Vajra YogasThe completion stage practice of Kalachakra's Profound Path of Vajra Yoga
Practicing the 6 Vajra Yogas
The 4 Drops
To help simplify the process of transformation which is established through the preliminary practices, we can think of four stages leading to a non-conceptual awareness.
- Body Drop of the Waking State
- Speech Drop of the Dream State
- Mind Drop of the Deep-Sleep State
- Wisdom Drop of Meditative Absorption
The body drop is all of the sensory appearances which arise to our mind while we are awake. These appearances are primarily rooted in the five sense faculties of the body—namely the eyes, ears, nose, tongue and the nervous system. Through these five, we experience sights, sounds, smells, tastes and tactile sensations.
When we think of the preliminaries as a process of movement from gross to subtle states of consciousness, then we need to establish a connection between the ground state—where we start—and the resultant state—where we wish to end. By connecting ground and result, we establish a continuum of experience that we can follow down through the layers of our mind.
The way that we establish this connection is through empowerment. While this process can occur in the context of an elaborate ritual ceremony in which a spiritual master introduces us to our ultimate nature, the moment of empowerment can also occur in a variety of other contexts. Whenever the conditions come together for the clouds of our conceptual obscurations to part just enough for the light of our sacred truth to shine forth in our experience, in that moment, we receive some degree of empowerment. Whether the empowerment is strong or weak depends entirely on how much of your nature you were able to experience in that moment.
What this means is that we can use a wide variety of methods to connect with our enlightened nature through the five senses. Perhaps the empowerment comes on a nature hike when your conceptual mind pauses in the face of astounding beauty or stillness. Perhaps it comes while practicing charity and you come face-to-face with the suffering of another. When we truly open ourselves to the possibility of receiving empowerment in any moment, then we develop a profound basis for appreciation of our world and all of the beings within it.
Through the momentary experiences generated by our sensory consciousnesses it is possible to inspire the mind to turn inwards towards its ultimate truth. However, as long as that connection is unstable, inspiration will quickly fade and deeper insight will be limited. Therefore, we turn to training with the speech drop as a method to establish stability in our connection.
The speech drop refers to all of the appearances which arise within the gross mental consciousness. These include thoughts, mental images, emotional responses and so forth. We can see these phenomena most actively during the periods of the night when our dreams are manifest. However, we can also work with these experiences during the daytime when we engage in meditation or any activity that focuses on the internal world of our minds.
Through the conscious formation of specific thought patterns which accord with reality, it is possible to let go of other patterns which distort or obstruct the manifestation of that same reality. For example, by reflecting on the nature of impermanence, it is possible to release our intense grasping onto permanence. By reflecting on the nature of dissatisfaction, we let go of mistaken views about what is a true source of happiness. Through this process, our conceptual mind comes to reflect the ultimate truth much more closely, this is like shining a light in a dark room so you can see clearly.
At this level, the gross conceptual mind is used to optimise itself so that it can more effectively know reality as it is. Through reasoning and the conscious generation of symbolic models, we improve our capacity to recognize moments of empowerment while working with the body drop. This leads to longer durations of empowerment which in turn strengthens our connection to our ultimate nature.
Through the process of gradual empowerment which is triggered in the body drop and stabilised by the speech drop, our minds are becoming significantly more powerful, allowing us to penetrate to much more subtle layers of experience. When this power is focused on the nature of the self, it transforms into a cause for personal liberation. This is the purpose of training with the mind drop.
The mind drop is all of the subtle mental appearances which are included within the afflicted consciousness. It is this layer of consciousness which holds the subtle patterns of self-cherishing and self-grasping that act as the basis for all other conceptual elaborations. As long as these two concepts remain active, then we will continue to experience an individuated consciousness that perceives dualistic appearances. As long as that mind is manifest, then our primordial wisdom will remain non-manifest.
Through the close application of our awareness, it is possible to develop direct insight into the nature of our delusion. When we cut through this mistaken consciousness, then we are able to experience a pure consciousness which is free from gross conceptual elaborations. This is known as the foundational consciousness and is the underlying substrate from which all appearances arise.
When the foundational consciousness is made manifest as a result of your training with the mind drop, all karmic propensities will have become dormant and therefore dualistic appearances temporarily cease. This non-conceptual awareness is the wisdom drop and the desired basis upon which to then engage with the training in the Four Vajras discussed below.
However, due to countless lifetimes perpetuating the patterns of self-grasping, realising the foundational consciousness once does not mean that we have gained mastery over it. In order to learn to abide within this non-conceptual mind, we must perfect the qualities of non-distraction and non-grasping so that we can become single-pointed and effortless.
We can think of training with the mind drop as being like a great wind that clears away the clouds in the sky and reveals the shining sun behind them. Training with the wisdom drop is learning how to rest in the light of the sun. In the beginning it’s too bright and we turn away, but then with time we are able to overcome this and maintain our connection without automatically reverting back to our old habits. At that point, we are poised to experience our primordial wisdom.
