A Brief Introduction to Tantra
A talk given by Guru Yutang Lin
Reviewed and Revised by Guru Lin
A Polish lady Maria described what she saw in clairvoyance when Guru Lin offered the precious vase into River Wislok in Rzeszow.
Rafal: So, she said, she felt connection between the spiritual realm and ours, and the ring of energy going far and far, and going to all city; something like that. It was introduction; maybe somebody has question now?
Q1: His question is, if somebody died, how long period is, we can make this practice, like after one year or….
A: Oh, Powa. The traditional teaching and the commonly adopted theory is that, within 49 days. However, oh—even after 49 days, you know, it's not true that all beings got rebirth in another realm. It's for our convenience we set a limit of 49 days. And then, for those even though they got rebirth, but they go into ghost realm, undesirable realms, to them, you know, Powa also helps. And even if they (get) rebirth as men or heavenly beings, because what Powa does essentially is to get rid of their bad karma, so they become purified; so, anywhere they go, they can be benefited. Oh, some Buddhists have asked me to do Powa for all their ancestors, or their karmic creditors, and they feel very good. So, that proves, you know, it's not really (the case to) have a set time-limit for you to do this. Some lady had aborted children from past, many, many years ago, but they still request this and find relief. So, in general, you know, I encourage people to ask for all the deceased they can think of, without consideration of time.
Q2: So, Jacek, he would like to know, if you can tell us your experience with Powa, and some examples, or some of your experiences with spirits, with ghosts.
A: Oh, it's not always that I can sense it right away, but sometimes I do see the deceased beings that I do Powa for—they appeared. But most of the time we know that Powa is beneficial is because of the feedback. Because people who asked for it, I don't know them completely, and then they sent email back and said: "Oh, I saw some good sign; I feel something." And, for example, sometimes the decease of their loved ones, make them always feel burden in the heart, and after request for Powa, oh, suddenly they feel it's gone. And when I go to different cities to give talks, I also ask them to bring me to cemeteries, and sometimes, when I do that at the cemeteries, some people can see, you know, like some Buddhas come, Amitabha or the Earth Treasure Buddha, they come. And also, sometimes the local Earth God will appear because they also know that it's important for the place to become peaceful.
And since I have done Powa here, and you have the rice, with that, you know, you can always generate more Powa-blessed rice, and go to the cemetery to help all the beings here. And this practice of going to cemetery now and then to do the scattering of the rice is very good. Because when you go there, you read the tombs, you realize that life, after all, is just like this—all the worries you have is no big deal. So, your mind becomes pure, and also you go there to help them, so your compassion is cultivated in this way.
And also one thing related to what she (Maria) said is that, she can see; so, you see, when you do Tantric practices—visualization, you visualize Buddha's blessing go out, it goes out like that, yah, like ripples.
Q3: His question is: the Powa you are doing, he would like to know, is it Powa of Nirmanakaya (化身), or Powa of Sambhogakaya (報身), or Powa of Dharmakaya (法身)?
A: It's the, all three. So, we visualized the three, and then through "Hee, Pei" push them—the final goal is, all return to Dharmakaya, all return to the original purity.
Q4: she would like to know if we practice mantra, any kind of mantra, how is the, what is the best way to practice mantra, like meditation and developing the pure mind?
A: Oh, ah—the best way is, of course, first, you understand that it's not just for yourself, it's for all beings, because if it's just for yourself, then it cannot be connected with Buddha, and it's, eh—it will have very little power because it's limited by your self-centeredness. So, the first understanding is: it's for all, and you dedicate the merits to all. And after, with this understanding, then, no matter which Buddha name or mantra you adopt as your main practice, the key point is to do as many as you can—whenever you can, you do it. Because the way we escape from our original mold of self-centeredness is that, our mind is completely controlled by what we are used to, so our force—mental force is completely here (pointing to one spot). Now the mantra or Buddha name you practice is not connected with this. So, you gradually move your energy here (pointing to another spot), and only through doing lots, lots … enough, then no energy for this (pointing at the first spot), so it's loosened. Otherwise, no way to escape. And there's no tricky way to do practice because everything, you know, is cause and result, cause and effect. And so, if you have used so much energy in this, you have to use more than this to escape; yah, so, just do it.
