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Home > Advanced Meditation > Tantra Teachings > Theory of Tantra in Terms of Inseparable Samsara and Nirvana > Session Four: Questions about Visualization, Transforming Disturbing Emotions, Sleep and Dream Yogas, Avalokiteshvara

Theory of Tantra in Terms of Inseparable Samsara and Nirvana

Alexander Berzin
Berlin, Germany, March 2007

Session Four: Questions about Visualization, Transforming Disturbing Emotions, Sleep and Dream Yogas, Avalokiteshvara

Unedited Transcript
Listen to the audio version of this page (0:53 hours)

Differences between Tantra and Sutra Practice

We were speaking before the break about the four types of purity that are practiced in tantra: of imagining ourselves with a pure appearance as a Buddha-figure; our environment as a pure environment, as a mandala; our way of acting as the pure way of acting of a Buddha; and our manner of enjoying things, experiencing happiness, as the pure way in which a Buddha does – completely unmixed with confusion.

And the point came up, toward the end of the discussion, of what characterizes tantra as opposed to sutra, in terms of these sort of practices. I don’t think that in sutra we imagine that we are already a Buddha; that’s not a feature there. Although we speak about Buddha-nature, we certainly don’t imagine that we’re acting like a Buddha, that we’re able to remove everyone’s suffering as much as possible, and give them happiness in the same way that a Buddha can. We don’t work with a blissful state of mind as the state of mind to use for focusing on voidness. Although when we experience happiness with sutra methods, we certainly need to understand the voidness of that happiness, but it’s not that we’re using a happy state of mind in order to focus on voidness.

And the doubt came up, that I raised, of what about the practice at Nalanda university in India, where the manner of receiving teachings was for the disciples to imagine that the teacher was a Buddha – they were receiving the teachings from Buddha – and they were arya bodhisattvas receiving these teachings in a pure land. This is to build up some sort of connection for receiving teachings from Sambhoghakaya forms of a Buddha in pure lands, and so on. But I don’t believe that this is based on the Buddha-nature teachings, because the explanations that I’ve heard of this was that the Dharma teachings come from Buddha, therefore when you receive these teachings from your teacher you’re receiving the teachings of Buddha. And therefore in that context, when the teacher is on the teaching throne teaching, since you’re hearing the words of a Buddha, you imagine that you’re hearing them from Buddha himself. The teacher is just the instrument. So I think this is quite different from seeing the teacher as a Buddha, in the ways in which we’ve been discussing it so far – in terms of the inseparability of samsaric and nirvanic appearances, and Buddha-nature, and seeing only good qualities in the teacher, and so on. That’s a bit of a different level of practice. It’s out of respect for the teachings that one imagines that one is receiving them actually from a Buddha, and we are fully qualified as arya bodhisattvas to really receive them and practice them.

Okay. So let’s continue with our format, which is to speak about various topics within tantra based on your questions and interests. Christian?

The Meaning of a Deity’s Hand Implements

Question: [missing]

Alex: Okay. You expressed this interest beforehand about the weapon-like instruments that the various Buddha-figures are holding, concerning a practical way that we can use this.

Well the specific implements that the various figures are holding represent different things, and everything in the visualization represents different levels of insight and practice. So they’ll say this type of weapon is for smashing wrong view about the self, this one is to pierce through self-cherishing attitude, and so on. And I must say that it seems a little bit arbitrary, because in different systems different implements will have one or another meaning. That’s why I was saying the exact precise visualization of the implement is merely a method for developing concentration on a lot of detail, but the actual detail itself is not the important factor.

Now how do we use this in a practical way? This is like in the Wheel of Sharp Weapons. I think that this lojong text, this attitude-training text, gives very good guidelines for that. We want to – there in that text, we invoke Yamantaka. Yamantaka is the forceful form of Manjushri. Manjushri is the representation of the discriminating awareness (shes-rab), clarity of mind, or so-called “wisdom” of all the Buddhas. And Manjushri himself is in a peaceful, calming aspect of this type of discriminating awareness, and Yamantaka is the forceful aspect of that. And in the full visualization of Yamantaka, you always visualize Manjushri in his heart. So there’s the combination of the two levels, here, of energy that are involved. And Yamantaka holds thirty-four of these different types of weapons. There’s a lot of them. There’s thirty-four arms. And the thirty-four arms together with the body, speech, and mind make thirty-seven, and that represents the thirty-seven aspects or factors of practice that lead to a purified state of liberation or enlightenment. They represent different practices that we do at different stages of the path.

