如何把唯识学跟念佛法门结合
净界法师

我们怎么把唯识学跟念佛法门结合?

其实唯识学跟净土宗关系是很密切的。净土宗它强调好乐净土、皈依弥陀, 这两块也是思想,其实净土宗在所有宗派里面,它最有关系的就是唯识跟天台这两块,它也重视思想,何以见得?看蕅益大师的《弥陀要解》就知道,蕅益大师在前言,第一句话讲到,往生与否,在信愿之有无;品位高下,在持名之浅深。就是你今天会不会往生,完全是你的思想,你的心理素质,至于你往生以后,你的品位是上品、中品、下品,那就是你的业力了, 你修了多少福报?你的善业力有多少?

所以净土宗它是强调随念往生,它不是随业啊!所以也就是说你今生是不是往生,跟你对净土的好乐、对名号的皈依这种思想建立起来没有?

所以唯识学是重思想,重第六意识的思考,净土宗也重视思想,净土宗的修学重思想而轻业力,当然你不能造重大的业力,因为你造了重大的业力,临终你很难受的,你业障现前的时候,你很难保持正念。所以净土宗对待业力是誓断一切恶,但是对于修善度众生这一块,不是非常强调,随缘就可以了,但是对断恶它也是很强调的。所以我们如果学了唯识以后,你善用第六意识对净土宗是有很大帮助的。

那怎么样把唯识的这个第六意识的思考模式把它运用到净土宗呢?

就是我们今天谈的主题,第一个,我们可以归纳成一种信仰式的念佛。从唯识的角度,思想的改造,第一个就是改造你的信仰,你信仰不改变,你的思考模式是不会改变的。我们以前有一个很严重的错误的思想,就是贪念娑婆,不乐净土,这是一个错误的信仰。我们对于娑婆世界太过于贪恋,因为我们没有一个人看到娑婆世界的真相;不乐净土,虽然十方诸佛创造很多美好的世界等我们去,但是我们谁也不想去。所以这两种信仰你不改变,你净土法门就没办法走下去了。

所以唯识学它就是名言,你要建立一套新的名言分别。我们以前的思想,是活在自己的妄想,就是我们的心跟外境接触的时候,我们可能小时候,曾经有一些什么生活经验,有遇到某种人,碰到什么事情,那么我们的心取到一个影像, 这个影像可能给你极度的快乐,也可能给你极度的痛苦,总之给你一个终身难忘的感受,然后你这个影像,就把它牢牢的给catch,抓住不放,就是心有所住,那么这个影像就影响你的信仰。

所以我们一般人很少很平静的去看外在的世界,很少。也就是说你从小到大, 可能是你前生累积很多的影像,这个影像会给你一些概念的,所以我们就是心随妄转,我们宁可相信我们心中的影像,这种片段的不全面的影像,给我们很大的误导。

比方说娑婆世界,诸位认为娑婆世界是如此美好吗?当然它也有美好的一面, 但是总相来说,它痛苦多于快乐,这是事实!只是我们今天在付出痛苦的时候,我们心中总是存着,哦,这个痛苦可以给我们幸福的生活,所以我们痛苦,我们愿意去忍受。你从小读书,长大以后工作,其实我们付出很多身心的痛苦、辛劳,“诸欲求时苦”,追求的时候辛劳;“得时多怖畏”,得到的时候,你心中也是战战兢兢,你很怕失掉,如果真的失掉了,你就又“失时怀忧恼”,所以“一切无乐时”。

所以娑婆世界它所有的快乐,都来自于一种不安稳,娑婆世界没有一个人有安全感的,说实在的。因为你知道这个快乐是不坚固的,就算你今生不会失掉,你死亡到来的时候,你要全部的破坏。所以我们生生世世的轮回,我们今生在这里投胎,好不容易把环境适应了,结果死掉以后,业力把你飘到非洲去了,甚至于你造了罪业,业力把你带到蚂蚁的果报去了。