The 4 Vajras
In general, the vajra yogas are most commonly linked to the Kalachakra system of practice. However, they are not restricted to only those who practice Kalachakra as it is presented in Tibetan Buddhist schools such as the Jonang or others. The vajra yogas are defined as the gradual unveiling of the ultimate nature of reality to the direct perception of a yogic practitioner who abides within non-conceptual primordial wisdom. As such, all of the teachings of unsurpassed tantra or ati yoga that were taught by the Buddha, can be considered direct or indirect presentations of the vajra yogas.
Understanding this, in order to clearly identify the essence of these various presentations, we can think of the vajra yogas as a final process leading from the first moment when a practitioner directly realizes non-conceptual primordial wisdom, up to the complete manifestation of the omniscient mind of a fully-enlightened buddha.
- The Vajra Body of Empty-Form
- The Vajra Speech of Great Bliss
- The Vajra Mind of Mahamudra
- The Vajra Wisdom of Union
In many ways, the nature of phenomena is like a mirror. The phenomena which arise are like the reflections that appear in that mirror. Through training in the four drops, we gradually dissolve all of the concepts which we have built up regarding how this nature actually exists. Following that, we train in the vajra body so that we may directly perceive the actual basis that is being reflected by the mirror. This is like the difference between a finger pointing at the moon and actually looking at the moon itself.
The key to achieving this sort of experience is the process of bringing the subtle energetic winds into the central channel. This is another way of saying that we need to balance the left and right energies within the body so that they cease perpetuating the patterns of conceptuality. When everything is balanced, then the impure appearances of consciousness cease and the pure appearances of primordial wisdom begin to arise.
In this stage, only a few pure appearances arise because only a few winds are balanced. As this process is stabilised, more and more aspects of our perception are brought into balance and therefore we experience a wider range of pure appearances. When we learn to fully abide within this pure perception of primordial wisdom, then no matter what arises, the mind never falls out of balance. Traditionally, this phase corresponds with the first two vajra yogas—Individual Withdrawal and Concentration.
The second stage of this process continues to refine the continuity of primordial wisdom. At the time of training with the vajra body, there is still a very subtle distinction between how objective and subjective appearances arise. While there are no projected imputations regarding this difference, the distinction is still experienced.
For this reason, the next phase of our training is to join the objective manifestations of emptiness with the subjective experience of the nature of the mind—great bliss. The methods used to do this focus primarily on the non-conceptual manipulation of the subtle energetic body so that the winds of karma are made to not only enter into the central channel, but to abide and dissolve there. When these very subtle movements of energy are stopped, then the innately blissful nature of the mind comes forward and each moment of experience becomes of one taste. The primordial wisdom which is experienced in this process is likened to the blazing of an inner fire that burns away the very subtle ignorance of dualism and releases the power of great bliss. It corresponds to the yogas of Life-Force Control and Retention.
At the moment of our first experience of great bliss, even though dualism is removed, there are still fluctuations in the degree of bliss that is experienced. This means that while all appearances have the taste of bliss, the degree of bliss is perceived as different. This is a very subtle cause for giving rise to extremely subtle movements within the mind. As long as there is movement, then there are limitations on how much of our innate purity can be experienced at a given moment.
Therefore, the third stage is to refine the experience of bliss so that we can fully eradicate even the most subtle fluctuations of the mind and thus allow for all of the infinite aspects of our ultimate nature to manifest. This complete manifestation which is endowed with all sublime qualities is likened to the petals of a great lotus flower in full bloom and is known as the “Mahamudra of Empty-Form.” This infinite fullness is only experienced by a mind which has cut all forms of gross, subtle and very subtle conceptual movements and has achieved a state of immutable bliss. It is achieved through the vajra yoga of Recollection.
On the basis of achieving the vajra mind of immutable bliss, we have effectively cut all causes for the manifestation of conceptuality. From this point forward, by abiding in the union of immutable bliss and sublime emptiness, all of our karmic propensities which were previously accumulated since beginningless time will dissolve away over the course of a single day.
When all of our karmic conditioning has been removed, then there is nothing left to do. The mind is no longer bound by the body and the vajra awareness of a fully enlightened buddha is made manifest. This is what is referred to as Buddhahood. It is a state that is completely free from all limitations and completely free from all contradictions. For one’s self, there is only the ultimate peace which is a union of bliss and emptiness. While for those who have formed a karmic connection with you, there are now limitless manifestations working for the benefit of others—the perfect manifestation of ultimate harmony. This is the final vajra yoga of Absorption.
༄༅། །རིམ་གཉིས་ཀྱི་སྨོན་ལམ། །
Aspiration for the Two Stages of the Profound Path
By Kunkhyen Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen
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