Q5: He has cancer, you know, he's sick, maybe from, maybe from two years, something like that, and his question is, why, maybe because of provocation of bad spirit, or maybe because of something, another; what is the reason of his sickness he has?
A: Oh, in most cases, it's your karmic debt—what you (had) done in past life. So, important to repent, for even though you don't know what you did, you do repentance, and one effective way is to make prostration to Buddhas, or do the Vajrasattva—purification.
Q6: He was, for many years, he was healthy; from maybe, I don't know, maybe five years or something, he has a problem with epilepsy, and he is asking, why? And his idea is: Maybe when he was a child, they killed some small frogs; somebody taught him that epilepsy is connected with Naga, and he thinks maybe that's the reason. And he thinks: How to help these frogs? something like that. What he can do to purify?
A: Oh, the best way to make redemption for killing lives is to release lives.
(The Buddhist who raised the question said that he will do so accordingly.)
Q7: When the animal is dying, so, his experience in Bardo is same like human being or different? And what is going on at that time, and how we can help the dying animal?
A: The experiences should be different, because, oh—structure different, physical structure different, also, at different realms. But Buddha's salvation is equal to all, so you can pray to Buddha for their salvation. And also, you should know that, even though there are textbooks telling you, in the Bardo you see this, see that, see that—those are just theories. The real situation anyone will go through will be all very different. And if you didn't have the Tantric initiations, probably you don't see any Buddha. And, the moment of the Dharmakaya light appears, it's just like lightening, actually most people will never be able to make use of it. So, the realistic way is just, when you are still alive, you have the strength, devote yourself to Dharma practices. So the result, even though you don't know, will be better.
Q8: So, her question is: Sometimes people can, after death, become animals; but I know also, some lineage, maybe in Hinduism, I don't know, they think it's not possible—if somebody become a man, it's not possible to go back. But in Buddhist theory it's possible…….
A: Yah, certainly possible because, for example, some people kill millions of people, they have to go to Hell; why not? Otherwise, it's unfair.
Q9: His question is about dreaming, about yoga of dream, something like this, because we sleep many hours during life, so, how we can use our sleep for practice?
A: Oh—in order to be able to remain aware of what you are dreaming, it depends on when, first of all, when you are awake, you are, your mind is pretty clear through Dharma practices—first requirement. And then, usually for people who want to do the dream practice, the main point is that, before you go to sleep, you remind yourself that in the dream at least I will know that I am dreaming. And the second thing you want to achieve is that, in the dream you can do as you want, you have control of the situation. But again, these are just ideal, you know, wishes. So, if you are a practitioner, you have done enough practices, usually what happens is that, the dreams, you know, you will have less and less dreams that's just related to your daily life. And you will probably have some very clear dreams that occur after you have slept a while, most likely before you wake up, then at that time you have clear dreams, and in the dreams you sometimes receive teachings, sometimes there're blessings, and those are beyond your control. Of course, the traditional teaching says, in the dream, after you know it's a dream, you try to change (transform) it according to what you wish. But it's still very difficult to transform your dreams. So, practically speaking, my own experience is that, the thing, one thing, important thing I learned from dream is that, you have no fear in the dream. The reason is because, whatever appears, you do whatever you like, and then you just wake up. And this can help us to understand that we can be fearless of death because the Bardo state to life is like dream to the waking state. Of course, you want to get a better rebirth, so, just, in the Bardo, be fearless and continue your practice—just do what you are used to, and then you'll get good results.
When we talked about practices in dream as if it's something that can be separated, but actually it's just part of your whole practice life. So, you don't need to be too concerned about, oh, whether I can know dreams, or whether I can do what I want in dreams—just understand it's part of your practice. Only when the whole practice improved, then the level there will go up. I think now better I say a few words about Tantra, because that maybe helpful. (Rafal: Yes, yes.)
