Approaching Vajrayana – Part Two: Ground Tantra and Blessing
By Jakob Leschly

In the first instalment* of this four-part series, we looked at how we can gradually eliminate the causes of suffering and confusion through the Sutra path of rational knowledge of cause and effect. Yet, the very premise for working with these conditions is the underlying purity of Buddha nature beyond the narrow grasp of conceptuality, which is the foundation of the Mantra Vajrayana path. Here we will look at how this is approached in theory and practice.


Recognition of Buddha nature is the foundation of Vajrayana. Here, the result of the path is not merely a potential but acknowledged as actual reality, already perfect, just as a statue is perfect although hidden in its mold. In the Vajrayana we are empowered to reclaim our Buddha nature, also referred to as our heritage or lineage. We often find in scriptures the expression, “Listen, son or daughter of noble family . . .” This noble family is our innate enlightened heritage. All Buddhas and all beings belong to this family; we can say it is the unifying DNA of all life.

In Vajrayana, recognition of this heritage is called ground tantra . While tantra refers to the unchanging continuum that runs through both confusion and awakening, one speaks of three moments: namely, when it is dormant, when it is being unveiled, and when it is fully manifest. These three stages are called ground tantra, path tantra, and fruition tantra. Yet through all these moments, the nature does not change — ground and fruition merely differ in whether it is unveiled or not. While the gradual Sutra approach is understood as transforming a sentient being into a Buddha, the approach of Mantra is based on the recognition of the unchanging abiding reality that is ever present and real, regardless of whether it is manifest or not. Taking this innate reality of Buddha nature as the path is referred to as “the path of the result,” or the resultant vehicle of Vajrayana.


It is said that Vajrayana is the path of all the Buddhas. Any practitioner who eliminates obscurations and unveils the qualities of enlightenment gradually gains a clear recognition of Buddha nature and takes this indestructible or vajra nature as the path. While Vajrayana is the scope of practitioners such as great bodhisattvas, it is also taught to ordinary individuals, and offers methods by which even they can recognise the innate wisdom of their Buddha nature lineage. However, it is repeatedly stressed that to engage in the resultant Vajrayana path requires a solid foundation. As it says in the tantric scriptures:

“Innate absolute wisdom can only come
As the mark of having accumulated merit and purified confusion
And through the blessing of a realised teacher .
Know that to rely on any other means is foolish” (Patrul Rinpoche 1998, 310)

Common to all gradual paths is purifying confusion and creating the necessary conditions for unveiling wisdom. In addition to that, the uncommon method of blessings is the entrance into Vajrayana. The path of blessings is based on devotion, which is the deep respect for and recognition of enlightenment as embodied in the teacher. The student’s sensitivity to and awareness of the teacher’s qualities open up the possibility of the teacher communicating directly to the student that which is beyond language and conceptual thinking. We can say that the fusing of the student’s devotion with the teacher’s compassion results in the blessing that opens the student’s own wisdom. These auspicious conditions are at the very heart of Vajrayana practice.


Only sublime persons with genuine wisdom and compassion qualify as authentic teachers who transmit enlightenment. The student needs to be uncompromising in assessing who is an authentic teacher and who is not, which is not easy for an ordinary person. Particularly in our mechanistic world, something as non-linear as wisdom finds many of us ill-prepared, lacking the intuitive edge and knowledge that are essential in assessing the values of a genuine guru. We have plenty of discouraging stories of people engaging with inauthentic gurus and teachers. In the traditional homes of Buddhism such as Tibet, there is a very pragmatic culture of discerning authentic teachers. Yet even if we don’t have that living tradition in our modern culture, there is extensive guidance on it in the Buddhist teachings.

The guru also needs to be discerning in accepting a student. A student may have little interest in attaining perfect enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings, and may approach the Vajrayana teacher only in terms of their own habitual agenda. As for the nature of involvement in the teacher-student relationship, the great master Padmasambhava said:

“Not to examine the teacher
Is like drinking poison;
Not to examine the disciple
Is like leaping from a precipice” (Patrul Rinpoche 1998, 141)

While Buddhist students in general see the qualities of their teacher and follow in their footsteps, the Vajrayana student in particular sees enlightenment as fully present in the teacher. Having established the authenticity of the teacher, the student trains in developing a penetrating insight that sees beyond his or her own projections and appreciates the innate, pure qualities of the teacher. The student recognises that ultimately the teacher is not external and is the very embodiment of his or her own Buddha nature. Hence the student trains in seeing the guru as a perfect Buddha, such as the Buddha Vajradhara or Padmasambhava. The guru is seen as embodying any Buddha, bodhisattva, or sacred principle of enlightenment.

