Six Yogas of Naropa: Further Advanced Practices

Set the proper motivation for listening to these teachings. Wish to be able to benefit all beings and, to do so, to achieve the state of full enlightenment.

As stated previously, the six yogas or practices of Naropa are: 

  • Tummo, inner heat
  • Illusory body
  • Clear light
  • Transference of consciousness
  • Entering the citadel of a fresh corpse 
  • The bardo intermediate period. 

Levels of Blissful Consciousness in the Four Classes of Tantra

In both the sutra and tantra traditions, there is no difference in terms of bodhichitta, nor in the presentation of voidness. However, there is a difference in the type of consciousness that takes voidness as its object. In tantra, the special feature is that it utilizes a blissful consciousness for ascertaining voidness. There is a difference in the strength or intensity of the blissful consciousness according to the four classes of tantra. 

In the general presentation of the four classes of tantras, however, the four classes are differentiated in terms of their main emphasis:

  • Kriya tantra, or ritual tantra – puts the main emphasis on the external practices of rituals
  • Charya tantra, or behavioral tantra – on external and internal behavior or practices equally
  • Yoga tantra, or integrated practice tantra – on internal yoga practices
  • Anuttarayoga tantra, or peerlessly integrated practice tantra, which is the highest class of tantra – on internal yoga practices that have no equal. 

When differentiated from the point of view of anuttarayoga tantra as a basis, the other three classes of tantra are distinguished in terms of the different intensities of blissful consciousness utilized for cognizing voidness:

  • Kriya tantra – the blissful consciousness that comes from seeing the consort
  • Charya tantra – the blissful consciousness that comes from exchanging smiles
  • Yoga tantra – the blissful consciousness that comes from holding hands
  • Anuttarayoga tantra – the blissful consciousness that comes from the joining of the two organs. 

Therefore, if the presentation is made from the perspective of anuttarayoga tantra, each of the other three classes of tantra progressively has more intense types of blissful consciousness.

For example, the texts or tantras of the kriya class indicate a practice in which the blissful consciousness that arises from seeing the consort takes voidness as its object. Then, on that basis, such a blissful consciousness is used in the various practices for purifying the basis situation, making manifest the various paths, and achieving the result. Such tantras, namely the root and commentarial tantras, would be the kriya tantras. 

In the anuttarayoga tantra class, there is the presentation of taking the blissful consciousness that arises from the meeting of the two organs. That blissful consciousness takes voidness as its object and then engages in the practice of the various paths. 

In anuttarayoga tantra, there is the presentation of both the generation and the complete stage practices. The main point is to be able to get the energy-winds to enter and dissolve into the central energy-channel. There are various methods designed to do that. However, if we do not do this within the context of our minds firmly set with a bodhichitta aim and a firm understanding of voidness, then no matter how many practices we do with the breath and the energy-winds, even if we are able to fly through the air, the great master Milarepa has said we are doing nothing but exercising to be like a bellows. It is nothing more than just putting wind inside a bellows.

Accounts from Tibet

In the Tsang district of Tibet, there is a rotation every 12 years of practitioners engaged in intensive meditation practices with the energy-winds – specifically, with the heat energy-winds (drod-rlung) and speed energy-winds (mgyogs-rlung). The former is for harnessing the heat energy-winds for producing the inner heat of tummo. The other is harnessing the speed energy-winds for “speed walking,” to be able to walk at a tremendous speed. 

This area of Tibet is extremely cold. The practitioners engaging in the practices with the heat energy-winds set up a hide tent on which all moisture would freeze, so its outside would be covered with ice. Such meditation tents have an opening in the roof and such practitioners would sit inside such tents. Through their practice of tummo, they would gain the ability to not quite levitate, but to cause the body to jump up in the air, leap through the hole in the roof, rise above the ice-covered tent and then land back inside. By the power of the tummo heat from their bodies, they would melt away all the ice.