Now in that Wheel of Sharp Weapons practice, we are invoking this strong aspect of discriminating awareness to smash through the self-cherishing attitude and the false concept of a true “me,” a solid “me.” And although one could look at Yamantaka as an external figure, as an actual being, I don’t think that that’s the most sophisticated level of looking at this practice, but rather we are invoking the forceful energy that we all have as part of Buddha-nature. Remember we were speaking about an inseparable samsaric and nirvanic aspect of our energies. We can also speak – you have this very much emphasized in Nyingma – about a peaceful and forceful aspect of our energies, so they have peaceful deities and forceful deities (khro-bo). They’re sometimes called wrathful deities, but it’s not that they have anger – in our ordinary sense. So I think that’s a difficult word. Better to use “forceful.”

So, in any case, we are calling upon that strong energy, that we all have as part of Buddha-nature, that we can use with our discriminating awareness to smash through when we are acting selfish, when we are egocentric, when we have this self-cherishing attitude, when we have this false concept of a “me.” But of course that understanding is an understanding of voidness. And because it’s an understanding of voidness, we avoid the danger of imagining that we are just punishing a wicked, naughty, stupid, solidly existent “me,” which then would just feed a Western tendency of low self-esteem, and self-hatred, and so on. We certainly don’t want to use those weapons symbolically in our mind to punish a solid “me.” Or certainly not for being so stupid, and selfish. It’s certainly not the case.

Shantideva says it very nicely, that the real battle is the internal battle. Those who fight external battles are only killing corpses; they’re going to die anyway. But the real enemy are the disturbing emotions (confusion and so on) inside us. And so these various weapons that we hold as these Buddha-figures represent the forces that we use to smash these false concepts and disturbing emotions that we have internally. Whether the weapon is thirty-two centimeters long or thirty-one centimeters long, and does the ornamentation on it have four points or five points, is totally trivial in my opinion – although you could have explanations of what four points on it or five points on it represents. But I can’t emphasize enough: at the beginning stages, don’t get hung up on the details; that will just become a major obstacle in your visualization practice. Because unless we are extraordinarily gifted from previous lives, most of us cannot deal – at a beginning level – with an incredible amount of detail in a visualization. Unless you have a photographic mind that can just automatically produce something perfectly.

Obstacles to Visualization Practice

Question: What are the obstacles?

Alex: The obstacles that come up in overemphasizing the details are that we are unable to do it; therefore we get frustrated; therefore we give up. We feel, “I’m no good; I’m incapable; this practice is stupid.” And we develop negative attitudes towards the practice, which then is very disastrous because we’re no longer receptive to using it. That’s why it’s described in the various texts as – that leads to a hellish rebirth. Now we can take that very literally. Or we could understand that also on the level that if you close yourself off completely to a method for achieving liberation and enlightenment – by considering this stupid, and pointless, and that I’m incapable of that – what’s the karmic consequence of that? You’re born in a situation in which you pretty much are incapable of practicing it. You distance yourself from it. So that’s a hellish rebirth.

What is the meaning of the Sanskrit word for the so-called “hell being” and the Tibetan word for it? Serkong Rinpoche always emphasized to look at the actual words that are used; there’s connotation in these words; they have meaning. And so the Sanskrit word – naraka – it has the meaning of “joyless.” There’s no joy, no happiness in a hellish rebirth. And the Tibetan word nyelwa (dmyal-ba) has the connotation of “difficult to get out of”; that’s why I translate it sometimes as “trapped beings in the joyless realms.” You’re just sort of trapped by your own closed-mindedness into a joyless situation. Whether it is with hellfire and people sticking all sorts of burning things up your lower orifice or not, that’s something else. This we find in almost all religions, some sort of description like that. That’s a completely different issue. Okay?

