a short rain fell upon us, obviously some nectar from
the Adi-Buddha symbolizing an auspicious day for the Dharma. Next, the
clouds parted and the bright sun shone upon our heads, foretelling that
on this day I must introduce the highest teaching.
Usually I follow the traditional evolution of the Dharma, from Hinayana
to Mahayana to Vajrayana. With Vajrayana proceedings from the first initiation
of the Buddha-body, to the second initiation of the Buddha-body nerve chakras,
to the third initiation of Vajra-Love, and finally to the fourth initiation
of the Mahamudra and Great Perfection. Normally I do not deviate from this
When I was 23 years old I had a Gelugpa teacher and he taught me to
practice the four foundations of Tantra, each of which was done ten thousand
times, i.e., taking refuge, prostrations, vajrasattva mantra, and the mandala
offering. The last one was very difficult to finish. Next, I met my root
guru Lola Rinpoche, a Nyingmapa, who so kindly gave me the Nyandhi Yoga.
It seemed to me that he did not follow the proper teaching order, nevertheless
I got the instructions of the Great Perfection.
Previously we talked about the nine steps of samatha. They are a very
important foundation for the meditations of all three yanas. But now we
have a special time and auspicious place. The special time has been indicated
by the rainbow and nectar and the auspicious place is the Adi-Buddha Mandala
which is the palace of the Guru of the Great Perfection. This time I am
definitely taking a jump from the traditional sequence of presentation
and am omitting all the teachings of the Hinayana, Mahayana and the first
three Lower Tantras, as well as the first three initiations of the Highest
Tantra. These have been arranged in my book, Buddhist Meditation: Systematic
and Practical, covering more than four hundred and fifty pages. To write
this book from my dictation took the two English Bhiksus Sangharakshita
and Kantipalo more than six months of hard work. Neither do karmic conditions
of this Kali Age permit the thorough completion of these practices which
take several years of complete devotion and discipline. Nor do I have the
full enlightenment with which to teach, nor is there any person who has
completely dropped out to follow me! So we are going to gamble and take
a leap to the Great Perfection, remembering that our foundation is a bit
From Samatha we get the foundation but the Great Perfection is the final
truth of the goal. So we are creating a bird's-eye view from start to finish,
from beginning to ultimate. But we cannot reach the goal without walking.
Actually, the samapatti of the Vajrayana (Great Perfection) is a very simple
teaching. But the simpler the teaching the more difficult it is to get
the experiential realization.
The Great Perfection belongs to the Nyandhi Yoga. This teaching is called
the Three Identifications; it is the highest and most profound teaching
of our Great Guru Padmasambhave. He received it from Manjusri's incarnation
as Sri Simha who lived on the five peaked mountain in China. Sri Simha
gave these instructions to Padmasambhava in India. He merely pointed to
the sky and said,"My unmoving mind is always like this!" and then flew
back to the five peaked mountain in San Shi province which now is occupied
by demons. Though they occupy the outward place, they can never discover
the inward, secret, and most secret dwelling places of Sri Simha.
My Guru Lola Rinpoche imparted the three identifications and all other
teachings of the Great Perfection to me and it has been printed about in
my province Hunan in China. Many Chinese have also learned it.
The three things to be identified are the Mind, the Sky, and the Truth.
The Truth is the Great Perfection, the full Enlightenment, the Dharmakaya,
the Entity of Adi-Buddha.
First of all, the Mind of the Great Perfection should not be mistaken
for the psychic mentality or the physical heart; nor is it psychological
thought or psychological conception, perceptions, or any thinking processes.
The true mind of Dharmakaya is none of these! This fact has been mistaken
by many contemporary scholars, religious teachers, and psychologists.
They loudly and proudly talk about the psychological nature of mind,
but this is very foolish talk. Their outlook falls on the one-sided view
of mentality. This error is similar to that of the Maoists who regard the
truth to be of a material nature, which falls on the one-sided view of
materiality. Both these views are far from the truth of mind.
The nature of mind is the final truth. To describe the philosophic mind
we only need to say the Truth. But this point has even been left uncorrected
by the ancient sages. The Truth is philosophic, is the Dharmakaya, is the
Great Perfection, is the Ch'an. No practice is necessary to discover this
philosophic truth. When it appears, it appears. It can be compared with
an upside-down pyramid. The sharp pointed vertex points downward with the
base expanding upward to infinity (Dharmadhatu). The sharp-pointed vertex
symbolizes the sudden awareness of the Dharmadhatu. In a flash we can identify
with the truth--Before this sudden flash there is ignorance, afterwards
there is realization appearing by itself--the Dharmakaya.
