Auxiliary Bonding Practices

In addition to taking bodhisattva and tantric vows, we also pledge at an anuttarayoga empowerment to maintain certain practices or attitudes that bond us closely to tantra.

  • A vow (sdom-pa) is a restraint from a detrimental action, while a bonding practice is an engagement in a beneficial one. Thus, taking a vow entails promising to restrain from either a naturally destructive action, such as killing, or a form of ethically neutral behavior, such as not meditating on voidness continually, that is detrimental for spiritual advance.
  • Adopting a bonding practice (dam-tshig, Skt. samaya, pledge, word of honor), on the other hand, involves pledging to engage in a constructive or ethically neutral act conducive for progress, such as being generous or maintaining chaste behavior.

The nine auxiliary bonding practices (yan-lag-gi dam-tshig) are reformulations of several of the root tantric vows and Kalachakra modes of tamed behavior, phrased in terms of conduct we adopt rather than of actions we avoid.

Nine Auxiliary Bonding Practices

(1) Ridding ourselves of the four roots

The four root destructive actions we remove from our behavior are (a) taking the lives of others, (b) taking what has not been given to us, (c) indulging in inappropriate sexual conduct, and (d) lying. This bonding practice is equivalent to the second through fourth and eleventh through fourteenth Kalachakra modes of tamed behavior.

[See: Kalachakra 25 Modes of Tamed Behavior]

(2) Giving up alcohol

This is equivalent to the fifth Kalachakra mode of tamed behavior. The first two auxiliary bonding practices are thus the five lay vows rephrased as bonding practices.

(3) Avoiding improper behavior

This includes never abusing our aggregates – the eighth common root tantric vow. Also, as with the eighth secondary bodhisattva vow in connection with ethical self-discipline, we rid ourselves of behavior that causes us to fall to ill-repute.

[See: Common Root Tantric Vows and Secondary Bodhisattva Vows]

(4) Committing ourselves to our spiritual masters

Not only do we avoid scorning or deriding our spiritual masters – the first common root tantric vow – we commit ourselves properly to them. We do this, as with the third secondary tantric vow, by not acting counter to the teachings of Fifty Stanzas on the Guru (Bla-ma lnga-cu-pa, Skt. Gurupancashika).

[See: The Secondary Tantric Vows]

(5) Respecting and serving vajra friends

Not only do we avoid faulting our vajra brothers and sisters – the third common root tantric vow – we always treat them with honor and respect.

(6) Cultivating the ten constructive actions

Not only do we avoid trivializing and transgressing any enlightened one's words concerning the three sets of vows – the second common root tantric vow – we actively engage ourselves in the ten constructive actions of restraining from killing, stealing, and so on.

(7) Ridding ourselves of the causes for turning from Mahayana

This includes never becoming discouraged and giving up love for sentient beings – the fourth common root tantric vow – as well as not being attached to the peaceful state of liberation.

(8) Avoiding scorning Mahayana

As with the sixth common root tantric vow, we avoid deriding our own or others' tenets, specifically the teachings of the Mahayana sutras.

(9) Avoiding stepping on or over objects of respect

Not only do we avoid not relying properly on the substances to bond us closely to our tantric practice – the thirteenth common root tantric vow – we avoid showing disrespect to them, such as by stepping on or over auspicious symbols drawn on the ground or offering flowers from tantric rituals tossed in the air and fallen to the floor.