Spiritual Development with Tantra: Buddhism vs Hinduism

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Tantra is not a practice that is exclusively Buddhist. There are also Hindu tantras. There’s a little bit of tantra also in Jainism, another Indian religion, as well, but it is not developed too much. Here, we need to understand the features that are distinctive about Buddhist tantra. For instance, how is it different from Hindu tantra? Is there something that is shared in common with it? The resultant level of what one is achieving would be different, of course. The practices on the pathway level in both entails the visualization of Buddha-figures, but the way that we would use them, though, is different. Some of the basis-level factors might be the same and some might be quite different, particularly in terms of how that basis exists. However, what is shared in common is the basic structure of there being a basis level to be purified, a pathway of practice that does the purifying, and a resultant level of the purification that is attained.

Spiritual Development 

We talk about tantra as a method for spiritual development, so what does “spiritual development” mean? This is not an easy question to answer because this word “spiritual” is vague in most Western languages. I don’t know what the connotation of the Russian term for this is – duhovnye, which sounds like it has something to do with spirit. In English, too, “spiritual” comes from the word “spirit,” but what in the world does “spirit” mean? Are we talking about the soul? Is it some sort of animating thing? I think that animation is the connotation coming from Greek, that it’s something that animates, that gives us life. Is that what we are talking about? The spirit as that which animates? Are we developing that animating spirit when we are doing spiritual development? We talk about material development, we talk about economic development, and then there’s spiritual development. It has to have some sort of meaning. How do we define it? I think that one way that we could define or describe spiritual development would be in terms of developing the basis Buddha-nature qualities.

We have to start analyzing these qualities a little bit more closely. Some of these qualities are, for instance, the ability to understand. Are we talking about intellectual development? Is that what we mean by spiritual development? Other qualities are the ability to be warm-hearted, to care, to love and so on. Well, isn’t that emotional development? Is emotional development spiritual development? We can develop our communicative abilities. Is that spiritual development? 

What is spiritual development? It’s a very difficult question to answer. Is it something separate from all of these, or different from all of these? I don’t know if I’m being fair to all Hindu traditions here, but I could imagine in a Hindu tradition that we would say that spiritual development is developing the soul, separate from these qualities (The Hindu term for soul is “atman”). But that becomes a problem if we analyze a little bit more deeply because the Hindu schools say that the atman, the soul, is unchanging. It’s not affected by anything, so we couldn’t develop it. However, the Hindu systems would accept that the soul, the atman, is obscured by other things that are not atman qualities. Some Hindu systems would say that mind obscures it, and others would say that various other things, like primal matter, obscure it. The process of development would be similar to one of the variants in the Buddhist method – to clear away from the atman, the soul, these “defiling things.” That’s a basic approach, a so-called “spiritual” approach to development that we have in some of the Hindu schools, like Samkhya, for example. 

If we look within Buddhism at what we call the conventional self, “me,” this is quite different from what is refuted. What is refuted is what is called the false self, the false “me.” The false “me” is identified with what the Hindu schools say is the atman or “me,” a self that can be separated from everything and never changes. Instead, Buddhism says that the conventional “me”, which is not to be refuted, is an imputation phenomenon, an everchanging, individual thing that can only exist and can only be known “tied,” literally, to a mental continuum having all these Buddha-nature qualities. 

Next, we have to see what “imputed” means. “Imputed” means that on the basis of all these various qualities, such as knowing things from moment to moment to moment, we can speak in terms of “me.” We can see, for instance, that now we have warmth toward this person, next we have warmth toward that person. On the basis of that “me” experiencing different things from moment to moment, we speak in terms of “me.” We understand, we communicate, we feel love, we help others. It’s not somebody else, and it’s not nobody doing it. It’s not a separate “me” that’s doing all of this that could be separated out from doing it and developed on its own, or that, by removing all this other stuff being experienced, then it’s fully developed. 