The second identity of the Sky does not mean the physical sky which
we see above our heads. But is analogous to a crystal ball without limitation,
pervading all directions simultaneously, transparent, clear, and radiating
brightness everywhere. So we must think of the crystal sky of the Three
Identifications not just as ordinary sky but as the unlimited, dimensionless,
crystal ball of realization.
The third identity is the Truth, which is, was, and will be. It does
not only belong to Buddhism for the truth belongs to itself. Buddhism revealed
this truth, the Dharma of nonself. Hinduism masks the truth with the high
self but in the non-self of Buddhism there is no such obstruction and the
truth stands naked and bright. Every other religion in the world has a
high self or God but only Buddhism has the truth without any such prophylactics.
The truth pervades everywhere but we must study the non-self practice of
Buddhism if we want to understand the final, deep and complete truth. We
should not wear our clothes when we take a bath, nor do we hold any kind
of truth in the self. Therefore non-self is the fixed philosophic truth
The Three Identifications of Mind, the Sky, and the Truth are not three
things but one. We use three terms just for clarification of the intellect,
but without direct experiential realization there can be no genuine understanding.
Beware of thinking you have discovered the truth merely by understanding
the theory. This is not the real truth; but from the practice of this theory
will eventually come the full realization from a Guru; this is very important.
Keep this fixed in your mind: (l) The mind is not the visualization of
these things! (2) The truth is not a result to wait for! (3) The sky is
not an object of visualization. But it is here and now appearing in oneness--these
are Sri Simha's three identifications of the unmoving mind, adopted by
our great Guru Padmasambhava.
For the practice of the three identifications, we must make some changes
in the seven elements of the Samatha posture, e.g., crossed legs, chin
downward, etc. Now we tilt our heads slightly backwards, and let our eyes
focus on the symbolism of the sky and let the brightness increase. So here
the head does not hang downward but is elevated to identify with the brightness
of the sky. Usually we should practice the three identifications outdoors,
this is best. But there are some dangers. There should be no rain or strong
wind. I practiced in the Himalayas and it was clear and beautiful everyday.
It seldom rained but there was much wind. Don't let the wind blow directly
to your body but always let it pass sideways in front of you. We can also
practice indoors, also in dreams. Realization happened to me four times,
e.g., indoors, outdoors, in dreams, and in meditation. I hope that you
will get the realization of the Great Perfection very soon.
III. Deep Breathing
We have already talked about Samatha, the foundation of meditation,
and the Three Identifications (the highest meditation); therefore, all
further discussion lies between these two methods.
Deep breathing belongs to the Annutara Yoga, second initiation, whereas
the third initiation is the practice of Vajra Love and the Three Identifications
belong to the fourth initiation. We must practice the second initiation
of deep breathing very thoroughly and get the realization of non-discharge
(of semen), then we can practice the third initiation of Vajra Love--but
not before. By the right practice of Vajra Love we realize the Dharmakaya
light, identical with the Dharmakaya of the Three Identifications; so from
the third we give birth to the fourth initiation, just as practice of the
second initiation produces the third.
Nowadays the young Lamas do not follow the correct sequence nor do they
have enough practice in hermitages to get realization. They prematurely
advise their students to do meditation in action (the fourth initiation).
They try to meditate in sexual intercourse, but cannot control their semen
from discharging. This is only animal sex and not the Vajra Love practice.
Such activity deepens the bondage of lust while avoiding liberation. Consequently,
many young Lamas have prostituted the teachings of Vajrayana, causing their
students to fall. In the name of the Adamantine Vehicle, the Vajrayana,
the most profound and direct path of complete Enlightenment in one lifetime,
they sell garbage. They create restaurants where starving students pay
high prices to eat the nectars of Vajrayana, but are served only excrement.
Such Gurus at best understand a little of Mahayana, but why must they delude
their followers about the Vajrayana?
Today we will talk about the second initiation, but this does not follow
the correct sequence, because we have not even talked about the first initiation
(the accomplishment of a Yidam body). Before this there are several practices,
so one should refer to my book, Buddhist Meditation: Systematic and Practical,
to get a thorough picture of the complete Buddhist Meditation practice.
In this way one cannot be deluded into improper practices.
To practice Tantra one must read the sutras of Mahayana and get the
foundation of two-fold non-egoism and practice the Sunyata meditations.
Without Sunyata realization there can be no Tantra.