Using Disturbing Emotions on the Path

So we use this forceful energy. This is very important in tantra. How do we use disturbing emotions on the path? How do you transform them? Well, we can do this in a sutra way or we can do this in a tantra way – we can do this in many ways. What’s the sutra method? Again look at Wheel of Sharp Weapons (I’m bringing this up as an example because many of you attend my class on the Wheel of Sharp Weapons). And there the tonglen practice is used for transforming the disturbing emotions. Tonglen is the practice of giving and taking. And so when we have disturbing emotions, we transform it into a constructive pathway of mind by imagining that – not imagining, but focusing on the fact that I’m not the only one that has this disturbing emotion and the suffering that comes from it, but this is a common problem to everybody. Therefore, I am a limited being, a sentient being; this is a problem of all sentient beings; therefore it is my problem as well – everybody’s problem.

And so then we take on and imagine that we are dealing with this problem for everybody and giving the solution to it, which could be on many different levels of nonattachment. It can be – if we have attachment – it can be understanding of voidness. It can be whatever. And so in that way we transform the disturbing emotions into something that helps us further on the path. This is one of the main features of the lojong tradition, of the attitude-training: to transform negative circumstances into positive circumstances for making progress on the path.

Okay. Now there are other methods for using these disturbing emotions. In mahamudra, which can be practiced according to the Kagyu and Gelug tradition on both sutra and tantra levels; in the Sakya tradition, only at tantra level… But, in any case, if we want to understand the nature of the mind, of mental activity, then the analogy is: the more fuel you have on the fire, the stronger the fire will be. And so the more intense the state of mind is with these disturbing emotions, the more intense the state of mind is for focusing on the nature of the mind, and as exemplifying what the nature of the mind is. And that obviously is an incredibly difficult practice. The mind is very filled with energy with being very excited. Then you can see that nature of the mind more easily, and the actual nature itself is more obvious. This is the explanation. It’s very difficult to practice, incredibly difficult to practice. When the mind is dull, it’s difficult: the energy is low; it’s difficult to actually see what is the nature of mind.

Mental activity is the arising of a mental hologram and the cognitive involvement with it (which are equivalent to each other). And just that – let’s not get into a big discussion of the nature of the mind. But this arising of a mental hologram, which is the awareness of an object, the stronger the energy of that – in other words, the bigger the flame – the more obvious it is. And the more intense the flame – as an observer, as an understander – the more intense your level of understanding it can be. So that’s another method of transforming and using these disturbing emotions.

In tantra in general, not just the mahamudra level, we can use primarily desire as part of the path, which is that you initiate a happy state of mind with desire, but then you use that to destroy the desire. In other words, you want to induce a blissful state of mind by being – if we use the colloquial – “turned on,” in a sense, by a beautiful person, a beautiful body, or whatever. But with that intensified state of mind, of desire – which is a conventionally happy state of mind, a tainted type of happiness – then you use that to focus on the voidness of the happy state of mind, and the object, and the self that is experiencing it, and so on. So you use desire to destroy desire. So that’s a transformation.

So then when you experience something that is very beautiful, and initially there’s that happiness that might be brought on by it because of desire, then, in that happy state of mind, you understand the voidness of it and you can make an offering of the beauty. Enjoy the beauty in a more pure way. So that way you’re not disturbed by the fact that I’m turned on by certain forms of bodies. For each of us, it will be slightly different – what turns us on – it doesn’t matter; it’s irrelevant. There’s that usage of it.

The usage of anger, as I was describing, that strong force of anger might come up in a certain situation, but then you redirect that energy, with an understanding of voidness, to smashing the self-cherishing. These are more in the direction of tantra usages of the – or transformations of the – disturbing emotions.