Perhaps this is the meaning, in Buddhism, of what we would call spiritual development. It’s developing the good qualities of this conventional “me,” the good qualities of the mental continuum with the “me” labeled on it, as opposed to material development, which we would do externally, just as we develop better technology and better machines, a sort of material development or technological development, or economic development of a country. That’s more external. Here we’re talking about something more internal. I think maybe this internal development of the good qualities of a conventional “me” is what we could call spiritual development. It’s not just intellectual development; it’s not just emotional development; it’s not just communicative abilities development. It’s labeled on all of this, the whole package. It’s all these different aspects, and other types of mental aspects as well, which perhaps I haven’t mentioned: the ability to concentrate, the ability to inspire others, these sorts of things. There are many, many aspects that we could differentiate. 

I think spiritual development, from a Buddhist point of view, would be developing the whole package in terms of developing ourselves as a person. We’re really working on ourselves as a person to become a more highly developed person, in the sense of someone who is realizing and using more and more of his or her potentials, I think, without a value judgment of saying a “better” person here. 

As a result of developing ourselves, we could say, on the one hand, that we are a happier person. I think that all spiritual traditions would say that inner development brings a happier state of mind than just having more money or more material objects, and that these do not ultimately satisfy us. Whereas if we have inner development, inner peace, and so on, that is a much more stable type of happiness. We could say that if we have become more spiritually developed, we are a happier person as a result. We have more inner peace because we have become free from the things that are preventing our development, such as disturbing emotions, nervous energy, worry, anger, attachment, and so on. We would have more peace of mind the more spiritually developed we are, and we would have a greater ability to be of help to others. Now, of course, we have to be motivated to reach that point, but that motivation of love, concern for others, that’s the type of quality that would develop if we were really spiritually developed. We wouldn’t just sit there and be happy by ourselves. 

Tantra as a Method for Spiritual Development 

We could say that if we achieve the goal in either Hindu or Buddhist tantra, we would be more highly spiritually developed. But the way that we’re conceiving of it would be different. The way that goal is described is quite different in Hinduism and Buddhism. Within both Hinduism and Buddhism, there are many, many varieties. Nevertheless, in the tantra practices of both, we are working with these figures with many arms, many faces, many legs. 

I am certainly not an expert in Hindu tantra. I haven’t studied it very deeply. What I am about to say may not be correct, but my understanding is that in Buddhism, we have much more emphasis on visualizing ourselves as one of these figures, whereas in Hindu tantra, it’s much more a devotional thing of having the figure in front of us, and us merging with it, rather than transforming ourselves into that figure. 

In both systems, we certainly develop concentration; that is absolutely the same in both. Many of us are already familiar with hearing about the Buddhist meditations of shamatha and vipashyana. Shamatha is a stilled and settled state of mind, and vipashyana is an exceptionally perceptive state of mind. These are not exclusive attainments in Buddhism. We find these in Hinduism as well. The methods might be slightly different, but it’s the same system. 

We have love and compassion in both Hinduism and Buddhism. In both, we also have a motivation to become free from uncontrollably recurring rebirth, samsara, and to gain liberation. The idea of what liberation is like is somewhat different, but certainly, the aim is there in both. We strive in both toward overcoming the disturbing emotions of anger and so on, and overcoming karma and compulsive behavior, though the understanding of karma is quite different. 

What is quite distinctive between Hindu and Buddhist tantra is the understanding of reality. The understanding of the self, how the self exists, and how everything exists, is very different. In some of the Hindu systems, there is a creator god. We don’t have that in Buddhism. What is also different in Buddhism is what we call “bodhichitta,” the goal of attaining our own future enlightened state in order to be the best help to everyone. The final goal is not, for instance, merging with Brahma or separating ourselves totally from the whole universe, or anything like that. The goal, the resultant thing that will be everlasting, is everlastingly helping others. That’s quite distinctly Buddhist. 