This two-fold sunyata in Mahayana is the sunyata of personality and
the sunyata of dharma (which includes both positive and negative life experiences,
phenomena, etc.) To practice the Vajra Love by using the evil (negative)
dharma of lust, one must clearly experience that the evil dharma itself
is in the sunyata. We hear a lot of talk about the Dakini in Tantra. Dakini
means "she who walks in the sunyata." Tantra is a path of Enlightenment
in the sunyata. Heruka means "blood drinker who walks in the sunyata";
whether male or female, both must walk in the sunyata. If the practitioners,
whether male or female, cannot walk in the sunyata , then they cannot practice
In Hinayana one follows the Vinaya (commandments) very carefully so
that one does not fall into evil states. These negative experiences become
a very big self which cannot be penetrated. This is why the Hinayanists
can know only the sunyata of personality but not the sunyata of dharma,
much less the sunyata of negative dharmas. Therefore, we should first study
Hinayana to learn the sunyata of personality, then use the sunyata of personality
to first penetrate to the sunyata of good dharmas, and lastly to that of
the evil dharmas. In this way we can sublimate or transmute the heavy,
evil dharmas into good functions, and enter the realm of Vajrayana.
So today I am talking about deep breathing because of your interest,
but it is not in the traditional sequence. This sequence is very important
and can only be deviated from in very rare instances, so I talk about this
deep breathing very reluctantly just to hold your interest. But I still
emphasize the traditional evolution of dharma practice.
Even in Confucianism following proper sequence is emphasized. Confucious
said, "Things have their roots and branches; affairs have their beginning
and end. One must know what is the first and what is the last, then he
can obtain the approach of Tao". Confucius emphasized firstly to be a good
man, then to raise a good family, then to set good order in the country,
then we can obtain a world of peace. Confucius was only talking about how
to make a good human being, but we are talking about how to make a man
become Buddha; so the sequence is very, very, important.
For example, a monkey found a field of maize. Upon seeing so many ears
of corn he got very excited, took one and put it under his right arm and
put the second under his left arm. When he picked the third, he dropped
the first, used his other arm to reach for the fourth and dropped the second.
In this manner he never got to eat any. If he knew the sequence, he would
have picked the first and eaten it, then picked the second and eaten it.
In this way he would have felt no hunger and really enjoyed himself. We
should pursue the Dharma practice in a like manner.
I have heard that some people learn about The Tibetan Book of the Dead
or Bardo Yoga before deep breathing practice. This is ridiculous if not
totally insane. It is not so bad if they are just talking about Bardo Yoga
but if they are attempting to practice it, this is totally crazy. But why
should we talk about something we are not practicing? Quite often Gurus
present such seductive topics merely wasting their student's time, something
he cannot replace .
Once a student wrote me a letter from a seminar on The Tibetan Book
of the Dead asking me if he should practice the Bardo Yoga. I answered
with the following poem:
I have been so asked by a friend
Whether it is good or it is bad;
I couldn't answer but I know
Learn to live before you learn to be dead.
Among the six tantric yogas both the Bardo Yoga and the Phowa Yoga (consciousness
transference) belong to the methods of learning how to die. The Tummo (heat)
Yoga and the Maya Body Yoga deal with how to live with the Buddha body.
So when a Guru is a true Guru and therefore teaches in the natural sequence,
he would first reach the Tummo Yoga whose foundation is deep breathing
practice. Deep breathing is the foundation of all six yogas.
Without success in tummo, deep breathing, one cannot practice the maya
body. The maya body is not only flesh but also a spiritual body of visualization
and wisdom. By deep breathing we bring the wisdom body of the Buddha into
the practitioner's body (in the heart). By uniting the tummo's heat and
nectar we form the wisdom body. Then the maya body can be attained.
Before going to bed we should practice deep breathing and pray that
we will use the dream state to practice the Dharma. So we can see that
the dream yoga is also based on the deep breathing tummo yoga. Likewise,
both the daytime clear light yoga and the nighttime clear light yoga proceed
from the deep breathing practice. They cannot succeed unless one can hold
and store the deep breathing energy in the wisdom body. Then the light
will occur and the chakras will open. The more they open the more you can
experience the vastness of light.
To practice Bardo Yoga we must use the deep breathing as a force to
get the light of Bardo before death. There are many stages of the light.
We must learn how to distinguish between the Buddha Light and the Karmic
Light. But this cannot be done without the force of deep breathing. By
practicing the Bardo Yoga in the Causal position (before death) we will
become very skilled in recognizing the true Buddha light in the Consequence
position (after death). Thus we may get a good rebirth in the Pure Land.
The last Yoga of Phowa cannot be attained without the force of deep
breathing. Here the energy is accumulated in the lower chakra then shot
up to open the Buddha hole about four fingers behind the aperture of Brahma,
at the top of the head. Then the consciousness or the wisdom bodhi of the
practitioner can be transferred to Buddha's heart.