I’m talking of two specific practitioners I knew, one practicing tummo and one doing the speed walking meditations and practice. They both did their practices for 12 years. A few friends and helpers went with them for support during this meditation retreat, helping them maintain their practice for the 12 years. 

The one who did the speed walking practices was able to come down to Lhasa to meet His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The point of the story is that when the practitioner of speed walking meditation passed through villages, he would walk in a manner as was explained before, like when the Buddha was walking and Angulimala could never catch up with him. They would walk at what appeared to be just a normal pace when people saw them. All the children and youths of the villages would run as fast as they could behind him to try to catch him, but no matter how fast they would run, nobody could ever catch him. This is something I have seen with my own eyes.

If we do such types of practices and trainings with the energy-winds and do them within the context of perfect bodhichitta and a complete understanding of voidness, then through these methods we can achieve enlightenment. 

Clearing Impurities from the Channels

In our present condition, the various energy-winds do not flow through the central energy-channel because the central energy-channel is constricted by knots at the chakras, such as the crown, throat, heart, and navel. These various methods we’ve been discussing are to make the energy-winds that flow through the right and left energy-channels to enter the central energy-channel. The purpose is not just to get the energy-winds to go into the central energy-channel, but to use them there as a method to induce the blissful consciousness that then takes voidness as its object, and within this context, to engage in the more advanced practices.

The way we begin to practice this is to clear out the various impurities from the energy-channels. Before the vase breathing, the nine tastes of breath exercises, where we visualize the right energy-channel inserted into the left and so on, are designed to remove the impurities from the three main energy-channels. To review, after we have brought our hands up, shot them out in front, and moved them to the right, we first block our left nostril and imagine that we very slowly draw air into the right nostril. This air goes down into the right energy-channel. We do this very slowly. Then, we imagine that all the air goes into the left energy-channel. When we switch our finger to the right side and exhale out the left nostril, we imagine that all the impurities, dregs, and sediments that are in the left energy-channel are expelled with the breath. This is the purpose of doing this exercise and the visualization with it. This entire process is done in nine rounds. It is good to do this practice early in the morning, while the other practices we can do later in the day

The Way in Which the Six Yogas of Naropa Are Explained in Tsongkhapa’s Text

In the text, it says, “The six practices of Naropa are tummo, illusory body, clear light, transference of consciousness, entering of the citadel and bardo.” What I am explaining is not something I am making up. It is exactly from the text. If one confuses the material in the text, then one adulterates the Dharma and the teachings. That is not a good thing to do. The way I am explaining is not my personal way of explaining it, but it is exactly the way that it is in the text.

The next line in the text states the manner in which it should be explained:

  • The dream state and bardo should be explained within the context of the illusory body. Likewise, as there are different types of clear light, the clear light of sleep should also be explained within the context of the illusory body. 
  • Transference of consciousness and entering the citadel of a fresh corpse should be explained as one. 

Therefore, that is exactly as it is explained. If we do not understand that, then it might seem to us that the dream state and all these other things are separate yogas of Naropa. Then, we would start to get the seven or eight yogas of Naropa and become completely confused. Likewise, when we hear about the clear light of sleep, then we think that’s the only subject dealt with by the clear light and again we start confusing the order and number of the six practices of Naropa. Therefore, this is the correct way in which it appears in the text. This is the exact manner in which I am explaining it.

These practices with the energy-winds that were just explained here are done to purify all the energy-channels. In addition, we must visualize all the energy-channels perfectly, with the syllables in them. 

The Basis Needed for Practice of the Six Yogas of Naropa

Then, there are the various practices for lighting the inner fire of tummo. This is the basis where we actually begin the six yoga of Naropa. Previously, we needed to have gone through the generation stage so that we are able to visualize ourselves perfectly as the Buddha-figure deity. We need to have done all the training on that, including all of its preliminaries. Once we are able to do all of that, and we are able to cleanse the energy-channels, to visualize the energy-channels as well as the Buddha-figure deity, to visualize the syllables, and do the tummo practice, then on the basis of that, we go on to the next practices. 