Also, what we have in common between the Hindu tantra, or tantras, as I’m not familiar with them, and the highest or fourth class of Buddhist tantra, is working with the subtle energy systems of the winds, the channels, the chakras, these sorts of things. The energy system that’s described in each, in Hinduism and Buddhism, is slightly different. The chakras are slightly different, the number of channels, these sorts of details are slightly different. However, even within Buddhism, we have several different presentations of how these channels and chakras are described. One explanation in Buddhism would say that we actually have all these systems simultaneously. In other words, our energy can work in each of these ways, through each of the different types of channel systems. It’s just that in a particular rebirth, one arrangement of the channels and chakras will be more predominant, but it’s not that one system is correct, and one is not correct. 

How is work with these energy channels used for spiritual development? This becomes an interesting question. In both systems, what we would try to do is gain control over the flow of the energies in the body and try to get to the subtlest level. However, what this subtlest level actually is that they are getting to in each system, how it is understood, and what the goal is in reaching it, may be quite different. 

In Buddhist tantra, we are trying to get to the subtlest level of mind because that’s the most conducive level of mind for understanding the Buddhist explanation of reality non-conceptually. Whereas in the Hindu systems, the goal might also be to get to the state of mind that can understand reality most efficiently, but what is arrived at would be quite a different understanding of reality. 

In both systems, there is the use of desire on the path. What do we mean by desire? We have sexual imagery in both, but the question is, what does the sexual imagery represent? Is it pornography? Certainly not. A sexual yogic practice done only when one is extremely advanced and has control over our subtle energy-system can be used to get to a more subtle level of mind, a blissful state of mind that is free of attachment, not disturbing, and can be used for gaining a better understanding of reality. What actually is meant by this blissful state of mind is different in Buddhism and Hinduism. In neither of these systems are we talking about ordinary sex, by any means. In Buddhist tantra, the male and female figure are referred to by the words “mother” and “father;” but these are not referred to as masculine and feminine. It’s not a union of masculine and feminine, as the Western psychologist Carl Jung interpreted it. Rather, mother and father are referring to method and wisdom, which will give birth to Buddhahood, like parents give birth to a child. 

What is also in common in the two systems, Hindu and Buddhist, is that as one gains perfect concentration and, simultaneously, control over the energy winds, and one gains special abilities, extrasensory type of perception, extraphysical types of abilities. There are various lists of these. Even within Buddhism, there are several different lists. I’m not familiar with the lists in Hinduism. I’m sure there are several lists there as well in Hindu tantra. However, these various special abilities that one gets because of control of the energy system and perfect concentration are to be used to further one on the spiritual path. In Buddhism, they are used to help others. Like, for instance, being able to perceive, from very far away, some sort of potentially dangerous situation, and being able to move extraordinarily quickly to get there in order to help. This is to benefit others. Or to be able to “read” other people’s thoughts and emotions. This is very helpful for being able to know how to help them, especially if the other person is not very communicative. 

An interesting question, I think, is whether there is a spiritual development that tantra can be used for that is neither traditional Hindu nor traditional Buddhist, but is traditional Jain. I haven’t looked into Jain, but it’s not very fully developed there, as far as I know. 

Harmful vs. Beneficial Aims 

In terms using these methods for spiritual development, I think we need to differentiate two possibilities. One would be a constructive use of these methods, and the other would be a destructive use of these methods. In other words, if we have the basic abilities of the human body and mind – the basis tantra – and we are using these tantra methods as a way to develop these abilities further, are we using the methods to develop the abilities in a beneficial way or in a harmful, destructive way? Even if we aren’t aiming for the highest state in Hinduism or Buddhism, and we’re aiming only at improving things in this lifetime, if we use these tantra methods to just increase our disturbing emotions, that would be very destructive. That would be spiritual regression rather than development, and we would be using our abilities in a way that is not going to be of help to us and certainly will not help anybody else. 