所以我们在娑婆世界的轮回,我们永远在适应环境。好不容易做一个蚂蚁我也习惯了,你死掉了,来生变成一只狗。就是说生死疲劳,你只要不离开轮回,你人生永远没有安全感。娑婆世界没有安全感这回事,因为它是一个无常动荡的环境, 因为你大环境是动荡的,你就不可能安静下来,这就是佛陀要我们离开轮回的原因,因为你太没有安全感了。

所以我们以前对娑婆世界的好乐是错误的理解,我们看到的娑婆世界的片段, 可能你看到的娑婆世界某一种美好的东西,所以你喜欢了娑婆世界,你愿意继续轮回。但是我必须提醒大家,你看到的美好的人事,只是一小片段而已,你没有看到娑婆世界的全貌,所以你做出了错误的选择。

佛陀出世以后,当然第一个讲到苦谛,它的第一个就是无常。娑婆世界对我们的伤害来自于佛陀说的欺诳性,它老是欺骗我们。你看魔术师,佛陀经常用如梦幻泡影,这魔术师一下子变成一个兔子, 兔子变久了也就习惯了,欸,这个兔子没了,现在变成一只猫……所以它就是一种变化的一种情况。所以我们第一个,改造我们的一种贪恋娑婆的信仰,你必须告诉你自己,娑婆世界不是一个很好的安住处,那么这是第一个厌离娑婆。

第二个欣求极乐,我们离开了娑婆世界,应该去哪里呢?所以我们就必须对净土有所了解。其实我们以前不好乐诸佛的净土,主要是因为我们不了解净土,因为我们谁也没有去过净土,所以你这个就必须要学习了。你必须从经典里面,透过佛陀的开导,从他所设立的这种文字相去学习。

It is very easy to criticise others for their shortcomings since we can clearly see where and how they are going wrong. However, it is a thousand times more difficult to see our own shortcomings. There could be many reasons why, but one obvious reason may be our refusal to acknowledge that we too are not perfect in many ways. Our own faults are always hard to see, and even when we do notice them, we may not be able to overcome them right away since, as they say, “old habits die hard.” The only way to overcome our faults so as not to keep making the same mistakes is to cultivate determination and make the right effort.

— Zurmang Gharwang Rinpoche

Approaching Vajrayana – Part Three: Path Tantra
By Jakob Leschly

Having previously established the context of Vajrayana in relation to the general Buddhist teachings and Buddha nature as the premise of its path,* this third instalment in our four-part series looks further at the logic of Vajrayana view and practice.

EMPOWERMENT

With a foundation of renunciation, compassion, and devotion, the qualified Vajrayana student is given four empowerments to take possession of an innate heritage of abiding purity, and is thus anointed as heir to the kingdom of enlightenment. In ancient times, this involved the guru actually performing an elaborate enthronement ceremony for the student, but regardless whether they are given with such formality or not, receiving these four empowerments is a defining moment for the practitioner as it marks the entrance into Vajrayana. From then on, he or she commits to the samaya discipline of upholding and integrating this sacred vision through the practice of sadhana — the methods to accomplish the Vajrayana path.

PROXIMITY TO THE GOAL

It is essential to recognise that the objective of the Mantra Vajrayana path is consistent with the objective of the gradual Sutra path, namely the removal of obscurations and the realisation of wisdom. Yet, through the foundations of purification, accumulation, and mingling with the teacher’s wisdom, the Vajrayana yogi has a greater proximity to enlightenment in terms of confidence in their subjective experience. The great 19th century scholar Yönten Gyamtso writes:

“The object of valid cognition of the view in both Sutra and Mantra is established as freedom from conceptual constructions, and as such there is no difference. However, in regards to the manner of the subject that sees this, there is a difference: it is through the subject that the view necessarily is engaged, and hence such a difference is enormous.” (Yönten Gyamtso 1987, 78)

The Vajrayana student has been processed with the establishment of the foundational practices and has acquired insight into the view of the bodhisattvas, namely equanimity of meditation united with the post-meditation knowledge that sees relative appearances as inseparable from the space of reality. Transformation of the subject also provides a very different view on the two truths, known therefore as the superior two truths, which is basic to the Vajrayana practice of pure perception, or sacred outlook. This valid cognition of purity lies at the core of the practices of the four empowerments, and is particularly the focus of the first empowerment with its development stage practice of visualization, mantra recitation, and samadhi.