Higher practices, beyond this, are done within the context of being able to induce the blissful consciousness that can take voidness as its basis and by dissolving the energy-winds in the energy-channels. Everything must be done in its proper sequential order. We have to build them up step-by-step, because we have to be able to do all of these things we just mentioned together, at the same time.

Having the Energy-Winds Enter, Abide and Dissolve in the Central Energy-Channel

It is during the complete stage, while engaging in the practice of tummo, that we go through the threefold stages of the energy-winds entering, abiding and dissolving in the central energy-channel.

  • The sign of the energy-winds entering the central energy-channel is that the breath is of equal force through both nostrils
  • The sign of them staying there is that the breath ceases, indicated by a feather not moving when placed in front of the nose
  • The sign of them dissolving are the eight signs mentioned before – the mirage-like and so on down to the clear light. 

Of course, this assumes that we have trained thoroughly and completely and have gained competence in the generation stage so that, on the advanced stages of the complete stage, we experience the various signs of the dissolution occurring until we get to the clear light. 

Clear light normally occurs at the time of death. What happens at the time of death is something we don’t like to think about very much. Nevertheless, this is what will occur, and we have something that is similar to the clear light of death here in this practice. However, at this point in the complete stage, we do not actually experience the clear light. We have not accomplished the actual dissolution process. We are still doing this with our imaginations, based on all the training and experience gained in the generation stage through the practices of taking death as a pathway for Dharmakaya. In that process, we have practiced achieving this state of clear light, but even now it is still with our imaginations.

In this stage, with the practice of tummo, again we hold the pride of Dharmakaya, just as we did in the generation stage. We imagine that we have accessed the subtlest level of consciousness, think that this takes voidness as its object and imagine it to be a very blissful consciousness, while holding the pride of Dharmakaya, similar to what we did on the generation stage.

Illusory Body

After we have reached this level, what we practice next is arising in what can be roughly called an “illusory body.” This is similar to the generation stage, when after the clear light, we practice arising as something like a Sambhogakaya, as was mentioned before. Now, in the complete stage, we arise in a small white form of a Buddha-figure deity – for example, Vajrabhairava, if we are doing that practice. 

The consciousness and energy-winds are inseparable. When we have gotten down, at least on the level of our imagination, to the subtlest level of consciousness, we are imagining that we generate an illusory body out of the subtlest energy-wind that supports this level of consciousness. When the subtlest energy-wind becomes slightly grosser, it functions as an obtaining cause (nyer-len-gyi rgyu) for the arising of an illusory body The subtle consciousness, which is inseparable from that, functions as the simultaneously acting condition (lhan-cig byed-rkyen). In this way, there is the arising of an illusory body, and this would be in the form of a tiny Buddha-figure deity. 

We imagine this is located at the heart chakra when we start this practice. This is not an actual, definitional illusory body. It is still only within our imaginations, even as we practice here on the complete stage. Then, think that this illusory body goes out to various places to be able to help others and carry out various purposes. That’s why, in order to help others, we have to generate ourselves in a grosser form, the form of a Buddha-figure deity. We also think, as we did during the generation stage, that this illusory body can only be seen by others who have reached this similar stage of achievement in practice. 

The practice, on this stage, of the dissolution process to the clear light is called “mixing Dharmakaya with the awake state.” When we arise from that in the form of the Buddha-figure deity, there is no need to actually refer to it as an illusory body at that point. Technically, it is called “mixing Sambhogakaya with the awake state.” 