Sleep and Dream Yoga

His Holiness was always wondering what would be the way of transforming naivety, the third poisonous attitude. And if I remember correctly, he said, “Probably sleep yoga.” This is when you, as you fall asleep – this is incredibly difficult to practice – as you fall asleep, the mind withdraws from the senses and it withdraws from the elements of the body, so you’re not so aware of physical sensations of the blanket on top of you, or of the heat or cold, whatever it might be. So consciousness withdraws, and it withdraws in stages. And there are definite descriptions of these stages of the withdrawal of the consciousness, as it becomes more and more subtle. And in one system there’s eight stages, and in another system there’s ten stages – it doesn’t matter. If you can recognize that these stages, they occur to a certain extent when we fall asleep, but it doesn’t go all the way down to the subtlest level. It occurs to the fullest extent when we die, and you actually get to the clear light level of mind. And we can do the same thing as what happens in death, in meditation, if you have worked with the subtle energy system. And you don’t die. So there’s an advantage here, of not dying in the practice, obviously.

So sleep yoga would be to fall asleep very consciously of the process of the consciousness withdrawing, so that we’re able to recognize what’s called the “clear light of sleep.” This is incredibly difficult to do. Not only is it so subtle, but if your mind is really alert trying to observe this, you never fall asleep. It’s like trying to recognize dreams, you know; it’s called “dream yoga.” To recognize that you’re dreaming, and then to see the voidness of that – that it’s like an illusion – is the whole point of it, not to be able to fly and have all sorts of naughty adventures while you’re in your dreams. Of course the dream state is very conducive for single-minded concentration, because you don’t have distraction from the senses. So you can use the dream state to do a sadhana – perfect for visualization and clarity, and no mental wandering. So you use that dream state for understanding everything is like an illusion, and for doing a sadhana practice.

However, what’s difficult is to recognize that you’re dreaming and not wake up when you recognize it. That’s the most difficult part of it. And it’s even more difficult in terms of recognizing the clear light of sleep; you don’t fall asleep, you’re too alert, so you never experience the clear light of sleep. It requires being very relaxed, obviously. But I think, if I remember correctly, His Holiness was saying that that’s probably the use of naivety – the mind getting more dull, in a sense, although that’s not exactly what naivety means, but it’s not knowing things; so you don’t know the sensory consciousness, and so on – of transforming that into a path

Question: Have you practiced yoga-nidra?

Alex: Have I ever practiced yoga-nidra? What is yoga-nidra? Okay. So she’s saying that this healing sleep, or healing yoga sleep practice, which I’ve not heard in Buddhism, but in any case there’s a practice like that, which is staying in a state neither awake nor asleep. Are you lying down when you’re doing this?

Participant: Yes.

Alex: You’re lying down. And it is not being fully asleep, as she said. Falling asleep during this is for cats, but not for the yoga practitioner. And one makes the determination not to fall asleep, and then uses this sort of half awake, half asleep state of mind to do various exercises, which can include visualization, it can include body awareness, it can include counting backwards, it can include just silence.

The question is, have I ever practiced something like that? No. Not specifically. I can recognize what that state is like because I’m in the habit, which is – I don’t consider it a good habit, certainly not a good habit from a Tibetan point of view – but I do take a twenty minute nap siesta after lunch. My energy goes quite down at that point, probably because I’m accustomed to taking a nap; it will always seem to go down, whether I’m really tired or not. And I lie down for twenty minutes exactly, as I was advised by a good doctor friend of mine – and it’s true from a Tibetan point of view – if you sleep less than twenty minutes it’s not refreshing; if you sleep more, then your body and mind gets even heavier. So twenty minutes is fine, and actually I don’t need an alarm clock anymore for that; I automatically revive when I have slept for twenty minutes. And I almost never fall asleep, my mind is very relaxed; sometimes there are thoughts going through, but I’ve trained myself – if I want to fall asleep at night, I just quiet my mind and don’t think anything. Buddhist training helps for that. And so if I can quiet my mind and stop thinking anything, I fall asleep much more quickly or easily. So I try to do that during the nap. I don’t necessarily mentally wander.