The path of devotion is a very real process of apprenticeship, where the student discovers the teacher’s wisdom and experience. The student becomes acquainted with the teacher’s outlook and skillfulness, and in this way begins to intuit the teacher’s qualities, which eventually results in a transmission of wisdom. While the teacher is seen to embody the wisdom of all the Buddhas and hence as equal to all Buddhas, the teacher’s kindness is recognised as far superior because of being present in a tangible form, giving instruction and guidance.


Openness and devotion enable the student to intuit the nature of the teacher’s greatness and qualities, such as wisdom and compassion. While a rational intellect and the logic of the vipashyana path are an indispensable foundation, as the 8th century Indian master Shantideva says in The Way of the Bodhisattva, “The ultimate is not within the reach of the intellect” (Shantideva 2006, 137). The deep respect and devotion the student has for his or her teacher enable the perception and experience of a dimension of being that is not the domain of conceptual constructs.

When the student is touched and awed beyond words by the qualities of the teacher, this creates a space of softness and appreciation that penetrates the thickness of the rational intellect. This is where the teacher’s wisdom may be seen to resonate with what is within. Blessing enables the experience of an abiding common ground with the teacher and the teacher’s lineage. This is the experience of ground tantra and is the entrance to path tantra. It is at this point that the teacher can mature the student through empowerment and guide the student to achieve liberation.


The devotion to the teacher also extends to the rest of the lineage, all the way to the primordial principle of enlightenment. Invoking the lineage, the student connects with his or her actual heritage as an enlightened person; he or she shares the ground and path of the great beings and sages of their lineage. Whether these awake persons of the lineage, such as Padmasambhava, Naropa, or Yeshe Tsogyal, lived in a different time and within a different cultural discourse is irrelevant; what matters is that they faced their confusion and uncovered enlightenment within. We are doing the same. We are heirs to their know-how and guidance, and we possess their genes. The lineage masters are present beyond time and space. In practicing the path, we invoke these masters along with our guru as our confidants and sources of Refuge, blessing, empowerment, and accomplishment.

In addition to apprenticing with the teacher, serving him or her and following their specific instructions, the single most important Vajrayana meditation is the practice of guru yoga. Generally practiced in a formal setting, the student invokes the teacher’s presence through visualisation of the teacher surrounded by the lineage, as the embodiment of the wisdom of all Buddhas. Supplicating the teacher with heartfelt, yearning devotion, the student experiences the teacher’s blessing, receives empowerment, and settles inseparably within the teacher’s wisdom, just like water being poured into water.

As the student matures, he or she purifies the remaining confusion and unveils innate perfection, in the same way as gradually removing the mold that conceals a perfect statue. The guru empowers and introduces the student’s nature and the world as the fresh and vivid display of wisdom’s purity through the practices of path tantra.

Since all virtuous thoughts and actions motivated by clinging to a concrete reality or to a self-cherishing attitude are like poisonous food, give them up. Learn not to cling, but to know the phantomlike nature of experience.

— Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye






好了,首先极乐世界绝对不是物质的世间,如果极乐世界是物质的世间,就有种种的灾难。我们现在战争,伊拉克战争,世尊说:用什么理由发动战争统统叫做罪恶,战争就是要杀人,美国总统布什因为没有听过慧律法师的开示,要不然他不敢发动战争,对不对?台湾话说美国总统布什(谐音),我说不是布什(谐音)是惨死,布什就是赚死了的意思。没有,因此极乐世界没有战争,极乐世界没有地震,你看我们那个九二一大地震,埔里,一摇,死两千多人,还好那一天讲堂刚好安乐妙宝灌顶。安乐妙宝灌顶非常不可思议,有个信徒来灌顶,她在这边灌顶,她在台中的妈妈并没有信佛,但却听到有人念,「嗡嘛呢叭咪吽, 嗡嘛呢叭咪吽」。地震一晃,旁边统统倒,死光光,她妈妈安然无事。她女儿来这里灌顶,连她妈妈都受益,你看,只要你诚恳的念。





要讲到极乐世界,这个色泽可就多了,世间的衣服无论怎样的变化,都比不上极乐世界的。有一个信徒,他看了经典不解其意,来问我:“师父,师父,极乐世界莲花青色青光,黄色黄光,赤色赤光,白色白光,就这只四种色。”我说:“信徒,你这样讲有罪,误解经典。”“师父,我讲话是有根据的,我诵《弥陀经》就是这四种颜色。”我说:“你错了,这四种颜色是颜色的基本法,基本的颜色,学过美术的人都知道。青、黄、赤、白,这四种颜色是基本的调色,如果你百分之九十九白色加上 1% 的黄色,色又不一样,你百分之五十白色加上百分之五十的青色,又不一样的颜色,如果你把比率拉高,千分之九百九十九的赤色加上千分之一的黄色,莲花颜色又不一样。我说你看经典不解其意,不了解世尊的用心良苦,四种莲花的色就代表无量无边。”因此我们在娑婆世界的众生,无论如何,你一定要求生极乐世界,发坚定的心,没有一个不往生。



