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in Buddhadharma

On Buddhist Tantra

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"This space within the heart - therein is the person, consisting of mind, immortal, resplendent." -
Taittirya Upaniad, 1.6

"There are those whose capacity of the Mahyna lineage is not meagre, whose minds are strongly
moved by great compassion through having trained in the common path sustained by a spiritual
guide, and excellent protector. They are in great haste to free from cyclic existence the kind mothers
wandering there. They should enter the short path, the profound Vajra Vehicle that quickly bestows
the state of a Blessed Buddha, the sole refuge of all sentient beings."
Tsongkhapa : The Great Exposition of Secret Mantra, part one, Reasons for Faith.

"But in the first place, it is the one method of producing Heruka, and it is by such production that men
are relased, O Vajragarbha of Great Compassion."
The Hevajra Tantra, chapter 1:10.

"Seeing this excellent yoga supreme, the others are like worm-infested straw."
The Cakrasamvara Tantra, chapter IV.

Hindu Tantra : An Appraisal
The Rise of Buddhist Tantra
Requisites for Mahyna Tantra & General Principles
The Four Tantra Sets : Levels of Desire
Guru Yoga : Outer, Inner & Secret
Generation Stage Yoga and Deity Yoga
Completion Stage Yoga and Inner Fire Yoga
Critique of Tibetan Buddhist Tantra
The Mandala of the Navayna
The Subtle Body & the Harmony of Li & Kan
Towards A Pan-Erotic Tantra

Left : Tangkha of Medicine Yoga
with the Seven Wheels used in Completion Stage Tantra
Right : Buddhist Channels, Wheels & Drops.
Referring to the idea of one active underlying principle ("eka"), the Sanskrit word
"tantra" means "weft, loom, warp, context, continuum". In Tibetan, "tantra" is
known as "ju" ("rgyud"), meaning "thread, string", or "that which joins things

In this case, the "joining" intended is the "melting" of the "white drops" (in the
crown-wheel) under the influence of the "inner fire" produced by the "red drops"
(in the sacral wheel), allowing the six knots of the heart-wheel to loosen, enabling
consciousness to recognize the Clear Mind of the "indestructible drop", placing the
"great seal" (mahmudr) on every phenomenon. This is the joining of "heaven"
and "earth", resulting in the enlightened mind.

In Tantra, the underlying principle is the quality of oneness ("eka"). Hinduism,
contrary to the three Abrahamic faiths, remained more henotheist than
monotheist. Moreover, for Tantra, the underlying principle is not passive, remote
or uninterested in mundane, nominal, conventional existence. On the contrary, all
possible activity is its actual display or play ("lila"). There is no "mundane"
existence. Nor is there a "transcendent" existence. There is one pan-sacral reality
(the One Thing). To call it "Brahman", "Dharmakya" or "Tao" does not eclipse the
underlying nameless principle itself.

Historically, Buddhist Tantra was introduced by Mahyna Buddhism by the 2nd
century CE. Some insist the Tantras are not actual teachings of the Buddha.
Others, for good reasons, assert they originate from the Hindu tradition. There are
even those who claim Hindu Tantra was derived from Buddhist Tantra !
Traditionally, the origin of Buddhist Tantra is supposed to be rooted in the Fourth
Turning of the Wheel by Buddha kyamuni and meant for superior practioners.
Namely those who integrated the First, Second & Third Turnings and realized the
nondual "seeing" of emptiness (on the first "bhmi" & higher).

With the rise of the Pla dynasty of Bihar & Bengal (760 - 1142 CE), Buddhist
Tantra became a systematic body of teachings from the 8th century onwards,
entering Buddhist universities. At that point, Buddhist Tantra was "purged" from
explicit sexual acts (internalized) and formalized. Antinomian (and a-social,
transgressive) elements were deemed part of a "logic of reversal" -steeped in
doublespeak & a "twilight language"- necessary for speeding up spiritual evolution.
Invoking, in a monastic context, afflictive & non-afflictive emotions (like anger,
hatred, cruelty, arrogance, pride etc) was possible (albeit highly ritualized &
mostly visualized). But explicit sexuals acts were replaced by an erotic symbolism
expounding the unity of compassion (the ultimate method to accumulate vast
merit) and emptiness, realized by wisdom-mind.

In Tibetan Tantra, this is called "yab-yum", or "father-mother" unity, i.e. a male
Buddha with his female consort. Monks vowing to be celibate, mostly replaced this
wisdom-consort (the woman with whom the tantric has sex) with internal
processes (sensualisations). However, in the Highest Yoga Tantra, actual erotic
contact is crucial and thus deemed necessary !

