The Unique Preliminaries
Next, go outside and, while visualizing yourself as a deity, present a white torma and request supportive activity. In front of your doorway, place the torma for the obstructing forces adorned with flesh, blood, garlic, onions, and so forth.
syllable HUM transforms it into sublime sense pleasures that manifest as precisely whatever one desires. Finally, the syllable HOH consecrates the torma by transforming it into the nectar of undefiled wisdom.
their right hands and hooks in their left, they summon into your presence all the mischievous spirits, obstructing forces, and elemental spirits, all of whom are powerless to disobey you. Issue your command to these beings, then offer them a torma and send them off to their
crushed by wrathful weapons and powerful flaming rays. As you imagine all this, recite the verses for expelling obstructing forces from your sadhana, burn some resin incense, throw wrathful mantras and charmed substances, and seal your practice by remaining free of reference point.
Drawing the Boundary
up white stones, which can be situated either seventy steps away from the place where you are practicing or beside your door. Once this is done, visualize that the Great Kings are mobilized and dissolve into the altar, then present offerings, praise, and request their protective
activity. Imagine that the Four Kings oversee the periphery with delight, and that the entire surroundings become completely covered by a protective dome. This is the establishment of the outer boundary. In the context of approach, practices such as subjugating samaya demons and
Next, come back inside, close your door, and abandon distractions and wanderings. For the inner boundary, visualize the entire base of the protection dome as a ground composed of vajras and the entire upper part as
fence. The fence is devoid of gaps; instead, every opening is patched by small conjoined vajras that seem melded together. The exterior is covered by a lattice which is completely bound by crossed-vajra cords. The top of the dome is covered by half-vajra tips and the midsection
braced by strings of vajras. The whole dome is blue and is shaped like a helmet. Wisdom fire of five colors radiates out from this dome, spreading in all directions. Some systems describe the shape of the dome as either
oval or spherical, but they all come down to the same essential meaning: the fact that there are no open spaces anywhere within the vast and spacious
protection dome. The dome is surrounded by various kinds of small wrathful emanations and weapons, which amass like rainclouds. These, in turn, are themselves surrounded by three successive domes of fire, water, and wind.-
syllable BHRUM. Its center is vast and spacious, while its spokes are as far-reaching as the basic space of phenomena. Between the ten inner spokes, on seats made of lotus, moon, and sun discs, visualize ten wrathful emanations emerging from ten HUM syllables.
Other visualizations may also be taught at this point, such as visualizing the deity Usnisacakravartin as the vast and spacious belly of Vairocana in the inner empty part of the protective dome, but it suffices to follow the instructions that are mentioned in each sadhana ritual.
Thus, having established a boundary with the protective dome, imagine that all demons and treacherous spirits are prevented from approaching, while you and all those in need of protection are safe inside. As you imagine all this, chant the verses for establishing the boundary. This comprises the inner boundary.
Within the state of innate luminosity, which has never been tainted by the dualistic delusion of a perceiver and perceived, seal your practice by seeing the lack of inherent nature of all the demons, obstructing forces, and adventitious
If you will need to meet someone during your retreat, visualize that person included within the protective dome. Do not come into contact with anyone else, and stop engaging in any material exchange with the outside world. Do not dissolve this protective dome until the last session at the end of the retreat,
and visualize it at the beginning of each practice session. There are also practice traditions whereby other activities may be performed at this point, such as arranging offerings, accumulating merit, and purifying the obscurations.
To summarize, from the establishment of the inner boundary onwards you must maintain the physical retreat of not seeing other people, the verbal retreat of refraining from ordinary communication, and the mental retreat of not getting caught up in negative thought patterns associated with the afflictions, such
as attachment and aversion. At the same time, you must also maintain mindfulness, introspection, and attention. For your virtuous endeavors to be effective, you should practice in four sessions: at dawn, in the morning, in the afternoon, and in the evening.
For the shower of blessings to take place, with fervent devotion visualize yourself as the deity and imagine rays of light emanating from your heart center. Accompany this with specially prepared incense, melodious chanting, and music. In this way, invoke the assembly of deities of the three roots. From the natural expanse imagine all their blessings of wisdom, love, and ability, as well as their spiritual accomplishments, in the form
as seed syllables, and their enlightened minds as symbolic implements. Imagine that all of these dissolve into you, your dwelling place, and all the ritual articles, endowing you with the nourishing power of glorious, great wisdom.