All six yogas are based upon the Tummo deep breathing. A Guru, if he
is well practiced, if he has learned well, will teach the deep breathing
first, never the Bardo Yoga first. It is impossible to practice the Bardo
Yoga without first accomplishing deep breathing.
Many users of LSD become afraid of death or want to explore it further.
Alan Watts was a hippie leader who advised others to read The Tibetan Book
of the Dead for it would prevent accidental death caused by the LSD functioning.
I never heard of this kind of practice in Tibet. For one thing, The Tibetan
Book of the Dead is not a text of recitation. It is a teaching concerning
the Bardo Yoga. It is taught in the six doctrines edited by Dr. Evans-Wentz.
The practitioner of Bardo Yoga uses this book as a guide for his meditation
yoga experience of the Bardo light. The Diamond Sutra and Heart Sutra and
other Mahayana texts have their own value, and merit can be gained from
their recitation. But The Tibetan Book of the Dead is a manual of Vajrayana
concerning the Annutara Yoga. Here one has gone beyond the use of incantations
which are utilized in the lower three tantras. Also the rituals of the
Yidam are not regarded as being important.
Since in the first Annutara initiation the practitioner has regarded
himself as being the Yidam, therefore what he speaks is the incantation
of the Yidam, what he thinks is the visualization of the Yidam, whatever
he acts is the action of the Yidam. He must develop this Buddha-pride very
precisely. So, recitation of texts is accorded little value for the practitioner
of the first initiation, and even less by a practitioner of the second
In the second initiation practice the Yidam (practitioner) should always
keep his energy inside. Too much repetition of mantras, rituals, etc.,
dissipates the energy into the outside world. Even to blow out a candle
is considered a violation of the discipline, so repetition of a fat book
or a long ritual would be a gross violation. Alan Watts did not know anything
about the Tantra, he merely took LSD and then taught other people his misconceptions
about The Tibetan Book of the Dead. He was not even a very low lama, much
less a Guru or Rinpoche. He can justly be accused of misrepresentation
and charlatanism regarding this book. But when one is a Lama, a Guru, a
Tulku, he must know the sequence and first teach deep breathing and then
the Bardo Yoga. At this time, he could use The Tibetan Book of the Dead
to instruct his students about the details of the Bardo state, telling
them the difference between the Light of Buddha and the Light of Karma.
But one should not give instructions on this book merely to entertain one's
students, especially if they pay money.
It is a great mistake to use the Vajrayana teachings merely to raise
money even for the high self or the religious organization. Students should
not be instructed unless they are qualified. The Tantra is not a cheap
carnival act which can be viewed for the price of admission. One must undergo
the step by step psycho-physical transformation to learn Tantra. There
is no other way. I have never opened a shop to sell the Dharma, but have
developed some resentment for those teachers who do not follow the traditional
sequence. To many people I am a bad person who emphasizes the bad points
of teachers and students rather than their positive qualities. But when
a bottle has dirt inside, we should wash it and then fill it with milk.
This is why I dwell so much on the common errors.
Even my friend Evans-Wentz who edited several Tibetan yoga books made
some fundamental errors. He could not clearly distinguish the difference
between the body of Hinduism, the body of Buddhism, and the human body.
When practicing the deep breathing, we do not use the human body, nor do
we use the hatha yoga body of Hinduism. All religions except Buddhism emphasize
the meditative body of Godhood. What is the difference between the God
body and the Buddha body? There is a great difference which has been overlooked
by even many Buddhists. Without in-depth experience one cannot distinguish
between the Buddha body and the Hindu body. So even though someone calls
himself a Buddhist Guru, he might just teach Hinduism.
All religions except Buddhism emphasize the attainment of Godhood, but
this is not Buddhahood. We should not think all religions are the same.
In Godhood we have developed the meditative body of the high self attainment,
and have a very clear concept of what is high, what is low, what is spiritual
and what is material. The high self is very prudish, and cannot get the
dirt of low self on its lily-white gloves. But the Buddhist is more thorough.
Not only has he discovered the sunyata (voidness) of the low self, but
also he has experienced the sunyata of the high self (Godhood). Consequently,
he rejects both the low self and the high self and functions in the Buddha
body of no-self.
This is the transcendental Sunyata body which cannot be seduced by purity
or damaged by uncleanliness. The true Buddhist accepts nothing as being
particularly sacred and rejects nothing as being especially ordinary. He
constantly experiences the sour of the sweet, and the sweet of the sour.