After that, we then have the feeling that we must arise in a form in which everyone can see us, because this form, analogous to a Sambhogakaya, cannot be seen by everyone. Therefore, we dissolve what we have been visualizing, which we imagine we have generated from the more gross winds – namely, the form of the central Buddha-figure deity of the mandala similar to a Sambhogakaya. We dissolve that back into our old aggregates, visualized as the central Buddha-figure deity of the mandala through the crown of the head and then manifest in a rougher form. This would be like an emanation body or Nirmanakaya. This is “mixing Nirmanakaya with the awake state.”

Defining Characteristic of Complete Stage Practice

In the complete stage, we are doing practices to cause a Buddha-figure deity and a palace to arise on the basis of having made the energy-winds enter, abide, and dissolve in the central energy-channel. This is the defining characteristic of the complete stage practice. This does not happen on the generation stage. We do not have the arising of a Buddha-figure deity and its mandala on the basis of having caused the energy-winds to enter, abide, and dissolve. When we are practicing on the complete stage in this manner, the first stage of realization that we achieve is called, in the terminology of the Guhyasamaja tantra five-stage complete stage system, “isolated body” (lus-dben). 

Isolated Body and Speech

In the presentation of the complete stage in the Guhyasamaja tantra system, there are various stages and practices involved on the isolated body stage. There is the isolated body stage of the one hundred Buddha-families, the isolated body stage of the one Buddha-family, taken all together, and so on. This first stage of the complete stage practice, the isolated body, is done with this type of practice. 

The next stage in terms of the Guhyasamaja system, “isolated speech” (ngag-dben), deals with the throat chakra. With this practice, we are loosening the knots at the throat chakra. All of this is done through what is known as “vajra recitation” (rdo-rje bzlas-pa), commonly called “vajra breathing.” In the six yogas of Naropa system, it is done in a manner similar to tummo, but instead focuses on the heat generation and the various visualizations at the throat chakra, while doing the vajra breathing to remove the obstacles preventing seeing the breath as inseparable from the mantra. This is not the second of the six yogas of Naropa; it is the next stage of the tummo practice. 

During these first stages, we do not generate Buddha-figure deities that are definitional ones. We are still only generating them with our imaginations.

At the Time of Sleep

Yogi practitioners on these first two stages of isolated body and speech also do various practices at the time of going to sleep. Just as there were the practices for simulating the various aspects of Dharmakaya in the previous stages while awake, we do this at the time of going to sleep. Practitioners, here, experience the same eight signs of the dissolution of the energy-winds through various methods and visualizations so that, at the time of falling asleep, they practice “mixing Dharmakaya with the sleep state.” They hold the pride of the Dharmakaya in that state. 

While asleep, just before we start to dream, we do something similar to what we do in the other practices: we set the intention to appear in a visible form. We set the intention to arise in something like a Sambhogakaya, as a Buddha-figure deity, in the manner of a dream. This practice, which follows mixing Dharmakaya with sleep is known as “mixing Sambhogakaya with the dream state.” Through this intention, we arise as a Buddha-figure deity in the dream state.

Normally, only we are aware of our own dreams. Therefore, in this state, we set the intention of being able to be visible to all others. We bring this form body that was a mixing of Sambhogakaya with the dream state back into our old aggregates, visualized in the form of the central Buddha-figure deity of the mandala, with the intention to arise in a visible form. Then, we wake up, arising in the form of an Emanation Body, a Nirmanakaya. This is called “mixing Nirmanakaya with the awake state.” It is the same name as in the first set of three mixings, but now refers to something else. 

We can arise in this type of body in the dream state through the force of intention (‘dun-stobs) and such a body is merely ordinary. If we are able to arise in a dream body through the power of the energy-winds (rlung-stobs), then it is possible with such a body, in this dream state, to perform various actions and even go to pure lands. This is discussed in the text in terms of the presentation of tummo. For instance, if we are memorizing texts with our dream body, then, since the dream body cannot turn pages over, we have to set out the pages so that we can see both sides. This was the practice of the great master, the omniscient Buton (Bu-ston Rin-chen grub), who memorized many texts in the dream state with his dream body. 