The fact Tantra integrates desire into the path remained. Indeed, instead of
denying one the nature of the fire of the desire realm, wherein "all dharmas are on
fire", the tantric makes desire appear together with emptiness. Desire becomes
the highest "method" denied self-subsisting, self-powered substance by a ever-
present wisdom realizing the ultimate nature of all possible phenomena : lack of
substance but presence of process. This said, without compassion (revealing this
process) and a generic image (concept) of emptiness (the culmination of the Path
of Preparation), Tantra is dangerous, leading to a hellish rebirth. This is why
Tsongkhapa stressed prelonged emptiness meditations before entering the tantric

In Tibet, Buddhist Tantra became strongly interlinked with specific yogic
techniques, in particular Inner Fire Yoga, making the "winds" enter, abide and
cease in the central channel of the subtle body (the so-called "Vajra Body"), and
the preparation of this crucial event in Deity Yoga. The importance of fire and the
"flame of Agni" goes back to the Vedic seers (cf. the Kein Hymn from the Rig
Veda), while the Yogas for "moving the winds" may go back to Chinese (Taoist)

Indeed, the importance & influence of the latter must be taken into account.
Indeed, using Chinese information (from Inner Alchemy and Ch'i Kung, especially
the harmony between Wei Dan & Nei Dan manifest in the enlightened ones as the
energetic balance between Li -Fire- and Kan -Water-), enables the Navayna (new
vehicles) to develop novel tantric techniques and better understand the traditional
accounts (in particular those related to the "white" and "red" drops). This may
revolutionize Buddhist Tantra, making it more operational & less symbolic
(restoring the original intent, ripping away cultural overlay & monastic

"Tantrayna" or "Vajrayna" did not introduce a new view on reality and is based
on the same wisdom realizing emptiness as the Great Perfection Vehicle. The
crucial difference is one of method only.

By filling the two "baskets" of merit (compassion) & wisdom (insight into reality)
simultaneously (not sequentially), a crucial treshold, after which final
enlightenment is attained speedily, can be reached with greater ease. This
technique it at the heart ("om") of all tantras ("tantra"), and is represented by the
union ("eka") of wisdom ("e") and method ("-vam"), leading to the highest powers
("siddhi") & Buddhahood (bodhi), never leaving the mind prehending emptiness

Calling, in the Great Perfection Vehicle, for three countless aeons of hardship,
according to Tibetan sources, the goal of Tantra, Buddhahood, can be attained in
one lifetime or less (three months ?) of relatively comfortable practice. In Chinese
Inner Alchemy & Ch'an Ch'i Kung (Da Mo), the foundational practices took
hundred days and the method could be completed in at least three years, if not
longer (depending on money, partner, techniques & place).

Let it be clear the Fourth Turning is exceptional. To give his tantras, Lord Buddha
appeared as Vajradhara in the minds of Superior Bodhisattvas. In the tantric
method, the conditions are set for swift, irreversible & radical transformation of
impure body, speech & mind into pure (enlightened) body, speech & mind (this is
called "producing Heruka" and is considered the supreme yoga). The more this
production-process, method or exceptional skillful means is perfected, the more
powerful the "tntrika" becomes, i.e. is able to liberate others by the Four Divine
Deeds of pacification, increase (decreace), control & wrath (destruction). Turned
into one with magical feats ("siddhis"), this Superior Bodhisattva only seeks to
benefit all sentient beings.

Buddhist Tantra survived in Tibet and in the Shingon school of Japan. It never
grew well on Chinese soil. Tibetan Buddhism integrated the complete Buddhayna
or Buddha's path to enlightenment (including. Secret Mantra Vehicle). With the
1959 exodus of the XIVth Dalai Lama to India and the arrival in the West of lots of
senior Tantric Lamas (ofter formely part of the ruling 5% of Old Tibet), Buddhist
Tantra came to be practiced by Western practitioners. This allows one to study,
reflect & meditate on the effectiveness of these Tibetan-styled tantras for the
Western mind.