There are people who look at the tantra methods and have very little understanding of them. They may see the sexual imagery and think that tantra is a method for having exotic sex, and so they practice it in order to have exotic sexual experiences. That is certainly not beneficial for anybody. It just increases one’s attachment, desire and naivety. Or they use the tantra methods to gain control over their energies, and so on, to be able to have special powers in order to control others, to exploit them, to get them to do what they want for themselves, and so on. This again is something destructive, not beneficial. It’s a big ego trip, a power trip. Those are things that we would want to avoid. Some people might think that developing special powers is still spiritual development, but if we look at our working definition of what spiritual development is, this would instead be using various abilities for our own ego purposes, not really developing spiritually. It’s perhaps developing the self, but in a very destructive way. 

Another way to misuse tantra is, if we don’t have a clear understanding of reality, to imagine ourselves in the form of these figures in such a way where we could really become schizophrenic, completely out of touch with reality, and no different from somebody imagining that they are Napoleon or Cleopatra or Mickey Mouse. This would be misusing tantra based on either no understanding or incorrect understanding. 

If we’re not prepared and misuse tantric practice, it could really cause damage internally. Especially when working with the energy systems, we could really mess that up and get really sick, physically and mentally, from that. Also, if we misuse these methods, we just increase our disturbing emotions. To work with the energy systems, whether we’re doing this in a Hindu system, a Buddhist system, or a Chinese qigong system, or something else, we absolutely have to have excellent concentration. Without that concentration, we start moving these energies around and we lose control. It can really cause a lot of damage internally. 

Another question is whether there is a constructive way that we can use these tantric methods for spiritual development, but within the context of only being used for this lifetime and not necessarily working for the ultimate Hindu or Buddhist goal. I think that there can be, to a certain extent. 


I think here we have to differentiate an actual meditation practice from doing a ritual, because tantra practice is often associated with doing various rituals. We chant something that is usually descriptive of what we are visualizing, and we ring bells and play drums, and so on. There are a lot of ceremonial things that are involved with the ritual. That’s not associated with all levels of the tantra practice, but certainly, at the beginning levels of the practice, especially in the Buddhist practice. As I said, I’m not that familiar with Hindu rituals, whether they have a similar type of thing. I would guess that they do, but I don’t really know.

 In any case, if we are doing this type of ritual practice with no understanding of what we are doing, and we are just doing a ritual, either by ourselves or in a group, it could be just for a big ego trip of fantasy play, and that would not be very beneficial. We could be doing it thinking that we’re such an advanced practitioner and what we’re doing is so extraordinary, but actually it’s just a trip into fantasy land, and we have no idea really of what we are doing. Even if we have some idea, it’s a very vague idea of what we are doing. We’re just playing. It could easily go in the direction of following a cult. The teacher says to recite this, and it could be absolute nonsense what we’re reciting. We just blindly follow, like in a cult. That’s a destructive way that it could go, but it doesn’t have to go in that destructive way. 

On the other hand, there can be very constructive aspects of doing a ritual, even if we don’t have a very deep understanding of what we are doing. Of course, the more we understand what we are doing, the more beneficial it is. One key constructive aspect is that ritual gives structure and stability to our practice. It gives us something that we can repeat each day so that our practice can go deeper and deeper. Doing these types of things in a group can also provide us with a support group, so we don’t feel alone, that we’re not doing this crazy thing just by ourselves and it’s completely insane. Although, of course, it could be that there’s a group of us insane people doing it, but if we look at the positive aspect of this, it can be supportive. Regardless of what we are doing in our ordinary life, this is a stable thing that we do each day. Becoming more stable, more peaceful, is one aspect of spiritual development, which is not us necessarily going all the way in the direction of the ultimate Hindu or Buddhist goal. 