Now, we have briefly covered six of the nine mixings. This second set of three includes:

  • Mixing Dharmakaya with the sleep state
  • Mixing Sambhogakaya with the dream state 
  • Mixing Nirmanakaya with the awake state 

At the Time of Death

When a yogi practitioner is actually about to die, likewise there are practices in terms of the clear light of death, called “mixing Dharmakaya with death.” Such a yogi has been doing the practices and gaining familiarity with clear light throughout their lifetime. Therefore, at the time of death, the actual death clear light that is experienced is called the “mother clear light” (ma’i ‘od-gsal) and the meditative clear light that they have been practicing with is the “child clear light” (bu’i ‘od-gsal). At the time of death, the experience is referred to as “the recognition of the child and mother clear lights.” They recognize each other.

Just as we would arise in the bardo in a subtle type of physical form, as a substitute for that, the practitioner imagines arising as a Sambhogakaya. That is called “mixing Sambhogakaya with the bardo.” Since it is necessary to have a fully endowed human body to be able to continue the practices of tantra, then when the consciousness enters the joined sperm and egg of the parents, we arise in the form of a Buddha-figure deity like a Nirmanakaya. This is called “mixing Nirmanakaya with birth.”  

That completes the presentation of the nine mixings on the stages of isolated body and isolated speech.

Isolated Mind Stage

After we have mastered all the practices on the isolated body and isolated speech stages, the next stage is actually loosening the knots around the central energy-channel at the heart chakra. This is the most difficult thing to do. When we do the practices for loosening those knots, when the knots loosen marks the beginning of the next stage. This is called, again in terms of the Guhyasamaja system, “isolated mind” (sems-dben). 

It is not sufficient merely to have the knots loosen so that the energy-winds enter the heart chakra. It is also necessary to have them dissolve in the center of the heart chakra. At the beginning, they do not do that. They are at the periphery of the heart chakra where the eight side energy-channels are. However eventually, with further practices, it is possible to get the energy-winds to dissolve into the very center of the heart chakra at the point where the indestructible drop (mi-shig-pa’i thig-le) is located. At that point, we make manifest the subtlest level of consciousness. At that point, we get the actual realization of the isolated mind stage, which is known as the “facsimile clear light” (dpe’i ‘od-gsal).

When we have loosened the knots around the heart chakra on the isolated mind stage, there are a great many visualizations and practices for making the five major and the five branch energy-winds dissolve into the center of the heart chakra through the procedures of vajra breathing. 

When we are doing the complete stage practices and we reach actualization of the first stage, isolated body, in which we get the energy-winds to actually enter into the naval chakra, at that point, we start to get actual attainments (dnogs-grub, Skt. siddhi), such as the ability to fly through the air. When we actually cause the energy-winds to dissolve at the various chakras, it is at that point that we actually gain the various types of advanced awareness (mngon-shes), or extrasensory perception, such as that of the divine eye, the divine ear, and so on. 

The most difficult of the energy-winds to make dissolve is the diffusive energy-wind (khyab-byed-kyi rlung). This is done last. It is extremely difficult to do as it is the energy-wind that exists throughout the entire body, throughout every pore of the skin. It is extremely difficult to cause all of that to enter and dissolve, so that is what is done in the end. When we have accomplished that, so that all the energy-winds have dissolved into the center of the heart chakra, then the subtlest level of consciousness that manifests at that time is actually what is called the “facsimile clear light.”

This subtle consciousness takes voidness as its object, but it does not do this in a non-conceptual manner. It does it still through a conceptual cognition through the meaning category (don-spyi). In terms of the Guhyasamaja five-stage classification system of the complete stage, where isolated body is the first stage, the second stage consists of isolated speech, isolated mind and facsimile clear light.  At this point, the practitioner attains the second of the five Mahayana pathway minds to enlightenment, an applying pathway mind (sbyor-lam; path of preparation). To gain such a realization of this type of clear light mind, it is necessary to rely on a karmamudra partner.