在这个娑婆世界修行,的确有一点困难。如果没有善知识开导,哇!那更惨,每天早课起来,南无 喝罗怛那哆罗夜耶, 南无阿唎耶, 婆卢羯帝烁钵罗耶 ……晚课诵《地藏经》、《弥陀经》,念经好不好?很好,可是每天都一样,没有智慧,就像小孩子一样不懂得调整。有个小孩子,每天看他爸爸吃安眠药,小孩子的观念这个时间就是爸爸吃安眠药的时间。有一天,他爸爸很累,睡着了,他爸爸平常十点就吃安眠药,结果到十点他爸爸睡着了。小孩子一看十点了,就在旁边一直摇,“爸爸,爸爸,起来吃安眠药,你还没有吃安眠药。”爸爸起来了:“干什么?”“爸爸,你还没有吃安眠药。”“傻孩子,我睡着就不用吃了。”





一切众生也是这样,智慧不开。他认为,早课起来用功,晚课起来用功,没有用智慧调整自己的情绪。烦恼起来压下去,硬拗下去,不听经不闻法不看 VCD ,不听善知识开示,认为每天诵经就叫做修行,每天念阿弥陀佛就统统叫做修行。错了,非常严重的错误。注意! 重复训练正念,这才是了生死的第一正法。 再讲一遍,重复训练正念,一次又一次的提起正念,训练,这才能了生死。不是,我今天时间到就去诵个《无量寿经》,再来接着《地藏经》、《弥陀经》,什么都不管了,也不管别人的感受,不是这样的。



修行有这样修的吗?固执己见,完全不去 顾虑到 先生的感受,也完全不顾虑到儿女的成长,世尊有这样教吗?她没有强烈的正念,而有强烈的执著。世间人有世间人的悲哀,修行人有修行人的悲哀,因为没有碰到善知识。我不是说诵经不好,我也不是说念阿弥陀佛不好,我已经表达的很清楚,要用智慧调整。


我说:“今天干嘛心情这么不好?” “师父,我听人家讲诵《无量寿经》三千部,就会有消息,为什么我一点消息都没有?” 我说:“有啊,你有消息,你有烦恼的消息,无明的消息,十几年前我劝你要听经闻法,你说你要诵《无量寿经》。我要你留下来吃个饭,再给你说法,说几句调整你的观念,你硬是不接受我的观念,用你的方式在修行,现在修得苦恼,烦恼,现在压不下来了。” “师父,我快要发疯了。”


我就告诉她,修正错误的观念叫做修行。“师父,原来是这样子,我怎么不知道。”我说:“十几年前我讲你就听不进去,我怎么讲,怎么劝,你怎么不听,你修行统统按照你自己的意思,不听善知识的指导。”十几年了,人家两天证阿罗汉果,那个老比丘尼两个礼拜证阿罗汉果,你诵《无量寿经》诵了十几年,到今天都没有解脱,Why ?很简单,方法不对。我不是说诵《无量寿经》不好,我不是说念阿弥陀佛不好,你要有正确的观念,正确的般若智慧,要听经闻法。

后来她就听师父的话,每天看录影带,听录音带,以前还没有VCD 。回去看,看了以后,恍然大悟,原来佛法正念就在一念之间。所以,我们由大寮的这个信徒这个例子来看,我不是说诵经不好,也不是说拜佛、念佛不好,但是你要有般若的正念,每天要听听录音带,看看 VCD ,一天一天道业一直增长。













那个大寮的信徒来到我这儿,那一天,我留下她吃饭,我说:“你诵《无量寿经》诵多久了?” “师父,诵十几年了。” 我说:“你诵一万部了吗?” “超过。” 我说:“你有诵过《金刚经》吗?” 她说:“有。”




慢慢你就会发现,原来佛法是这么的伟大,听经闻法是这么的重要,所以我们要推广正法,推广正法才能让佛教大兴盛, 一个道场没有正法,就像一个人没有灵魂一样的。 大家要把听经闻法的心得,传播出去。有因缘就要度众生,有因缘就要劝大家来学佛。


Rushing headlong, missing what is essential, bringing on one new bond after another, like insects falling into the flame, some are intent only on what is seen and heard.