He regards the low self as being dust, and the high self as being gold
dust. The true Buddhist knows that dust or gold dust when placed in your
eye will block vision of the truth. However, when ordinary dust is removed
from the eye, it is worthless; whereas, one could get something for gold
dust. Consequently, with nothing in the eyes, we have a clear and precise
vision of things as they are. This is the nothing of no-self; the truth
Still, without accomplishment in deep breathing the practitioner cannot
mix the red and white Bodhi, so he can practice neither style of Phowa.
By my experience of the White Dakini Phowa which you cannot find in any
book, when the wisdom of Bodhi is gathered in one point in your body, even
before shooting and entering the White Dakini's womb, you will feel like
you are dying. My entire life forces were gathered in one point, but I
knew I must not die at that moment because I was practicing as a preparation
so I immediately concentrated on my fingers and toes and the point was
dispersed. Thus I am still with you.
In China by the practice of the Amitabha Phowa many Chinese have mistaken
as proof of accomplishment the insertion of a blade of grass in the Buddha
hole in the head. I warned them that it was possible to open the Buddha
hole by ordinary mind concentration but that this is not the true accomplishment.
The Buddha hole must be opened by first opening the median nerve with wisdom
energy and then sending the Bodhi to Amitabha. So do not be misled by superficial
To practice the White Dakini Phowa, we must have a good foundation in
Hinayana renunciation to get rid of worldly love, Mahayana sunyata to unite
the Dakini, and Vajrayana wisdom energy to be enabled to send up the wisdom
Bodhi. If you have accomplished these foundations you could not fool yourself
with false attainment.
Nowadays people do not have the right view of the illusory world or
know the pain of transmigration. They still have great love for the world.
Consequently, even if they get the method, they cannot make the accomplishment.
It is necessary to follow the genuine method rather than a false theory
glorified by ego-clinging. So let me show you the real practice but this
is merely to satisfy your curiosity.
To really succeed depends upon your own practice. It is not very difficult
to learn the Dharma nowadays. But it is quite difficult to get the right
view and to accurately distinguish between spiritualism and materialism.
If you wander back and forth between the two, nothing can be accomplished.
Buddha was born a Hindu. If Hinduism and Buddhism were the same he would
not have rejected Hinduism and created Buddhism. Nor would Buddha have
flown to the Brahma heavens to point out Brahma's pride and to teach Sunyata.
It is a shame that many Buddhists cannot distinguish Buddhism from Hinduism.
All gods have so much pride, so great an ego; they all say I am the
only God, the greatest one, but we know that they all cannot be the one
and only God. That is why Godhood still lies in the state of transmigration.
As soon as their light and subtle meditative body wears out they fall back
into the human condition. But you will not find any Arhat or Bodhisattvas
or Vidyadharas in transmigration.
I was shocked to see so many pictures of Hindu Gurus in Evans-Wentz's
Buddhist books. A Buddhist tantric practitioner, even in the lowest rituals,
begins to learn Sunyata. From this Sunyata rises the Buddha body. It is
born from the Sunyata and not from any human parents, nor from any concentration
of the refined energy of the maya body of Godhood. Deep breathing must
be held by the Buddha body. Do not confuse these other two, so do not put
pictures of Hindu Gurus in Buddhist books unless they have attained a Buddha
The sunyata body is visualized as a water bubble. The inside of the
bubble is empty to show the sunyata; outside, the bubble is transparent
to show the sunyata function and the sunyata light. Thus we should visualize
the three nerves and the five Chakras, all of which are wisdom nerves,
wisdom pipes, as transparent; all empty on the inside and transparent on
Buddha taught Sunyata in the Diamond Sutra. He used this example of
a bubble, also the reflection in a mirror. Inside the mirror is empty,
but outside it reflects the brightness of the image but still nothing is
there. Our body is also like this, that is, our Buddha body, a body of
wisdom, a body of sunyata, a body of diamond.
In our sunyata bubble body we should not think of the five organs (heart,
kidney, lungs, etc.) nor the spinal column. The median nerve is not in
the spinal column. The spinal column is the center of the flesh body and
even animals have a spinal column. Many Buddhists do not know this point.
Even though the three nerves and five chakras of the Hindus have the same
names as those of the Buddhists, they cannot compare in quality. That of
Hinduism are meditative visualizations in the human body. This is merely
a transformation from gross to subtle. But Buddhists proceed from the subtle
to the sunyata body.