The Third Stage Illusory Body

After that, when we arise, from the facsimile clear light, in the form a Buddha-figure diety with the complete mandala palace, for example as Yamantaka, this is the unpurified illusory body (ma-dag-pa’i sgyu-lus). It is a definitional body of a Buddha-figure deity (lha’i sku mtshan-nyid-pa). This arises only after we have actually made manifest the subtlest level of consciousness and energy-wind. This occurs when the energy-wind of that subtlest state becomes slightly grosser, slightly coarser so that, from that clear light, we go through the reversed sequence of getting the black, then red, then white appearances, then the light at the end of the well, the sparks in the sky, the smoke and mirage signs until, at the end of that sequence, we arise in the form of the Buddha-figure deity with the entire mandala around us. This is an unpurified illusory body. It is the third stage in the five-stage scheme of the Guhyasamaja complete stage. 

What has this illusory body not yet been purified of? It has not yet been purified of the emotional obscurations, the obscurations caused by the disturbing emotions and attitudes, which prevent liberation. Although this unpurified illusory body is a definitional body of a Buddha-figure deity, it is not a vajra body (rdo-rje’i sku), which is the type of body that can go on to the state of enlightenment. Therefore, it is something that has to be discarded. 

Once we achieve this third stage unpurified illusory, it is pervasive that we will reach enlightenment in that very lifetime. However, even though it is pervasive that we will achieve enlightenment within that same lifetime, it does not follow that we will achieve enlightenment in the same body. This is because that body is something that has to be left behind.

This unpurified illusory body cannot be seen by others, except those who have attained the same stage of practice. Therefore, we have the wish to arise in a form that is visible to all others to be able to benefit them. Therefore, we do the practices to have this unpurified illusory body enter back into our grosser form visualized as a Buddha-figure deity. In this manner, we assume an unpurified Nirmanakaya. What is it not yet purified of? It is the same as before. It is not yet purified of the emotional obscurations. 

The Fourth Stage Clear Light

Once we have attained a third stage illusory body, an unpurified illusory body, we continue to do the practices of the dissolution process. This is done through various dissolutions such as the sequential dissolution, the dissolution occurring at once, and so forth. There are many methods. 

We experience the eight dissolution signs as before and, eventually, we reach the point where we manifest the clear light. However, here, the clear light mind is cognizing voidness in a non-conceptual manner. Therefore, this is the actual clear light (don-gyi ‘od-gsal) and is called the “fourth stage actual clear light,” the fourth stage in the Guhyasamaja five-stage scheme. 

The Fifth Stage Unified Pair 

We then take the subtlest energy-wind of the actual clear light subtlest mind as the cause and that clear light mind as the circumstance for then arising in an illusory body once more, but now it is a purified illusory body (dag-pa’i sgyu-lus). This is because at this point it has been purified of the emotional obscurations. With this purified illusory body, we are on a liberated path – we have attained liberation as a bodhisattva arhat.

With this attainment, we achieve, in terms of the Guyhasamaja complete stage scheme, the fifth stage unified pair, yuganaddha (zung-‘jug). What is the pair in this reference? It is not yet the ultimate unified pair that we seek of the illusory body and clear light because, at this time, the fourth stage actual clear light has ceased. 

The unified pair is that of a purified illusory body joined with what it is purified of – namely, with the state of being parted from the emotional obscurations or, in other words, with the abandonment of the emotional obscurations. It is not a unified pair of a purified illusory body with something on the side of a realization. It is a unified pair of a purified illusory body with something on the side an abandonment. This body that we now have is an actual definitional vajra body, one that can go on to the state of enlightenment. 

To be visible to more beings, the Buddha-figure and mandala of this purified illusory body achieved at this point can either enter back into our old aggregates visualized as the Buddha-figure deity or it can enter into new aggregates. In either case, when it does, it does so by assuming a purified emanation body or Nirmanakaya. What is it purified of? It is purified of the emotional obstacles preventing liberation.