It is very refreshing and, from my own experience, it’s very interesting. There is a moment in that state, which is what I would describe as neither awake nor asleep, when I can feel my energy go down in a certain valley – it’s the only way that I can describe it – but it goes down in a certain valley for only a very, very short moment. And I know when I experience that, and it comes back up, that I have refreshed my energy – I’ve reset the computer [laughter]. And I can identify that and usually experience that when I take this nap.

So that’s my experience. And as I fall asleep, I can notice the beginning of when I’m falling asleep. That, I can notice. Because, again, it’s not quite like going into this valley of energy, but there’s a certain state of mind which is more subtle, in terms of your feeling of the physical sensations of your body, and so on. And at that point I recognize that I’m starting to fall asleep, and then what I do is totally relax, and then I fall asleep. If I try to become too alert at that point, I never fall asleep. And certainly I have to have a quiet mind, not think anything at the time. But if you ask what my experience is with this whole sleep yoga phenomenon, it’s that.

But actual dream yoga and stuff like that, I can recall only once being able to actually be aware enough to do a sadhana practice in my dreams. I think I only did that once. I usually wake up if I recognize that I’m dreaming. That’s why I say that’s very difficult to do. But what is emphasized very much is a special Chenrezig practice that is done with this dream yoga.

Question: What is the Chenrezig practice?

Alex: Chenrezig is Avalokiteshvara. It’s the Tibetan word…

Question: What are you doing in this practice?

Alex: Well this is what I’m about to explain. It has many different parts to it, but the part of it that deals with dream yoga is not emphasizing do a sadhana, and all of that. The main point is to recognize that everything is like an illusion. Because if you can recognize in your sleep, during dreams, that the voidness of appearance is like an illusion – it doesn’t mean that everything is an illusion, but that it’s like an illusion in the sense that it appears to be solid and real, but it’s not – then you can apply that when you’re awake. And so the practice is when you are awake – this works both ways – to recognize everything is like an illusion, so that then it affects your ability to do that in a dream, where it is a much more vivid experience, and then that affects – it’s like a feedback loop – being able to see that more when you’re awake. This is the type of practice that’s emphasized there.


Question: What does it have to do with Avalokiteshvara?

Alex: It is part of a larger practice involving visualizations of Avalokiteshvara. What we want to do is transform many, many different levels. So it’s part of a long – as I said, these sadhana practices are like a script in which you have many different scenes in which you practice different things. It goes back to our original discussion that tantra is like the strings of a loom in which you weave many different practices. So it’s one of the practices within a context of this Avalokiteshvara or Chenrezig practice. It’s not limited to Chenrezig. It’s nothing specific to that. That’s just the larger context within which I’ve learned this practice

Question: The meaning of the word “Avalokiteshvara” is the one who is hearing? Or who is listening to the suffering…

Alex: No. What does the word “Avalokiteshvara” mean? It is “avalokita” plus “ishvara.” Ishvara is another name for Shiva, the Hindu god. Ishvara literally means the powerful one. The Tibetans translate it as wangpo (dbang-po), the powerful one. I would have to look it up. I can’t identify immediately from my knowledge of Sanskrit what root that comes from – Ishvara – I’d have to look that up. But anyway…

Question: So “ishvara” is “kiteshvara.” And “avalo”?

Alex: No. “Avalokita” plus “ishvara” makes Avalokiteshvara. The ‘A’ and the ‘I’ combine to make an ‘E’. So “avalokita.” “Lokita” is the past passive participle of a verb that is a common root to our English word to look, to see. “Lok” – to look, to see. And “ava” means “all around.” So “Avalokita-ishvara” is the powerful one that looks all around and sees the suffering of all beings. That’s the actual meaning of “Avalokiteshvara,” the Sanskrit word.

Participant: In Chinese it does have to do with hearing, I think.

Alex: No. In Chinese it’s “Guanyin.” “Guan” is to observe, to see. And “yin” is… Guanyin… Now “yin” does have the connotation of sound, if I recall correctly. Guanyin. So the one who sees all around and hears all around. But again my Chinese is not as up to date in my memory instant-recall banks. But “yin” is “sound”; definitely it’s the word “sound.”