PURITY AND EQUANIMITY: THE SUPERIOR TWO TRUTHS

The superior two truths consist of understanding absolute truth as the equanimity of freedom from conceptual constructs and relative truth as the purity of perceptions — such that all apparent phenomena are seen in terms of wisdom, as a mandala of infinite purity.

This proposition is not unique to Vajrayana. In the Prajnaparamita sutras, we find in the Vimalakirti Nirdesha Sutra the Buddha teaching Shariputra about the innate purity of the world. While Shariputra sees the world as a place of suffering, the Buddha points out that this is his own perception:

“Sariputra, it is through the transgressions of sentient beings that they do not see the purity of the Tathagata’s (i. e., my) buddha land. This is not the Tathagata’s fault! Sariputra, this land of mine is pure, but you do not see it.” (McRae 2004, 78)

The Vajrayana view of pure perception is integrated in meditation through the development stage practice of visualising deity and mandala. As the late Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche (1920–96) points out, and consistent with the above quotation, this is not imagination but assessing things as they are intrinsically:

“Development stage is not like imagining a piece of wood to be gold. No matter how long you imagine that wood is gold, it never truly becomes gold. Rather, it’s like regarding gold as gold: acknowledging or seeing things as they actually are.” (Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche 1999, 71)

In his Overview, Jamgön Mipam Rinpoche (1846–1912) writes on pure perception of appearances:

“. . . appearances are established in the mode of reality as the mandala of the exalted body and wisdom because the Sublime Ones free from distorting pollutants see [appearances] as pure; like someone with unimpaired vision seeing a conch as white.” (Duckworth 2008, 128)

The Vajrayana yogi might not be a realised or sublime person, yet having been processed through the foundation practices described earlier, he or she trains in recognising reality as it is, free from obscurations — just as someone who has jaundice recognises that despite their own impure perception of seeing a conch as yellow, it is, in fact, white. Realisation of this view is effectively accomplished through the practices of the four empowerments.

PURIFICATION, PERFECTION AND MATURATION

The methods of the four empowerments purify increasingly subtle habitual perceptions of samsara and unveil the spontaneously present perfection of nirvana, with each empowerment maturing the qualities prerequisite for the practices of the next empowerment. For example, the development stage meditation of the first empowerment of visualising the world as a mandala purifies impure projections, establishes the spontaneously perfect unity of appearance and emptiness, and matures the yogi for the second empowerment, the completion stage meditation that in turn purifies the physical body as a mandala. Explaining purification, perfection, and maturation as they pertain to the first empowerment, the great sage Dza Patrul Rinpoche (1808–87) writes:

“Since it parallels the features of samsara, existence is purified and refined away. Since it parallels the way nirvana is, the result is perfected in the ground. And finally, both of these mature one for the completion stage.” (Jigme Lingpa et al. 2008, 29)

The path of the four empowerments purifies the habitual patterns related to our ordinary perceptions, unveiling the innate purity of all phenomena as wisdom display. The pinnacle practices of the four empowerments are the practices known as Mahamudra and Mahasandhi, which take innate wisdom itself as the path.

SAMAYA

It is said that the life force of the Vajrayana empowerment is keeping the sacred discipline of samaya. As with any of the Buddhist vehicles, discipline is the lifestyle reflecting the view. Vajrayana samaya discipline reflects the Vajrayana view but is also founded on the pratimoksha vows of monastic discipline, as well as the bodhisattva discipline. The practice of uniting these three levels of vows is intrinsic to Tibetan Buddhism. Thus, you could be a monk, upholding the Vinaya, bodhisattva, and Vajrayana disciplines all united without conflict. Such a person would be known as a Three-fold Vajra Holder. One supreme example is the late Kyabje Trülshik Rinpoche (1923–2011), a teacher of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who in addition to being a great Vajrayana and Mahasandhi master was also a principal holder of the Vinaya lineage and regarded as a great bodhisattva.