When, once again, with this purified illusory body, we go through the various practices of dissolution to gain again a non-conceptual realization of clear light, then we attain the unified pair of a purified illusory body and actual clear light. It is not the same as the fourth stage actual clear light; instead, here on the fifth stage, we get the appearance at the same time of both the purified illusory body and non-conceptual total absorption with a clear light mind realizing voidness. At that point, we gain a definitional unified pair (zung-‘jug mtshan-nyid-pa) where we have both a purified mind in terms of an actual clear light mind, and a purified body in terms of a purified illusory body. This is now a “unified pair still needing further training” (slob-pa’i zung-‘jug). 

When we continue through the processes that follow from this, we rid ourselves, step-by-step, of the subtler type of obscuration, the cognitive obscurations regarding all knowable phenomena and which prevent omniscience. In the end, when we have abandoned them in full, we have achieved the “unified pair needing no further training” (mi-slob-pa’i zung-‘jug). That is the state of enlightenment.

If we cannot complete this entire process in our lifetime, then there are the methods for the transference of consciousness, in which we transfer our consciousness into a pure land. These methods are described in the text, and we can slowly study them when we are ready.

On certain occasions, when it would be possible to benefit a tremendous number of beings, sometimes there might be a necessity to take on a new body. For instance, we might take the body of a fresh corpse of someone who has died and who was in a high position and rank. For that, there are the methods described in the text for what is called “entering the citadel” – namely, the citadel of the aggregates of someone else who has just died.

There is another way to practice, in which someone is ready to achieve the facsimile clear light mind with the second stage isolated mind practice and achieves it at the time of death within the context of the clear light of death. The practitioner experiences this type of isolated mind of clear light at the time of death. Then, as a substitute for the bardo, that person arises in the form of a third stage illusory body, the unpurified illusory body and, on the basis of that, achieves enlightenment in the bardo. 

So, instead of following the other methods for achieving the isolated mind clear light, the practitioner reaches this level of realization by practicing with the clear light of death when the clear light of death actually occurs and by utilizing it for this stage of practice. Therefore, such a practitioner does not need to rely on a karmamudra partner in order to make manifest this clear light. This is the manner of enlightenment demonstrated by Tsongkhapa, that of not relying on a karmamudra. 

The Seven Branches of Union

When we have attained a unified pair still needing further training, engage in the various practices to rid ourselves of the cognitive obscurations preventing omniscience and then attain a unified pair needing no further training, the state of enlightenment that we attain is known as “the state with the seven branches of union” (kha-sbyor bdun-ldan). 

The seven branches of union (kha-sbyor yan-lag-bdun), which are characteristics specifically of a Sambhogakaya, are:  

  • Having full use (of the Mahayana teachings) (longs-spyod rdzogs-pa
  • Being in union (with a consort) (kha-sbyor)
  • Having a greatly blissful mind (bde-ba chen-po; great bliss)
  • (Being focused on) a total absence of self-established existence (rang-bzhin med-pa)
  • Being completely filled with compassion (snying-rjes yongs-su gang-ba)
  • Having no break in continuity (rgyun mi-chad-pa) – continuing to emanate all types of Nirmanakaya bodies, without any break, throughout the three planes of compulsive samsaric existence: supreme emanations, emanations as artisans and emanations as personages.
  • Without cessation (‘gog-pa med-pa) – remaining to help all beings needing to be tamed as long as their samsaric existence continues and not passing away into parinirvana. 

Enlightenment Is Attainable

We should not think that achieving a state of enlightenment with these seven branches of union is unattainable. It is something that can be attained. If you catch hold of the tail of tiger, hang on and don’t let go, otherwise you can get bitten. Likewise, if you catch hold of the meaning of tantra, don’t lose it, hang on. 