To practice deep breathing one must know that one's body is of sunyata
wisdom. Therefore, all inhaling and exhaling and storing of wisdom breath
comes from wisdom air. Inhalations come from the Buddha's palace. Actually
the Buddha has no breathing, just light! It comes to our body and this
is wisdom light. When exhaling we may visualize all the Godhood body and
human body dispersing and becoming light. Everything stored in the Buddha
body is of sunyata wisdom, wisdom air, wisdom energy. This is why it can
pass through the median nerve of the Buddha body which is a symbol of the
The breathing which is practiced in Hinayana or Mahayana does not have
the depth or power of the breathing initiations of Vajrayana and are not
really pure wisdom breath. In Tantra, the breathing does not merely contain
the one element of wind, but all five elements. That is the gnosticized
essence of all five material elements (air, earth, fire, water, space).
These gnosticized material essences are very refined and can be contrasted
with the ignorant breathing of the human body which contains only the element
of air. The Tantric yogi absorbs the air element from the higher portion
of the nostril, the earth element from the lower portion of the nostril,
the fire element from the outer portion of the nostril, the water element
from the inner portion of the nostril, and the space element from the center
of the nostril. Therefore, all the essences of materiality can be drawn
in and controlled by deep breathing practice. That is why Tantric yogis
who are accomplished in deep breathing have many supernatural powers. By
controlling the five elements and the right view we control the universe.
The Tantric theory is a causation of seven elements. Consciousness and
right view belong to mentality, the five elements belong to materiality.
This, therefore, should not be viewed as common breathing by any means.
Keep in mind that the practice of deep breathing is not a small job and
is only accomplished by wisdom energy and wisdom nerves, so we need a very
deep understanding in Sunyata to proceed with Tantra.
Again the center of the deep breathing is not the lungs--this is human
breathing. The center of the meditative body of other religions is in the
navel. But the deep breathing center is the median nerve which is of wisdom.
The median nerve is not the spinal column. My book Discriminations Between
Buddhist and Hindu Tantras gives a detailed description of these essential
points. When this wisdom system of the body, the nerves, and the breath
are understood very thoroughly, the deep breathing practice will succeed.
Next we must clarify the difference between the whole AH and the half
AH. Evans-Wentz did not know this difference, but even his Guru did not
know about this so he must not be blamed. They mistakenly say that the
whole AH consists of the three strokes of the partial letter. Both are
wrong; for the half AH is visualized as a straight short line tapering
to a very sharp point located at the bottom portion of the median nerve
(which is called AH-WA-DUTTI). The whole AH is the visualization of the
entire median nerve. This is the true oral instruction imparted by Tibetan
Gurus of accomplishment, but not by scholars.
The AH is the philosophy of sunyata and is also the first word a child
utters, the starting point of a vibrational wave from which all words will
be produced just as all phenomena are produced in Sunyata. The half AH
is the tummo, red in color, red bodhi or female bodhi and corresponds with
the ovum. This half AH is the fire element in wisdom. When it rises it
meets the male component or white bodhi called HUNG. HUNG is the water
element and is connected with the male semen. The HUNG and AH are called
wisdom drops. When they unite or melt together through the power of deep
breathing, much nectar and bliss pervades the whole body. The entire body
becomes light and begins to transform into a rainbow body.
Through the wisdom drops, with the help of wisdom breathing, aided by
the outside visualization of the mandala of the Pure Land, the five elements
of Buddhahood are brought inside and gnosticized into wisdom fire. This
wisdom fire can dissolve the flesh of the human body and transform the
entire human body into light (literally). This is the true rainbow body,
without death and without flesh, capable of expanding to the vastness of
the Dharmakaya or to the minuteness of a single grain of sand. This is
the truth of the Tantra, the experiential fact of the complete identification
of mentality and materiality.
Men have much more white bodhi than red bodhi. Women, vice versa. This
is why we have the third initiation of Vajra Love. Here male and female
are profitable to each other. In Taoism the male merely victimizes the
female, but this is not moral. The second initiation of deep breathing
must be accomplished before one can practice the third initiation of Vajra
Love. By deep breathing one can control the white bodhi (semen) from discharging
during the Yidam sexual intercourse. This is absolutely necessary before
the practice of Vajra Love.
It seems that nowadays young Lamas are confused about the above fact
or they have not practiced sufficiently to control their semen from being
discharged. Not only do they have male children but some even have female
children. Their sexual intercourse is like that of the ordinary human being
discharging his semen into samsara. Male children are conceived because
the male's essence is stronger than the female's. But female children result
if the male essence is feeble and therefore dominated by the female strength.
This proves whether that Lama, Guru or Rinpoche can control his semen or
not. If he can not control his white bodhi he should not practice Vajra
Love, much less should he emphasize free sex or free love.