For those of superior faculties, whenever any perception of the six collections of consciousness arises, the knot of perceiver and perceived vanishes—selfliberated from the moment it manifests. Through this, whatever appears arises as the outer, inner, and secret offering clouds. This is the descent of blessings of the great wisdom of infinite purity.
According to the sutras, the vehicle of characteristics, the actual offerings are consecrated and emanated through the recitation of dharani mantras, knowledge mantras, the power of devotion, and the power of truth. In
the mantra vehicle, however, they are consecrated by five practices: going for refuge, deity, mantra, meditative absorption, and mudra. With this in mind, visualize yourself as the deity and imagine the syllables RAM, YAM, and KHAM emanating from your heart center.
believing that the offering articles are real, until nothing remains. From the state of emptiness the syllable BHRUM then appears and transforms into a vast, open jewel vessel. Within this vessel the syllable OM gives rise to the flowers of divine substances and the rest of the five common outer offerings, to the unique inner offerings, including the self-arisen flowers of the five sense faculties, to the wrathful offerings of the charnel grounds,
and so forth. Every desirable thing throughout samsara and nirvana is present, without anything missing. Imagine that clouds of coundess offering goddesses, each carrying her own individual offering, radiate out from each of these offerings and fill the entirety of space.
For the inner offering of medicine, visualize wind, fire, and a tripod made from a human skull arising from the syllables YAM, RAM, and KHAM. On top of the tripod a vast open skull cup, containing the five meats and the five nectars, emerges from the syllable AH or the syllable BHRUM. Human flesh and excrement are in the middle of this skull cup, cow meat and semen in the east, dog meat and brain in the south, horse meat and
menses in the west, and elephant meat and urine in the north. Next, visualize the syllables HRIH and BAM, TRAM and MAM, OM and MUM, and AH and TAM above each of their respective offering substances. These syllables then transform into the male and female buddhas of the five families.- A stream of red and white bodhicitta then flows from the place where the male and female deities unite and fills the skull cup. At the
conclusion of this process, the deities melt into light and dissolve into the offering substances. Imagine that this becomes a swirling ocean of wisdom nectar, and that sense pleasure goddesses emanate from each of its droplets.
Mingle indivisibly, swirling white and red.
For enemies it becomes a dangerous weapon.
For the inner offering of rakta, atop the wind, fire, and skull stand described above, visualize a vast, open vessel made from a fresh skull with the hairs still on it. Next, imagine that all the concepts of craving and attachment related to the three realms coalesce within it in the form of blood. In the middle of this swirling blood visualize the rakta goddess Gitima. Red and naked, she holds a knife and a skull cup. From her bhaga, a
stream of rakta flows down, mingling inseparably with the substances of the skull cup and filling it completely. Finally, the goddess melts into light and dissolves into the articles. This creates surging waves within the ocean of rakta, which is essentially detached great bliss, and causes clouds of sense pleasures to emanate forth.
For the inner offering of torma, visualize a vast, open skull cup or jewel vessel. Within this vessel is a torma made of various foods, a divine nectar endowed with a hundred flavors and an inexhaustible treasure made of
a mass of desirable things. Imagine that countless clouds of offering goddesses emanate from the torma, each carrying delightful and appeasing offering articles for all the outer, inner, and secret guests.
Everything up to this point concerns the stages of the common and unique preliminaries.
This section consists of :
(1) an abridged teaching on the general meaning and
(2) an elaborate explanation of the meaning of the scripture.
This section covers:
(1) the intent of the individual classes of tantra,
A tantra explains:
All skillful practitioners
Who aspire to the completion stage
Should practice the development stage, starting with the foundation.
The Instructions of the Lord of Secrets states:
In short, the development stage involves transforming all impure appearances into pure appearances and meditating on the mandala circle. The completion stage involves meditating conceptually on the channels, winds, and essences in order to realize the wisdom of empty bliss and meditating nonconceptually on the absorption of the true nature.
The first of these two, the development stage, can be divided into three types:
The defining characteristic of the development stage is to give rise to the divine form of empty appearance using concepts and fabrications concomitant with blissful melting. Furthermore, the development stage has four unique qualities, as described by the saint Kunga Nyingpo in the following passage:
Its unique rituals are the complete development stage rituals taught in the tantras. Its unique result is the capacity to develop the power of mantra. Its unique essence is the nature of emptiness and blissful melting. Its unique function is the completion of purification, perfection, and maturation.