The correct way to understand Tantra is to understand it as, eh—teaching based on teachings of Hinayana and Mahayana, like a three-story building, you know, bottom Hinayana, middle Mahayana and top Tantra. It doesn't mean that the philosophy, the basic Buddhist philosophy of Tantra, is in any way superior to the lower ones; it's all the same. Just the same—Sunyata, compassion, Bodhicitta and full enlightenment—same. But then why do we say that it's the top? Because, you know, for anyone who wants to really walk toward enlightenment, at the first, he need to try to master the basic Hinayana things—renunciation, observation of Silas, and understanding impermanence. And when he has gone through some training, and be firmly established in those practices, then he started to learn the Six Paramitas, so (as) to open his mind to, you know, helping others. But without being able to control himself, he cannot really help others. But, to become fully enlightenment, it's not so easy; why? Because you have greed; you have anger; you have doubts—all those kinds of problems. So, at the level of Hinayana, the teaching is mainly telling you, oh, stay away from those.
When you come to Mahayana, the approach is, say, oh, because you opened your mind, so you can go beyond this self-problems—problems of "self." But, at the level of Mahayana, you are still not really facing those problems—you change your mind to a higher goal, but you are not facing those problems. (Rafal: "facing" means? Ah, confronting, yah.) So, if you never really face the problem, how do you know that you are above it or not? So, just by theory itself, there's a need to go into Tantric practices—just by theory because ideally you have to confront them and overcome them, so you need to go into Tantra. But not everyone can begin with the confrontation, so you have to go through Hinayana, Mahayana trainings. But even then, to go into Tantra is still very dangerous because you're not really ready. Especially because the goal of Tantra is to become full enlightenment in this life, that means maybe in only a few years to completely transform. But each individual actually has many karmic debts, lack of merits, so they actually cannot continue on the path to the highest point. And that is why Tantra always requires people to go through the foundational practices.
And also, even in the Mahayana level, you know, the emphasis is more on the mind—you purify your mind. Of course, you do some charity, and those are activities. But main thing is your Bodhicitta, development of your Bodhicitta. But full enlightenment is not just complete freedom of mind from the previous cage, but also the body transformed, with all previous tensions released. So, Tantra teaches you not only the basic philosophy of Buddhism, but also practices of the physical, of the inner wind. And with this approach of working on both physical and mental, it will speed up the enlightenment process. Also, the method taught are based on Buddha and highly enlightened beings' past experiences. For example, the one we just mentioned, you visualize Buddha's blessing go to all beings; and some people can really see it's going on like that.
Nevertheless, it is still very difficult, why? Because not everyone so fortunate that they can have contact with Tantra early in life; by the time you enter Tantra, you're already old, have many problems, so, very difficult to make real advancement. Nevertheless, don't be discouraged, because even though, suppose, for example, you are only a child and you encounter Tantra, of course, you don't understand those philosophies, but if you believe in it, just by repeating the mantras, you can get direct connection with Buddha. So, of course, we can do like this, too. But why then, is mantra so special? That is because, at first, when Buddha gave the teachings, of course, his blessings go into his teachings. So, the blessings are, should be, in Hinayana, in Mahayana, in Tantrayana, in every teaching. However, not every generation who received the teaching has the purity, the observation of conducts, to continue the blessing. So, you know, it's harder and harder to find those teachers who carry the real thing. However, if the lineage is true and the generations are pure, then the blessing is still there; so they can really give you that, but you have to have the good fortune to encounter this and receive it. But you don't need to worry so much about, oh, how can I find that? Ah—as long as you understand that you are doing this for Bodhicitta, and you sincerely do some basic practices, you will have the good fortune to run into such lineage. Because all Buddhas are always trying to help all, and when you work on practices based on Bodhicitta, you're in tune with them, so they will change the situation so that it's easier, easier for you to meet (such a lineage).
So, I think, you know, this brief introduction, you know, can clarify some of your concepts about Tantra. And also, even though you have contact with Tantra already, don't think high of yourself, maybe your practice is lower than someone at a lower level. What I have said is just to help you understand that, there is true value in Tantra, you can dedicate yourself into it, but you need to work hard. So, maybe we do the ritual (the Ritual of Guru Rinpoche's Round-cap Blessings) now.
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