While the Vajrayana discipline is not easily maintained, it can be repaired. The great Indian master Atisha Dīpamkara (980–1054) once commented that while his pratimoksha precepts were intact, his bodhisattva vows occasionally needed repairing. However, he claimed, his infringements of the Vajrayana samayas would fall like rain! Hence the practitioner of sadhana makes sure to continually purify and amend the samaya vows.

FRUITION

Through the Vajrayana path, the temporary delusion of samsara can be swiftly brought to an end, the qualities of enlightenment become fully manifest, and the spontaneous benefitting of others consequently bursts forth pervasively and constantly. Vajrayana is often referred to as the swift path to enlightenment, and the tantric scriptures speak of enlightenment within sixteen, seven, or three lifetimes, or even just one. This is due to the degree to which the practitioner has a clear experience of wisdom, as discussed above in terms of greater proximity, and also through skillfully integrating relative truth as inseparable from the wisdom of ultimate reality.

In the lineages of Indo-Tibetan Vajrayana there are countless persons who have displayed the attainment of enlightenment, benefitting others and their societies at large and providing guidance both in securing temporal happiness and on the path to complete liberation. These lineages reach us today, and the teachings on Vajrayana view and practice remain intact.

When I was born, I was born alone. When I die, I will leave alone for certain. Knowing this, I take delight, between these two stages, in places of solitude, where I wander, alone. Seeking out the path of liberation.

— Khenpo Tsultrim Rinpoche

如何做到无欲无求
净慧长老

1、从世间法来说 要做到无欲

在世间法上,所谓的无欲,起码要做到三点:第一点,对于名闻利养要看得破,放得下;第二点,在五欲的烦恼中,要把握得住,要站立得稳当;第三点,在眷属上也要能摆得开。作为在家学佛的人,所说的无欲,就要慢慢地从这三个方面下手,从这三个方面看破、放下。

关于第一点,我们每一个人都生活在一定的环境当中,都有不同程度的名闻和利养摆在面前,怎么去面对它,是斤斤计较,还是得失随缘?这件事说起来容易,做起来很难。因为名闻利养和每一个人的切身利益,有着千丝万缕的联系,有着实际的利害关系。怎么去突破它?最主要的就是要安于本分,守本分,本分之外的不去钻营强求。

能够安于本分,内心的烦恼就会慢慢地淡化。一切的烦恼都是从不守本分的追求中产生。所以,如何对待名闻利养,就以“守本分”三个字来解决。关于财、色、名、食、睡的五欲,和名闻利养有联系,又有区别,是一件事,也是两件事。所说的五欲完全是一种过度的,过量的追求,完全是一种不守本分,不安本分的要求。所以,就要有一种洁身自好的思想,就要以持戒的要求,道德的要求来突破,跳出对五欲的追求。

关于对家庭眷属,这是作为在家人,甚至出家人也是难舍难割的大事情。有些出了家的人,对家庭的父母兄弟,有的中年出家的人家里还有子女,虽然出了家,对这些眷属还是割舍不掉。不但在思想上牵牵挂挂,就是在实际生活中,也有分心的地方。既然出了家,所谓:割爱辞亲,走入空门,就要以另外一种方式来回报六亲眷属的恩德,以修出世法,以解脱生死来回报六亲眷属。

出了家的人,如果说还想用财力来回报六亲眷属,那种牵挂就太厉害了,那就跟不出家的人没有什么区别。所以,出家人如何对待自己的六亲眷属,就要以求解脱,了生死,从根本上来回报。所谓:了生脱死,作人子弟的这一笔恩惠才能够真正得到圆满的回报。

作为在家居士来说,如何对待六亲眷属,这是做人的本分职责和义务所在。在尽到自己的职责和义务的前提下,从感情上要淡化一点。从责任上要强化,从感情要淡化,这才能够提得起、放得下。如果在情感上过分的难分难舍,那本身就是修行的一种障碍。回过头来说,在家居士对六亲眷属完全不能尽到责任和义务,那也是不对的。在尽职尽责中,又要淡化感情,这个不容易,要用智慧来处理这些问题。从无欲的方面来说,最起码要处理好以上三个方面的问题,突破以上三个方面对修道的障碍,对自己成就道业的障碍。