You receive the spiritual accomplishments of practice
In the manner of a master and a servant.
In practice tantra the two are indivisible during the main practice,
Yet in the preparatory and concluding stages they are two, as the deity is invoked and later departs.
As oudined here, in action tantra generally the practitioner does not imagine himself as the deity. However, in particular instances, the deity, or the wisdom being, is regarded as a king and you, the samaya being, regard yourself as his subject. With this approach you emphasize acts of ritual purity and
And thinking of yourself as a servant,
Accomplish the mantra and receive the most supreme—
In performance tantra the view is the same as in practice tantra while the conduct is the same as in action tantra. Here you receive the spiritual accomplishments as though you and the deity are siblings or friends. This occurs through a state of equality between you as the practitioner, visualized as the samaya being, and the wisdom deity that you have visualized in front of yourself. The General Tantra of the Three Families mentions this:
As though from a sibling or a friend.
In practice tantra you meditate on yourself as the deity and, by invoking and dissolving the wisdom deity, you and the wisdom deity become indivisible. At the conclusion of performing offerings, praise, and recitations, you receive the spiritual accomplishments and the deity is requested to depart.
In mahayoga the emphasis is on gradually developing the mandala based on the three samadhis, whereby you meditate on the indivisibility of the deity and concept. In anuyoga it is held that all phenomena are, by their very nature, indivisible from the three mandalas, and that the root mandala of the awakened mind is primordially enlightened. As such, the form of the deity emerges as an expression of the unceasing play of Samantabhadra.
The Magical Key to the Treasury explains:
The anuyoga of completion holds that
Are not developed, but perfect
In the vehicle of anuyoga,
By merely expressing the essence,
The Compendium teaches:
The outer, inner, and secret mandalas are arranged.
According to atiyoga the spontaneously present appearances of the Direct Crossing manifest from the primordial pure basic space of the Thorough Cut as the gathering of divine forms. These forms are the expression of awareness, the natural manifestation of unceasing dependent arising. In this way the mind
focuses on the vivid appearance of the thoroughly established deity of great purity and equality. This accords with the approach of most of the practice manuals in the tradition of the key instructions of the heart essence.
In terms of ornaments, deities of the outer tantras have jewel crowns, While in the inner tantras they wear bone ornaments and other such things. In the outer tantras you offer the three white substances, Whereas in the inner tantras the five meats and five nectars are offered.
Are common to the outer and inner tantras alike.
The appearances of the various phenomena of samsara manifest in dependence upon our having taken birth within existence. For this reason, the primary elements of samsara are the four types of birth. To purify the habitual tendencies associated with these four types of birth, four corresponding styles of development stage meditation are taught.
A tantra explains:
There are four types of development:
The very elaborate, the elaborate,
The simple, and the completely simple.
The Very Elaborate Development Stage
First we will examine the very extensive development stage that purifies egg birth. The following accords with the process of being born from an egg, which takes place in two stages. Begin by taking refuge and giving rise to the awakened mind. Next, visualize yourself instandy as the primary male and female consorts and invite the deities of the mandala into the space before you.
The unique feature of this approach is to first visualize in a concise manner and then in an extensive manner according to the systems of your own children and another’s child. The Eight Great Sadhana Teachings mention this process:
There are five steps involved in making others your child:
(4) the greatness of nonduality is developed; and
Making yourself the child of another has eight parts:
As outlined here, since you yourself are a thus-gone one at the time of the ground, the thus-gone ones are transformed into your children. And to ensure that the potential of the thus-gone ones does not decline, you become the child of others. This is how the great Rongzom explained it. He also taught that when you meditate on these practices there is no fixed progression.
Next we will examine the intermediate development stage that purifies womb birth. This stage involves three approaches. First, the condensed approach, the ritual of the three vajras, which accords with father tantra. Its objects of purification are
(2) the fetus, and
The process of purification involves meditating on the features of the symbolic implements, such as the five-spoked vajra. This, in turn, purifies the mind (the object of purification), transforming it into vajra mind. The symbolic implements are then transformed into, or visualized as being marked by, a HUM
twofold benefit. Finally, the symbolic implement undergoes a fundamental transformation into the complete form of the deity, along with its ornaments and apparel. This ripens the ordinary body into the enlightened body.