— The Buddha

Approaching Vajrayana – Part One
By Jakob Leschly

The path of liberation can be seen in terms of two approaches: the gradual path of the Sutra teachings and the resultant path of the Mantra Vajrayana teachings. In the Sutra approach, we purify confusion and gradually uncover wisdom; in the Vajrayana, the practitioner takes that innate wisdom as the path. This first of four bi-monthly articles discusses the foundation of Buddhism, and how the view and practice of the Sutra teachings naturally serve as the foundation of the Vajrayana. Neither an academic analysis nor an actual Vajrayana teaching, this series aspires to clarify the Mantra teaching as we encounter it as laypersons in a modern context.


The premise for Buddhism is the potential all life has for awakening, and the empirical fact that we can experience more or less confusion, more or less happiness. We observe how our positive and negative states of mind don’t just happen randomly, but happen due to causes and conditions. With less confusion we feel more at home in our reality, more awake, more at ease with our world.

The Buddha taught that we are in a position to do something about these causes and conditions, yet, the premise is the abiding unchanging reality of enlightenment, our true abiding nature, referred to as Buddha nature. The Sutra path approaches the path through working with the immediate reality of our ordinary confused mind; the Mantra path approaches it with the recognition of the innate abiding reality of the timeless wisdom of Buddha nature.

Although the Buddhist understanding of consciousness extends beyond the scope of contemporary psychology or neuroscience, it still operates within familiar parameters of human experience. The discussion of the practice of the path also does not extend beyond a rational and recognisable dimension of human potential.

The Buddha’s first teaching, on the Four Noble Truths, recognises the observable fact that while every one of our actions is based on a desire for happiness and pleasure, the truth is that we fail in our objective; the first Noble Truth is that we suffer.

The second Noble Truth is to identify the cause of suffering. According to the Buddha’s teaching, suffering is not inflicted upon us by some higher power, nor is it inevitable in a meaningless universe of random chaos. The second Noble Truth is that our suffering is caused; our suffering is due to a confused consciousness that mistakenly conceives of a self that, when investigated, doesn’t actually exist.

The Buddha discovered that confusion and suffering are not basic to us. We are not trapped in our delusion. The Buddha discovered the cessation of suffering, which is the third Noble Truth. He discovered freedom from the conceptual constructs that rule our consciousness.

The fourth Noble Truth is the Buddha’s prescription for how to practically address this condition of confusion. Nobody can save us, but we can apply practical measures to address the cause of suffering. The Buddha taught a remedial path of ethical action, of training the mind through meditation, through which wisdom emerges. Hence the Buddha empowered the individual, and taught how any person can attain the same freedom and awakening.

These Four Noble Truths are basic to all Buddhist teachings and paths. In these four truths, we can see that the Buddha did not introduce any mystical or metaphysical assumptions. His teaching never extended beyond the familiar pragmatism of remedying a problem.

It is not just contemporary people who appreciate such pragmatism. Assaji, one of the Buddha’s disciples, defined the Buddha’s teaching as follows:

All phenomena originate from causes; these causes were explained by the Tathagata [the Buddha]. The cessation of these causes was also explained by the Great Renunciant.*


The delusion of self is never an essential reality: self is a non-essential construct that arises from ignorance, on the basis of non-essential causes. This condition, known as samsara, is extensively described in the teachings on the Twelve Links of Dependent Arising (Pratityasamutpada). As long as we suffer from this delusion, we continue to wander in the cycle of rebirths.

The Buddha taught that if we investigate, we will find no absolute self, neither in the subjective aggregations that we refer to as our “self,” nor in the objective aggregations of outer phenomena that we refer to as “other.” This does not mean there is no functioning person or phenomena, but it means that if we investigate, we will not find any absolute essence. The Buddha encouraged us to look, because it is this blind assumption that is our downfall.

Through mindfulness, or shamatha, meditation, the practitioner discovers the wider perspective of selflessness — vipashyana — and continues to gradually enhance this experience in ordinary life. Selflessness, or emptiness, is not an otherworldly experience, but a very real sense of presence, of relinquishing fixation on mental content, and providing wider perspective. With such vipashyana, the practitioner ceases to define his or her outlook in terms of self. This ultimately leads to freedom from the conceptual constructions of the ordinary mind (nishprapanca) and the realisation of complete awakening.

The sage’s vision of selflessness leads to renunciation of a private nirvana, and a corresponding vow to assist all sentient beings and liberate them from suffering, which is known as the bodhisattva vow. Such a vow ensures that wisdom doesn’t fall into self-absorption, and also ensures that compassion doesn’t become a personal project. A sage possessing wisdom devoid of warmth would be pitiful, as would a sage possessing love and compassion, yet with the dualistic strings of expectation.