我们在佛堂里参加禅修的,老年人占多数。对于老年人来说,来日不多,更应该在眷属的观念上逐步淡化,要看得破,要放得下。不要仅仅局限于这一生一世的眷属关系,要回过头来看过去无量劫,要放开眼光看未来,还有无尽的时空,还有无尽的善缘法缘。这样就能突破眼前的障碍,共结未来的善缘、法缘和佛缘。

2、从出世间法来说要做到无求

怎样做到无求呢?在修行上,在世间法上,一切都是有求皆苦。世间法有求皆苦,修行上有求也是一种苦。因为有求就有期盼,有求就有妄想,有分别,有执着。一旦所求不能如愿,就有失落感,甚至于会动摇信心,那就是一件很苦的事。因此,在修行上不要有所求。

第一,不要求神异,不要求看到菩萨,看到殊胜的境界。因为佛菩萨就在我们每一个人的内心,就在我们身边,就在我们举心动念之间。不需要求,越求越远,不求自得。有了灵异,有了灵感,不要欣喜;没有灵异,没有灵感,也不要失望。那就是一种无求的心态。有求就有分别,有分别就不是智慧,有分别就不平等,有分别就无法见到真理,见到真如,见到佛性。因为真理是无分别的,真如是无分别的,佛性也是无分别的。有分别就有缺陷,无分别就没有缺陷,就是圆满。

第二点,更不要求我要快点开悟,快点成就。成就得快慢,开悟得迟早,不能预约。会一个朋友,拜见一位老师,可以预约。哪一天开悟,哪一天成就,无法预约。因为那是一件善因善缘一切都成熟了,瞬息之间的机会。那是无法预约时间的。我们只要找到了正确的方法,成就、开悟就好比是我们的目的地,是我们的家乡。只要找到了到达目的地,回到家乡的正确的路,就一直走下去,不要左右顾盼,不要走一步退两步,更不要起心动念:什么时候才能回到家,什么时候才能到达目的地。有一个广告词说:家就在身边。家乡离得我们很近,就在眼前。距离越近的东西,越是难以把握。

成功的经验,归家的路,开悟的机缘都在眼前,都在当下。就是我们要求速达,要求速成,分别、执着、妄想太多,太深厚,所以家就在眼前,烦恼是一个障眼法,咫尺万里,无法跨越这一步,无法突破这个障碍。在目前的家好像离我们千里万里,其实家就在身边,就在眼前,但我们还漂泊在天涯海角,这是什么道理呢?这是我们的业障太重,烦恼太重,执着太深,眼前的这个障眼的障碍太厚,一下子突破不了。如果有那种力量,猛然回头,当下即是。就在猛然回头的一念上,我们没有力量。所以,在修行的路上,只问耕耘,莫问收获;在修行的路上,一直走下去,一直修下去,一直在功夫上,在方法上用下去,家就在身边,总有一天归家稳坐。

第三点,几乎所有讲修行的书上都说:即心即佛,悟在当下,直指人心,见性成佛。这就给一些急于求成的人,产生了一种急躁的情绪,不肯耕耘,而是等待收获。这是将心待悟。越等待,距离开悟的时间越是遥远。所以,不要将心待悟,要在功夫上努力。

修行的路上,做到无欲无求,我们就能够减轻很多负担,丢掉很多包袱,就能轻装上阵,就能比较快的到达目的地,回到自己的家乡,回到自己固有的宝所。

As our compassionate teacher turned the wheel of Dharma in this realm He gave eighty-four thousand teachings. All of these were given to tame the afflictions of those in need of guidance. When condensed, these teachings can all be included in two vehicles, those of cause and fruition.

— His Holiness Trulshik Rinpoche, Ngawang Chokyi Lodro

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.

GROUND TANTRA

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.

THE PRACTICAL FOUNDATION

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.

THE AUTHENTIC TEACHER

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.

BLESSING AND EMPOWERMENT

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.

LINEAGE AND GURU YOGA

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.