Second, the occurrence of the seed.
Third, the complete form.
Fourth, setting out the syllable.
Here the corresponding objects of purification are
(2) a disembodied consciousness coalescing with the semen and ovum,
(3) entry into the womb,
These five can be applied to the five paths. The process of purification for the first three is the three samadhis. The process of purification for the fourth is the five manifestations of enlightenment. The Hevajra Tantra explains:
The seven of seven, equality.
All becoming one is perseverance itself,
The process of purification for the fifth element begins with visualizing divine appearance (the support and the supported of the Great Seal) and extends throughout the four aspects of approach and accomplishment that contain the instructions on the “four stakes that bind the life force” all the way up to the ritual’s dissolution stage.
The condensed development stage ritual purifies the habitual tendencies connected with birth from heat and moisture. In this approach the object of purification is the completion of a body that emerges from heat and moisture.
The extremely concise development stage ritual purifies the habitual tendencies associated with miraculous birth. Here the deity is instantaneously visualized merely by uttering the essential syllable. On this topic The Tantra of the Natural Arising of Awareness states:
In this way an individual of the highest caliber can visualize the primordial deity, the essence of mind, recalling it perfectly in a single moment, just as though he or she were seeing a reflection in a mirror.
Of these four types of birth, womb birth and egg birth are purified using the mahayoga approach, while birth from heat and moisture is purified with the anuyoga approach and miraculous birth is purified using the atiyoga approach.
When practicing these approaches, the existence that resembles cyclic existence is cleansed and purified, while the fruition that resembles passing beyond suffering is perfected in the ground. Both of these features will mature you for the completion stage. This is the general understanding.
Generally speaking, for those who begin these practices, these four approaches, with their varying levels of complexity, are primarily taught as specific ways to purify each of the four types of birth. In reality, however, there is no difference in terms of the degree of purification achieved by these four approaches.
The Condensed Realization explains:
Practitioners of superior capacity understand that utterly pure simplicity— which is unfabricated, naturally occurring, spontaneously present, and primordially clear—is the essence of the deity. Practitioners of moderate capacity understand that the self-existing expression of unfabricated and
where all forms are male and female deities. In this way the deities manifest like fish jumping from a lake. With pure faith and samaya vows intact, the deity is clearly visualized through the five manifestations of enlightenment and the three samadhis.
According to The Tantra of the Layered Lotus Stems, each of these three categories can be divided into three subcategories, for a total of nine divisions. Such variations may be learned from their respective sources.
This section consists of:
(1) the practice of equipoise and
(2) the practice of the ensuing attainment.
The practice of equipoise has three divisions:
There are five subdivisions in this section:
(1) the framework of the three samadhis,
(3) invoking the wisdom beings and requesting them to remain,
First, relax your mind and do not chase after any confused thoughts. Then let go for a moment, and rest in the simplicity of reality—the state of empty awareness that transcends words and concepts. This is the samadhi of suchness, also known as “the practice of great emptiness,” “the vajralike absorption,” and “the
also purifies the death state into the dharma body. Hence, this is classified as the essence of awareness, the inconceivable aspect. In this context, you rest without visualizing the protection dome and the other elements outlined above. However, you must understand that they are not entirely absent either.
Out of this state of emptiness, meditate for a brief moment with nonreferential illusory compassion towards all sentient beings who do not realize their own indwelling wisdom. This is the samadhi of total illumination. The practice of illusory compassion is also known as “the absorption of the heroic gait”
and “the absorption of wishlessness.” It eliminates the extreme of nihilism and purifies the habitual tendencies connected to the form realm. It also transforms existence in the intermediate state and perfects it into the enjoyment body. Hence, this samadhi is classified as the radiance of awareness, the aspect of the unobstructed nature of compassion.
Once compassion has stirred the mind out of this nonconceptual state, the essence of your mind assumes the form of a seed syllable, such as a HÜM or a HRÏH, which manifests brilliantly in the unsupported, empty expanse of space. Focusing on such a seed syllable is the causal samadhi, the training in the subtie syllable that is one aspect of the single mudrâ. The causal samadhi is also known as “the illusory absorption” and “the
Here meditating on the assembly of deities connected with the support and the supported constitutes the training in the coarse divine form, while meditating in a more elaborate way with companions, faces, hands, etc. constitutes the training in the elaborate mudra. These are the four practices of the
In this context you will find the mantra
OM SVABHAVA SUDDHAH SARVADHARMAH SVABHAVA SUDDHO’HAM.
is “I am the very embodiment of the nature of vajra wisdom and great emptiness.” In this mantra the phrase “great emptiness” refers to the samadhi of suchness, while the remainder refers to the samadhi of total illumination and the causal samadhi.