Now Tibetan: “Chenrezig” (spyan ras gzigs), pronounced “Chenraysee.” “Chen” (spyan) is “eyes.” “See” (gzigs) at the end is “to see” (I mean, there’s no connection), but “zig” if you want to pronounce it in the Ladakhi type of way, “zigs.” But the middle syllable is “ray” in Chenrezig, and that’s the word for cloth or rag. And so Serkong Rinpoche described it as: with his eyes he sees everybody, not in the way you would look at a dirty piece of cloth or a rag and just ignore it or throw it away. From some oral tradition, that’s the way that they explain why in the world they put “ray” in the middle here, between “chen” and “zigChenrezig. So the one who looks at others not in the way that you would look at some old dirty rag.

So it’s quite interesting how in the world they translate these names, and how they derive the translations of these names. And all we can say is that the choice of terms for the translations give us a little bit of feeling of the meaning that could be there. How do we translate it into our languages? Well that’s a big problem.

Question: [missing]

Alex: What does it have to do with the illusionary character of our dreams? There is transformation of the sleep state, the dream state, and the awake state, which is a very central part of the anuttarayoga or highest class of tantra practice. And that can be done within any sort of deity system that has an anuttarayoga aspect to it. So Chenrezig or Avalokiteshvara has an anuttarayoga form. So it’s not specific to Chenrezig/Avalokiteshvara, that’s just one particular context in which it is practiced.

The Meaning of “Anuttarayoga”

And you asked for the meaning of “anuttarayoga.” “Yoga” is coming from the Sanskrit root which is the old Indo-European root that our words in the West come from for “yoke,” in English, “Joch,” in German. Like what joins two oxen together. And so yoga is a practice to join with what is authentic. The Tibetans translate it as neljor (rnal ’byor). “Jor” (’byor) means to yoke or to join, and “nel (rnal) means the real thing, the authentic thing; so it’s a joining or yoking with the real thing. A yogi has joined with the authentic practice, or whatever. And “anuttara” is – uttara means “supreme” or “the highest,” and “anuttara” means there’s nothing more, nothing more supreme than this. So, unsurpassed or highest yoga.

Translation Problems

Serkong Rinpoche use to say that all these various words, particularly the Tibetan translations of terms, were something from which we could milk out – like milking a cow – a lot of meaning. So it’s quite helpful to know connotations of these words. And he spent a great deal of time explaining them to me. And then he would ask me what are the connotations of the English words that are used for translating it, and it didn’t come close. Therefore he encouraged me very much, with the new vocabulary system that I use, to try to find words that come a little bit closer to the connotations of the Tibetan words. And as we’ve seen, the Tibetan words don’t always carry the same connotation as the Sanskrit words. So then you’re in real trouble. Which do you try to translate, the Sanskrit or the Tibetan?

Participant: Well, that gives you more freedom.

Alex: It gives you more freedom. But I tell you, in Shantideva, in my translation of Bodhicharyavatara, which I enjoyed doing thoroughly, I compared every word for word, the Sanskrit and the Tibetan versions of it. And where the Tibetan had a different connotation to it, I chose the Sanskrit; and sometimes I put in both, so that you have both the connotation of the Sanskrit and the Tibetan there, if it made the meaning more full. Because if you can go back to the Sanskrit, you can understand a little bit better what the Tibetans were trying to translate.

This is always a general problem in translation. I encountered this problem with a Russian translation that I was checking once from English. Now I don’t know Russian, but I know languages well enough to be able to check a translation. So I was given an English translation of a Russian text; and when the English translation made no sense, I knew enough that I could identify in the Russian manuscript what word they were having trouble with. And you look it up in the Russian dictionary and you find that there are several English words. Or you look it up in the English dictionary, the English-Russian dictionary. If you look up the English word from the original and you see that the English word has several meanings, and the translator choose the wrong meaning – understood it incorrectly and translated it with the Russian word that meant the wrong meaning of the English word – then it’s easy to correct. You see what another meaning of the English word is that you find. Or the other way around – the Russian word, if it’s going from Russian to English, so the Russian word had many meanings and the English translator chose the wrong meaning.