We are all very fortunate to have met with a presentation of the entire tantric path. We should think to try to put this into practice and not be satisfied just to plant the instincts in our minds from having heard about all the different stages of the complete tantric path. We should try to put it into practice to the best of our ability. Even if we do not have real teeth, but only have false teeth, we still use them to eat food. 

To get into the practice of tantra, it is necessary to have the very stable basis of a dedicated heart of bodhichitta and an exceptionally perceptive state of mind of vipashyana with an understanding of voidness. These are the main things we need to put our energy into in order to get into tantric practice at all. 

The basis of all of that, the root from which everything will grow, is entrusting ourselves wholeheartedly to the guidance of our spiritual master. You have very qualified spiritual masters who are in residence here. Therefore, you should study with them with a great deal of enthusiastic perseverance over a continuous period, and then things will go very well.

There was a Kadampa Geshe called Langri Tangpa (dGe-bshes Glang-ri thang-pa), the author of Eight Verses of Mind Training (Blo-sbyong tshig brgyad-ma) He was called “Sour-faced” (ngo-nag) Langri Tangpa because he never smiled or laughed. He always looked sad and had a dour look on his face because he was always aware of the sufferings and problems of the lower realms. During his life, he only laughed three times. 

  • One time he laughed because there was a mandala offering with a piece of turquoise on top of it and some mice came to take it away. The way they did this was by one mouse lying down on its stomach and the other mice taking him by his legs and dragging him away. This was one occasion that caused him to laugh. 
  • The second thing that caused him to laugh was hearing about someone condemned to die who spent the entire night before his execution mending his shoe. 
  • The third time was when someone was trying to gather rocks to make a fireplace. The Tibetan way of making a fire is in between three rocks. This person was trying to pull a rock out of the ground to use, but it was an enormous rock deeply embedded in the ground. He just stood there pulling and pulling at the rock and it turned out to be the head of a sleeping ogre.

You have very excellent spiritual masters and geshes here. You will have another excellent one, very well-trained in Madhyamika, who will be coming here shortly. It is a fault of Westerners to be attracted to lamas who are always telling jokes. But Tibetans don’t think that’s proper; it is like a comedian in a show, it implies ulterior motives to get fame, crowds and money. It is better to go to a circus clown if we want entertainment. So don’t think lamas should entertain us. They are often serious like Geshe Langri Tangpa, since they see the reality of hardship in the world and are compassionate. On the other hand, you should not go to the other extreme and think there is no room in Dharma study for humor, for joking and laughing. However, in any case, you should study very well with these geshes as you have a very excellent opportunity. On that basis, you will be able to make progress gradually, slowly.

You should pray to be able to practice completely all of what we have discussed and achieve such a state of union. I consider myself very fortunate to have been able to give you the full transmission of this text by Tsongkhapa and to end it today on the auspicious occasion when the Buddha descended to this world from the heaven where he taught his mother. I pray that all of you will be able to put this into practice and reach the endpoint of this path. All of you should make similar sincere prayers. 

I received this teaching and lineage from the great Serkong Dorjechang in Tibet, who was the actual translator, Marpa. The reincarnation of Serkong Dorjechang passed away a few years ago in Nepal. Many of you have seen his picture. He was actually led away to Dakini Land. This was actually seen.

I also received this teaching from the great Lama Khenchen Dorjechang and from Tridag Dorjechang who was the great teacher and master of the senior and junior tutors of His Holiness. I also received this from Kyabje Trijang Dorjechang who was the actual Heruka, Chakrasamvara.

I have brought with me one of the 18 volumes of the works of Tsongkhapa and I am making an offering to Vajrayogini Institute and Nalanda Monastery of one complete set of this edition of the works of Tsongkhapa. I have just this one volume here with me now, but in the future when people come back and forth from India, they can collect the rest of the volumes. You should put effort into trying to study these volumes and learn all this material.