The Mandalas of the Support and the Supported
and BHRUM emerge, one by one, within the space of a vast protective dome. They emerge from the previously visualized seed syllable of the causal samadhi. The letter E completely purifies all clinging to reality and then transforms into a blue triangle of limitless size whose
shaped like a dark-green cross rimmed with dark-green light. Above this cross the syllable RAM transforms into a fire mandala shaped like a red triangle rimmed with red light. Above this, the syllable BAM transforms into a white spherical water mandala rimmed with white light.
transforms into Mount Meru composed of four types of jewels and with four terraces. Upon Mount Meru is a multicolored crossed-vajra in the center of which is BHRUM, the seed syllable of Usnisacakravartin.
This syllable then transforms into a square celestial palace of precious wisdom. To indicate that reality itself is free from elaborations, its center is spherical. Its four walls represent the four truths, and it is surrounded by a gallery that represents the unity of the two truths. As a sign that each of
the wisdoms is endowed with the four superior wisdoms through which the wishes of those to be tamed are fulfilled, beautiful bejeweled ledges with the colors of the four families jut out from the four walls.
The four entry ways, representing the four complete liberations, are accompanied by beautiful porticos. To indicate traversing the eight vehicles, there are four steps inside and outside of the doorways respectively—these are the eight causal architraves. As a sign that the qualities of the tenet systems of
lotus, the casket, the lattice, the cluster ornament, the garland, and the rainspout ledge, layered one upon the other forming a sort of projected molding, the top of which is ornamented with garuda heads.
On top of each vestibule there is a Dharma wheel resting on a lotus and surmounted by a parasol. Two deer sit beautifully next to each Dharma wheel, one to each side. At the top of the five layers of the wall, which represent the display of nondual wisdom, are jeweled hangings—pearl lattices and tassels
suspended from lion heads. Above these are jewel lattices and tasseled streamers of the top border. Facing outward from these are jewel rainspouts suspended from the eaves, above which is a parapet that ornaments the palace. Banners, parasols, victory banners, and so forth are displayed all around.
Symbolizing that the sense pleasures are not abandoned, but arise as ornaments of realization, many offering goddesses bearing aloft offering substances are gathered like clouds on the platform of delights that protrudes from the palace. Envision all of this as completely transparent and open. As a sign that the wisdom of the basic space of phenomena is limidess, the pinnacle of a heap of jewels at the center of the roof is
adorned with a jewel vajra topornament that one never tires of beholding. Door ornaments, bells, silk streamers, trees, and every other adornment also beautify the area. Encircling the outer enclosure are lotuses, along with charnel grounds encircled by vajra fences and blazing fires.-7
The specific characteristics of wrathful mandalas are as follows. There is an ocean of rakta, a ground of human skin, and Mount Meru, which is composed of skeletons. On its summit is a multicolored crossed-vajra resting within a great mass of wisdom fire. At the center of this crossed-vajra is a square celestial palace with four doors. Its gallery is composed of either gold or blood, whichever is appropriate, and its walls are made
various types of skulls with garlands of intestines and hearts. On the streamers of the top border are lattices and tassels made of snakes and garlands of skulls. The rainspouts are made of hands and feet; the ledge is made of backbones and ribs; and the lower part of each door is made
the door itself are made of human skin. To the right and left of the Dharma wheel are baby crocodiles resting atop the architraves. Above them are parasols made of human skin. The ceiling is also made of human skin. The central chamber has a
In the center, cardinal, and intermediate directions of the palace are the seats for the deities. As a sign of fulfilling the wishes of those to be tamed, these thrones are made of precious jewels and are supported by
fearless lions, mighty elephants, and so on. They are surmounted by jeweled lotuses, which symbolize being untainted by the flaws of samsara. The anthers of the lotus are covered with the sun and moon discs of skillful means and knowledge. These and other elements are included, depending on the context. Wrathful deities may be seated on animals, Rudra, a corpse, lotus, sun and moon discs, and so forth. These aspects of the visualization should be spelled out in the text you are using.