It’s the same thing with reciting mantras, which is another thing that we have in common in both Hindu and Buddhist tantras. The recitation of mantras, on the deeper level, is intended to help us to shape the breath, which shapes the energy and is a method to gain control of the energies so that we can go deeper and deeper and get to more and more subtle levels of energy. However, if we are just doing recitation of mantras on an ordinary level, not really having this more sophisticated understanding or aim, then mantras are still a very good way of calming the mind, of getting rid of worry and all sorts of obsessive, disturbing thoughts, and so on. They can be very calming, very stabilizing. They bring some level of spiritual development. 

Now, of course, it becomes more beneficial if we use the mantra to help us stay focused. For instance, in Buddhism, reciting “Om mani padme hum,” to stay focused on compassion. Even if we are not aiming for the compassion of a Buddha, if we are practicing with some aim, some mental thing going on while we are reciting the mantra, like trying to stay with thoughts of love and compassion, this certainly helps us with spiritual development. However, if we look at mantras as magic words that, if we say them, are going to give us powers or produce some sort of miracle change in us, then that’s not helpful at all. That’s going more on the destructive side and not developing our good qualities. 


We can also look at the visualization of Buddha-figures or yidams. “Yidam” has the connotation in Tibetan of something that we make a close bond or close association with for our mind. “Yi” is mind, and “dam” is the close bond. We want to make a close association with, or bond ourselves with this form. We visualize ourselves as this form, as a transformation of our ordinary qualities in order to develop all the good qualities that are represented by all the arms and legs and faces and so on. 

Even if we are not aiming for the ultimate Buddhist goal of enlightenment, if we imagine ourselves in these forms as a way of trying to be mindful of many things simultaneously, this can be helpful. Even if we are not doing this type of practice on the more complicated level of trying to be mindful of all the things that are represented by the multiple arms and so on, it is still helpful. We could just be doing it in terms of focusing on a certain aspect that is embodied by one of these figures, like compassion with Avalokiteshvara, who represents the compassion of the Buddhas, or wisdom and understanding with Manjushri, who represents the clarity of mind and the understanding of the Buddhas. We could imagine ourselves in these forms in order to gain a more positive self-image, in terms of being compassionate, being more understanding, and so on. 

Understanding Reality

In Buddhism, we’re not doing this type of practice just in terms of, what we would call in the West, the “power of positive thinking.” We are making this transformation on the basis of understanding reality, how we exist, and so on. We are not this truly existent deity walking around with all these arms and so on. We understand that we’re not there yet. We understand that this is like an illusion. It’s not something that is solid and real. 

The power of positive thinking, in terms of Western psychology, doesn’t necessarily have this understanding of reality, of how we actually exist. Even without that understanding of how we truly exist, it can be beneficial to do the practice thinking in terms of having more compassion, more understanding, abilities, and so on, just in terms of gaining self-confidence. However, one has to be very careful. The danger here is of ego inflation and overconfidence. 

In short, we have this tantra method, and it can be used as a method for spiritual development in the sense of developing the various positive qualities that we all have as a basis tantra. Also, it can be used for achieving a resultant tantra, a continuum of what would be considered the Buddhist goal or could be considered a Hindu goal. If we’re not working for these types of ultimate goals, which include the intention to overcome uncontrollably recurring rebirth, our karma, etc., we could also use this method on a much less complete level, for some type of improvement, even within the context of this one lifetime, but we have to be careful that it doesn’t go in a destructive way of just increasing our disturbing emotions. 

“The Real Thing” Tantra and “Tantra-Lite” 

If we are going to follow tantra practice within a Buddhist context, we need to appreciate that it is a very, very advanced practice. It requires a tremendous amount of preparation in terms of building up all these qualities that we want to try to practice simultaneously with the actual real tantra practice. We can’t put concentration, love, compassion, understanding of reality, etc., together and practice them simultaneously if we haven’t first developed them individually. However, if we, as Buddhist practitioners, have been exposed to tantra quite prematurely on our spiritual path, and we’re already engaged in some sort of practice, that’s fine. We can practice it on the level of just trying to get some sort of spiritual development within the context of this lifetime. This is what I refer to as a “Dharma-Lite” version of tantra. But we can do the practice with the aim that it function as a stepping stone toward “The Real Thing” tantra practice. While we’re doing this “Dharma-Lite”, sort of mumbling mantras and doing some rituals and not really knowing very deeply what we’re doing, or just knowing technically what we’re supposed to be doing, this is a step toward really working on gaining the concentration, gaining the love, gaining the understanding of reality so that we can do this type of practice on “The Real Thing” level. 