I regret to say that American youths deserve such a Guru. Why? Because
they want their Guru to take refuge with them rather than that they should
take refuge and follow the Guru. They think that if the Guru follows all
their ways only then they will follow him. If the Guru says the Dharma
practitioners should not drink, should not have free love, then they say
he is too serious and leave him. If the Guru takes money from students,
takes refuge in the student's habits, takes refuge in the student's opinions
and follows the students, then they will come to him. My friends advise
me to be like those other Gurus and open a center, start a school and gain
much money and many followers. But I just advise them to read Milarepa's
biography. He did not even have enough clothes to cover his male organ.
His sister advised him to be like the other Lamas who had large umbrellas,
many followers, many horses to carry their baggage, etc. His sister could
not understand why her brother chose to live in such poverty. Milarepa
was not sad but very, very happy. He was not suffering at all. The American
youth are like his sister who could not see the wealth of the true Dharma
beyond the material mask, so they prefer the more plastic Gurus. They have
little desire for deep wisdom. I do not have full Enlightenment like Milarepa.
I also have not the desire to follow the American youth as my Guru.
The preceding talk has been given to clarify the mistaken ideas of Tantra
and to introduce the importance of deep breathing. For the real practice
I must show you in person. But before I demonstrate the practice of deep
breathing, I would like to make some additional comments.
In the entire system of Buddhism, we follow the Hinayana to purify the
low self mind. Mahayana teaches how to sublimate the mind into the wisdom
of sunyata; this includes both the sunyata of personality and external
dharmas. The Vajrayana teaches that mind is neither mind nor matter. It
strikes directly to the heart of non-dualism or the identification of matter
and mind. We then can function with this true nature of mind in the position
The additional teaching of Vajrayana is the Deep Breathing. It is much
different from the breathing of Hinayana and Mahayana. The Tantra never
adopts any one-sided views. It clearly maintains that where there is mind
there is prana (energy), where there is prana, there is mind.
In the Idealism School of Mahayana the entire contents of consciousness
have been segregated into one hundred dharmas, including good and bad.
The Tantra adopts this system but with a much deeper emphasis. It sees
the Mandala as either positive or negative energy and mind, but has no
preference for the good over the bad or vice versa. The Tantra completely
identifies the good with the bad by sublimating either out of the one-sided
view. Where the Idealists see good or bad, positive or negative, pleasure
or pain, the Tantric yogi experiences only a bright and shimmering quantum
of energy and mind which he may identify in his function of Buddhahood.
In short, the Tantric yogi has conquered the superficial belief of right
and wrong, thus he sees everything as the Mandala of energy, the identification
of mind and energy.
For example: lust contains the energy of lust which transmutes into
Discriminating Wisdom, anger contains the energy of anger which transmutes
into Mirror Wisdom; pride consists of pride energy which is transmuted
into Wisdom of Equality; ignorance contains the energy of ignorance which
is transmuted into the All-Accomplishing Wisdom, all through the mental
meditation of Sunyata and the deep breathing of Tummo. So let us not adopt
the false view like many followers of the Idealist School by believing
that the followers of the Tantra do not understand their doctrine. The
correct view is that the Tantric yogis have harvested the essence of the
The Vajrayanaists know that wherever there is consciousness, there is
energy, and vice versa. They would never say as the Idealists that it is
the eighth consciousness which transmigrates from lifetime to lifetime,
moment to moment, rather that the eighth consciousness accompanied with
the life energy is that which transmigrates. Without the life energy the
eighth consciousness cannot move, and actually this apparent duality is
merely one phenomena when viewed from the truth of Tantra.
It was only because many unrealized and unpracticed scholars in their
ignorance created the separate view of materiality and mentality that learned
Buddhists do not know the real truth today. One should not call himself
a Buddhist if he holds any such view. Therefore, we should know that by
deep breathing we simultaneously accomplish deep wisdom. Without deep breathing
there can be no deep wisdom and vice versa. Do not think you will accomplish
deep wisdom by intellectual endeavor, for this is merely glorified confusion.
You scholars should be like Naropa and leave the bondage of your universities
to follow Tilopa. This is most important advice in our Kali age where the
Dharma of verbal garbage is overflowing its bank.
Before learning the Vajra breathing, we should first learn the Hinayana
and Mahayana breathing. In the former, we change the gross breath into
subtle. We find that when the mind is calm the breath follows suit. We
should recognize that this is not deep breath, this is shallow breath.
We should learn the Four Noble Truths from our breathing practice and avoid
evil thoughts. Also we can recognize impermanence. If my exhale does not
return I will die. By inhaling we breathe in the Buddha's wisdom and by
exhalation all the black and evil karmas leave us. Lastly, we should discover
the sunyata of personality, that there is no individual self doing this
breathing practice. This is Hinayana breathing.