This vision of awakening is called “bodhichitta” — a mind or heart of awakening — and is the core of the bodhisattva’s spirituality; it informs a greater vipashyana, and a greater courage and commitment to the world. Bodhichitta is the heart of the Mahayana path.

We might not be sages ourselves, yet we can appreciate the magnanimous qualities of the bodhisattva. This appreciation reflects a corresponding nature within ourselves — that we have the pure DNA that resonates with wisdom and compassion. This purity is innate to all life as the abiding ground of reality, and to realise this purity is the difference between ordinary sentient beings and a Buddha. All life has basic purity, while Buddhas have the additional purity of awakening.


In the Sutra path, this two-fold purity is realised gradually. Delusion is eliminated gradually through the practice of the path, in which realisation of wisdom and compassion dawns gradually. The Mantra view sees the same reality from a “glass-full” perspective: as much as we might be neurotic and suffering beings, innately we are Buddhas. Otherwise why practice the path? Unless the condition is curable, why treat it? The good news the Buddha had for us is that our delusional condition is very curable indeed.

While both the paths of the Sutra and Mantra are based on our humble recognition that we are indeed confused and suffering individuals, the Mantra Vajrayana approach banks on the undeniable fact that, being curable patients, we are in reality in possession of the same healthy disposition as the physician, the Buddha. So while this physician prescribes a gradual treatment, the implication is that he or she is empowering our innate untarnished potential to be just as it is.

As the practitioner travels the Mantra path, confusion is purified, giving way to the vipashyana that sees the abiding innate ground of wisdom. Here mind is no longer seen as entirely a confused subjectivity, but rather is seen as a deity, with the world around seen as a pure realm. This is the dawning of sacred reality, also called pure perception, which is the scope of the Vajrayana yogi.

We may temporarily perceive and construct ourselves and others in terms of our delusion and our confused projections, yet the truth is that these constructions are merely temporary fleeting conditions. As it says in the Hevajra Tantra:

Sentient beings are Buddhas;
Temporarily obscured as they might be by fleeting stains,
When these stains are eliminated, they are actual Buddhas.

We are not dreaming up some new reality. We are embracing reality as it is, and this is why even in our obscured state we are presently able to recognise and value wisdom and compassion. While both the gradual and resultant vehicles consist of gradually eliminating obscurations and their causes, and gradually realising our potential, the resultant Vajrayana path acknowledges our true nature as the ground of our journey. We might perceive ourselves as ordinary beings, but we travel the path with an empowered perspective of our true worth.

*Ye dharma hetuprabhava hetum tesham tathagato hyavadat tesham ca yo nirodha evamvadi mahashramanah. The value of this statement is reflected by the fact that in Buddhist ceremonies, this is chanted as an auspicious invocation of the power of truth.

The wisdom is necessary and indispensable as faith alone cannot make you see reality. Therefore, we depend on wisdom, and in this logic wisdom is chief. But this wisdom will not be achieved if you are not motivated by faith, and therefore the faith is a prerequisite of wisdom.

— 5th Samdhong Rinpoche, Lobsang Tenzin


人类对生命的感受,因人而异,就整个人类来讲,无论各种思想,各种宗教,各种阶级,各种意识形态的各种群体,都不能拒绝大悲而流露出的真诚与关爱 。如果我们仔细去观察,就会发现: 狗、猫、羊等众生,也都能够感受到我们的爱意,这提示了一个朴素的真理,无论任何形式的生命,生命的本质即是大慈悲。如此看来,这就是如来智慧德相常不离众生心头而显现,众生若不护持大悲心,即会失去感受生命,享受生命的能力,那么他的生命和生活必然是虚假、黑暗、痛苦的,这即是无尽的轮回! 虽然了解佛教的人不多,但时时刻刻所有的人都在与佛陀的法身(自已的心)对席而谈。然而这只是理论层面的一种粗浅的认知,想回归庄严的生命故乡——佛陀的世界,大悲即是唯一的船票 。



为何汉地众生与准提菩萨缘深不可测呢? 因为汉地以儒为标的文化,传承五千年相续不断,而儒的中心即是三纲五常的人本位理想与实践,既不同于印度的以无量天神的理想为国家理想的王国,亦不同于欧美的以上帝造人的上帝思想为本位,或者非洲边地恶业有情聚集之地,而只有请观音中其它五道去度化他们,而准提菩萨就安住在我们汉地,在中国历史上,各个阶层上都有许多修持准提法门而获得成就,因此我们汉地是准提菩萨誓愿所教化的国度。