It is very important that we be honest with ourselves and others. It’s important that we don’t pretend to ourselves that we’re such a great advanced practitioner, and we don’t try to show off to others that we’re such a great advanced practitioner, when we are in fact practicing Tantra-Lite. We need to be honest with ourselves, not pretentious, acknowledging that this is where we’re at now. “This is what I’m practicing. I aim to be able to do ‘The Real Thing,’ and what I’m doing now is a stepping stone toward that goal.” 

Thank you. Do you have some questions? 

Question about Buddha-Nature and Hindu Beliefs 

You spoke about the differences between Hindu and Buddhist tantra. I guess that the main difference is that in Hinduism they talk about atman and in Buddhism about selflessness. But if we try to compare Buddha-nature with the absolute in Hinduism, what will be the difference here? 

That’s a difficult question because there are many different variations and systems within Tibetan Buddhism, if we limit ourselves to Tibetan Buddhism here. 

In some systems, like in the Jonang system, we’re talking about some level of Buddha-nature that is the actual qualities of a Buddha, the actual physical body of a Buddha, the actual mind of a Buddha, etc., which are there in us on a basis level, but which are not functioning now because they are obscured. However, they are there, and they are quite separate from our conventional reality, conventional things, which are produced based on the mind that has these Buddha-nature factors obscured by ignorance, etc. 

These qualities are described in Jonang, but we would have in some Kagyu and Nyingma systems what’s called the other-voidness (zhentong) view. The other-voidness view is that these Buddha-nature qualities and so on are everlasting, eternal. In the Zhentong view, these qualities are everlasting, and these are innate qualities of a continuum. They are not affected by anything, in the sense that they aren’t growing from something, but they are stable, though they may not be functioning now because they’re obscured. They are not something that we have to develop. They are there all along. The resultant state that we are aiming to achieve is to separate the actual level from the conventional level so that the mind in its confusion is no longer generating these conventional appearances, which are an illusion. 

On the surface, this sounds very Hindu. Nonetheless, it’s different from Hindu, in that although this actual level of Buddha-nature qualities is separated from generating a conventional level, it’s not as though we are separating a true self from everything else, and then just existing either merged with God or just totally separate. Although our own Buddha mind is not generating all these conventional appearances, we know that everybody else who’s not a Buddha has minds that are generating these illusions, and we are involved very much in trying to help them. So, this is quite different. It’s not that we just separate ourselves off, and then that illusion is gone in an absolute sense. 

As for being involved in helping others, “involved” just means engaged. Whether it’s with effort or not is not the issue here. As a Buddha, it would be, obviously, without effort, but that’s not the variable that I am talking about here. That’s a completely different variable, whether it’s effortless or with effort. We just want to be involved in some way and not separated off from everyone and everything in a liberated state.

Understanding the differences between the Buddha-nature qualities and the atman becomes complicated because we also have many different Hindu schools. Some Hindu schools would say that the self that is transcendent and separated from all of this conventional reality doesn’t have any qualities. In some systems, that self has consciousness, but with no object. In some systems, it doesn’t even have consciousness. Buddhism never says that. In the Samkhya system, qualities – even consciousness – are aspects of the conventional material world, not qualities of the self. Qualities don’t pertain to the self – consciousness, for instance, is just a quality of a functioning brain – so we try to separate ourselves from all of that conventional world. In the Jonang tradition of Buddhism, they would say that this deepest level, this actual level, which is not understood in terms of being a solid “me” or something like that, is truly established in the sense that it truly has innate qualities. This is what “truly established” means in this context, not that it can exist by itself with no qualities. 