Well, you better believe the same thing happened with Sanskrit going into Tibetan. The same thing happened. Sometimes they chose the wrong meaning of the word. It just doesn’t make sense. So knowledge of languages is helpful.


Question: [missing]

Alex: Okay. So the question is, how does this connect? We have gone off into wild tangents here. Our original discussion was in terms of transformation. It came from the question about the weapons in the tantra visualizations, and I said that you can work with them as a transformation of disturbing emotions. And there are many methods for working with the transformation of disturbing emotions. There are the sutra methods, and mahamudra method, and tantra methods. And tantra methods can be applied to all three disturbing emotions, poisonous disturbing emotions. So we described desire, we described anger, and then we got into the discussion of how does it apply to a tantra transformation of naivety, closed-mindedness. And that led to the way that it can be done is in terms of dream yoga, sleep yoga, and so on. And then somebody asked me what experience do I have in terms of that. I explained dream yoga practice in terms of its teaching in the Avalokiteshvara practice. And then the question came, what does the word “Avalokiteshvara” mean? And that led to the discussion of the connotations of the Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Chinese. So that was the line of development of the tangent that we went off on. That, by the way, is a very good exercise in how to avoid getting Alzheimer’s disease – try to trace back the line of thought through which we got distracted.

Participant: [missing]

Alex: Avalokiteshvara is a commonly practiced tantra. It is practiced in… You see, these various deity practices can be practiced on many different… It is a structure – not a structure, but it is a form of a Buddha-figure in which any type of practice can be done, so long as there is some lineage of it. So Avalokiteshvara, there’s a kriya practice of it (kriya tantra, this is the first class of tantra) and also anuttarayoga practice of Avalokiteshvara. And the usage of transformation of sleep, dream, and waking up – which is really referring to the usage of death, bardo, and rebirth – is a characteristic of anuttarayoga tantra.

Participant: [missing]

Alex: So what she says is that the way that Avalokiteshvara is invoked in China in the form of Guanyin, or Japanese – where in central Asia, on the way to China, Avalokiteshvara underwent a sex change and changed into a female figure rather than a male figure – since it fit probably more easily into the Chinese concept of a compassionate person being female, rather than male. Or for some reason – I mean, who knows why it had a sex change? But, in any case, people making offerings and prayers for Guanyin to help, and so on – you have similar type of practices with Tara, and so on, making requests – this is not the deepest level of practice of these figures. It’s the more popular level. And that goes back to our discussion of inspiration. An actual understanding of how they can help is in terms of inspiring us to be able to, basically, help ourselves. And through their prayers, may this activate positive karmic potentials and forces within me, and I’m going to be receptive enough for that. Like that. But that’s only one very popular level of practice of any of these figures, and not emphasized...

Participant: [missing]

Alex: In tantra, what we are focusing on is not only voidness and everything like an illusion, but generating our own energies into that form, so that it will act as a cause for achieving the physical body of a Buddha. That’s the main purpose of it.

Participant: The energetic aspect.

Alex: The form aspect. You want to practice something that will be a cause, a closer cause, for generating the physical body of a Buddha. And so we imagine a pure type of body that doesn’t get tired, that doesn’t require going to the toilet, that doesn’t require eating, and that doesn’t get old. So that when we focus on it, it’s not undergoing moment-to-moment change with pain, and so on, like our ordinary body. So it’s easier to gain concentration on it, and it is closer to what we are aiming to achieve. So that’s why we use these Buddha-figures.

So this bring us to six o’clock, which is when we wanted to end our session today. So we’ll end now. And if you can remember tomorrow to ask your question, Jan, about the combination of the three principal anuttarayoga deity practices in Gelugpa – Guhyasamaja, Yamantaka, and Chakrasamvara – that will lead us into the discussion of the individual features of these Buddha-figures. So that would be good for tomorrow, if you can remember to ask.

Good. So let’s end, then, with the dedication. We think whatever positive force, or energy, or understanding that has come from this, may it go deeper and deeper and act as a cause for reaching enlightenment for the benefit of all.