In Mahayana breathing we absorb the Evil Karmas of all sentient beings
by inhalation, and purify the evil karmas of sentient beings by exhalation.
We experience the sunyata of inner dharmas by inhalation, and discover
the sunyata of external dharmas by exhalation. Everything is without ego.
Both the inner personality and external dharmas are without self. The Tien-Tai
School has a book named "Six Wonderful Dharma Gates" giving very detailed
accounts of the six types of Mahayana breathing.
Vajrayana breathing must be devoid of all dualistic conceptions regarding
what is matter and what is energy. It proceeds from the seven element theory
of causation: Right view and consciousness belong to mentality, whereas
the five material elements belong to materiality (earth, fire,water, space,
air). By deep breathing we can absorb all five material elements because
we have cut off all dualistic views. All the phenomenal world is contained
in the Vajra breathing. There are many stages of attainment in the Vajrayana
Before deep breathing, we must consider if it is the proper time for
practice (Mahayana never takes this precaution). We must make sure the
breath is flowing evenly through both nostrils. If it is uneven, it is
better to have the flow greater through the left nostril, but never the
right. Greater flow through the left nostril will increase the length of
life. But greater flow through the right nostril will decrease the length
of life. However, even flow through both nostrils will give the longest
life span. These are facts discovered by practitioners of the Vajrayana
and cannot be found in the Mahayana. They are the precious fruits of Buddha's
realization which we may use as expedient means in the position of Cause.
Even flow through both nostrils is most favorable to cause the breath
to enter the median nerve for wisdom breathing. This opens the median nerve
to discover the Dharmakaya light.
To make the breath even in both nostrils, lay down on the side through
which the breath has greater flow, this will naturally increase the flow
in the deficient nostril. Next lie on the back to make sure the breath
is even in both nostrils, then begin practice.
Before deep breathing we should begin with the "Vajra Repetition"--OM
AH HUNG. We call it Vajra Repetition because Vajra is the symbol for Sunyata:
Vajra cannot be cut, Vajra cannot be defiled, Vajra cannot be divided,
Vajra cannot be destroyed. I have written a commentary on the Vajra Repetition
in Chinese published in Hong Kong and it has been protected by the Protectors.
I hope it will eventually be translated into English. With a firm foundation
in practicing the OM AH HUNG repetition, the dangers of the deep breathing
practice can be avoided. So the OM AH HUNG repetition is very important.
When we breath in, this is OM; when we hold the breath inside without strain
this is AH; HUNG is the exhalation. So this is not oral recitation but
a system of breathing.
Next is the "Middle Abiding Breathing." Here we always keep some inner
energy between the navel and the sexual organ, but not by force. It is
done quite naturally without any manipulation during all the days activities;
if we can hold it 24 hours a meditation will spontaneously result.
After completion of the above two foundations we may begin the gentle
form of deep breathing; when we are accomplished in it, we may go on to
the violent form of deep breathing.
The violent deep breathing is divided into four parts: First, the inducing
(inhalation) of all the energy from all Buddha lands which are drawn into
the body as if by a hook. Second, storing and holding the breath inside
very, very deeply until all parts of the body are full of energy, even
teeth, hair, etc., and all the wisdom nerves are very excited and full,
almost ready to break as if the skin of the body were going to burn. Needless
to say this step is very, very dangerous. Without a good foundation the
practitioner may die by attempting this breathing prematurely.
Third is the shooting (violent exhalation) visualized as either leaving
the pores of the skin (this will cure many kinds of diseases), or shot
upward to the head which then can transmit our consciousness to the Pure
Land. The Phowa yoga is based on this method. When shooting, this energy
should pass through the median nerve. Fourth, is pervading the whole body
so it trembles to spread the wisdom drops everywhere and make the body
very healthy and powerful. These four divisions are just one cycle of deep
We should make great efforts to sit in the full lotus position to practice
deep breathing. When I was 23 I could not sit in full lotus. At this time
I was not a complete renounceable drop out and was very busy. When I was
28 I still could not sit in full lotus, so I was very ashamed. But remembering
the violent treatment Marpa gave Milarepa I was inspired to treat myself
with the same determination. In this way, with much pain, I learned to
sit full lotus. I treated myself as Marpa treated Milarepa, so eventually
I succeeded. You should treat yourself in a like manner. If you want to
succeed in deep breathing, you must make great effort and do not be lazy.
Be diligent and bear all the pains or you will not gain any Enlightenment.
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