Then, there are other systems of Tibetan Buddhism that would not conceive of this deepest Buddha-nature basis level, or the resultant level, as some sort of transcendent thing, dissociated from conventional truth or conventional reality. For instance, in the Gelugpa tradition. That’s really different. In these systems, conventional truth is like an illusion. It’s not the same as an illusion. It is like an illusion in the sense that it appears to exist in a way in which it doesn’t exist. However, we can clear away the projection of the impossible way of existing, and we have a basis there of the actual conventional truth, which is accurate in terms of not only what it appears to be, but how it appears to exist. As a Buddha, we are involved with that, in helping to clear away the projection. Of course, before we are a Buddha, we are also involved with that. We’re trying to help others. 

Question about the Energy-Winds 

Concerning the winds and channels, how do the four levels of blissful awareness correspond to the dissolving of the four elements – earth, fire, water, and wind – and the three appearances?

Well, that’s a rather complicated issue because we can generate those four blissful types of awareness at many different stages of the practice. This is going to get technical. Those of you who don’t know all the technical detail, just forget about it because it will be confusing. There isn’t time enough to explain all the technical detail. 

We have the generation stage and complete stage in anuttarayoga tantra. Even on the generation stage, in our imagination, we can practice imagining the four levels of blissful awareness. It’s not pervasive that this is on the complete stage practice. On the complete stage practice, where we’re actually working with the energy-channels and energy-systems, when we reach a certain level of that, beyond the beginning levels, we are able to withdraw the energy-winds into the central channel and get them to enter there, abide there, and start to dissolve. There are many stages to this. 

In that process of starting to dissolve, we then have certain subtle energies that are associated with the four gross elements of earth, fire, water and wind. The four types of subtle winds that are associated with these gross elements come in, they stay, and they start to dissolve in stages into the central channel. This has various stages. That’s what it means when they say that the elements dissolve. It’s not that the gross elements dissolve, like dissolving a sugar cube in water. 

After those subtle energy-winds of the four elements dissolve, then we get what’s called the three appearances, or the three appearance-makers, which entail the dissolution of even more subtle winds. The fourth stage after that is called the clear light mind stage. 

Although we could experience the four levels of bliss, one each with these three appearances and clear light – the white appearance, red increase, black near-attainment and clear light – it is not necessarily with those four. Just as we can practice with our imagination on the generation stage, we can also practice and experience these four blisses on all the various stages on the complete stage, not just the stages where we actually have these three appearances and clear light. The definitional level of the four blisses would be with the three appearances and the clear light mind, but there are many practices that are using that structure of the four blisses in a slightly non-definitional way, both on the generation stage and on all the various parts on the complete stage.

Question about Finding a Qualified Teacher 

How does one find a qualified teacher? 

Well, that’s very difficult because there are many teachers that come now to your city, Moscow, but that doesn’t mean that all of them are qualified. Even if they are qualified, that doesn’t necessarily mean that we have a connection with them and they inspire us. 

The important points of a spiritual teacher are that they are qualified and that they inspire us. We might not feel any connection with a fully qualified teacher, so we have to look around, and that’s not so easy. We have to think about how to judge the qualifications of a teacher. A teacher could pretend. Somebody that is just a charlatan could say that they’re a teacher and claim to have qualities that they don’t have. We have to really see for ourselves, ask others, look at what they have written, listen to their teachings, see whether they actually follow what they say. 

There are many different levels of teachers, so we can learn information from somebody without them necessarily being our deep spiritual teacher that inspires us. There are many different things that we can learn from many different levels of teacher, and we ourselves go through various stages. We might not yet be at the stage where we can be a properly qualified disciple of a qualified teacher. We might just be somebody that’s looking around, but we’re not really committed. We go through different stages.

Original Audio from the Seminar