It is hoped this work results in a Western-style Buddhist Tantra to emerge and
grow. This Tantra, part of the Navayna", would integrate Western science
(physics, cosmology, neurology, anthropology, philosophy), Chinese Ch'i Kung
(both Inner as Outer), Taoist Inner Alchemy and of course traditional Buddhist
Tantras (the Tibetan Kangyur contains translations of almost 500 tantras) ...
Hindu Tantra : an Appraisal
On the one hand, there are those who consider Hindu Tantra to be the "fifth Veda", i.e. a continuation
of the four Vedas and the subsequent Brahmanical religious texts based on them, the Brhmanas, the
ranyakas, the Upaniads, the Purnas and the Bhagavad-Git. In this view, Tantra is one of the
corner-stones of the "eternal religion" ("santana-dharma") of Hinduism. The continuity between the
Vedic revelation and Tantra is deemed undeniable, and this despite the fact both are like mighty
companions, each with a distinct tradition.

On the other hand, as the Rig Veda, the Brhmanas & the ranyakas hold no systematic view on Yoga
& Tantra, other scholars, collating iconographical, archeological, anthropological and textual evidence,
conjecture the earliest practices, defined as specific techniques for operating body & mind (cf. as
"technologies of the self" - Foucault), were developed by the renegade ascetics of the early ramana
Movement (ca. 6th & 5th century BCE), i.e. a few centuries before the Buddha.

Although the Kein Hymn (Rig Veda, X.136) mentions "breath" and the "fire & poison" endured by the
extraordinary figure of the "long-haired one", called the "wind's steed", and the Rig Veda as a whole
offers little textual evidence for an early Vedic system of Yoga or Tantra, let us assume both
disciplines were not yet distinct & differentiated, as it were resonating waves in the continuum of the
trance-consciousness of the Vedic shaman-seer. Early Vedic techniques focused on visionary
revelation of sacred knowledge (as hymns & statements), used in ritual contexts. Possibly Soma-
induced, this Shamanism was eventually lost.

The (re)emergence in the late Vedic period, around the 6th century BCE, of an ascetic movement
inspired by the Vedas, coincided with the redaction of the Upaniads. In fact, the latter may have been
composed by these new groups of ascetics. In these texts, union with "the One", hylic pluralism and
the subtle anatomy with its sheets, channels, wheels and breaths are mentioned. These authors return
to the imagined life of the Vedic seers, and experience the visions for themselves, i.e. directly, without
intermediaries. As ritualists, they offered fire and sought rebirth in (the Vedic) heaven.

In the early Upaniads, perhaps as early as the 6th century BCE, Yoga (as a way to change the mind)
as well as Tantra (as the way to use the powers resulting from this change) are present. These texts
are very important, for they show a century-old interest in direct spiritual experience. While Yoga
appears as a system to attain enlightenment, Tantra seems more occupied with the powers
("siddhis"). Yoga leads to the goal, while Tantra manifests realization.

At the time of Siddhrtha Gautama (ca. 563 - 483 BCE), various groups practiced renunciation
(recently, scholars date the "parinirvna" of the Buddha ca. 400 BCE !). Some of these "wandering"
non-Vedic, heterodox ascetics were in the process of becoming more integrated (with resulting
discussions and conflicts between various views). Gautama followed their ways (austerities & the
meditative "jhnas"), but found these unsatisfactory. His disciples did not keep a Vedic fire and
wanted release from rebirth as such. They dropped the whole theo-ontology of Brahmanism and the

The Hindu Tantras were foremost associated with iva, a deity who always retained a transgressive
side. We may conjecture the first aivite ascetics (leaving the "vrtyas", the Vedic "fighting men"
aside) were the "Pupatas", first mentioned in the Mahbhrata. They were held to achieve the
magical powers of a "siddha" (an "accomplished one"). Their legendary founder, Lakula or Nakula,
is placed ca. 100 CE, but these ascetics might as well have existed earlier.

In a general way, the history of early Hindu Tantra is at present impossible to trace. Rooted in a
variety of techniques, some of which are clearly transgressive, and in ritual magic, it acquired its
typical aivite form by the fourth century CE. By contrast, the earliest, unsystematic Buddhist Tantra
saw the light in the early 2nd century CE, while the first systematic versions, increasingly integrating
transgressive elements, emerged in the 6th & 7th centuries. These dates made some authors (like
Govinda) speculate Buddhist Tantra brought Hindu Tantra into being ! This seems farfetched ...

Apparently, Buddhist & Hindu Tantras were more or less co-emergent. The Hindu Tantrics formed
centres for highly cultivated experts in various branches of the "inner science" ("adhytmavidy"). The
(later) Buddhist Tantrics belonged to the great Buddhist monastic "universities" ("vidylaya").

Hindu Tantra has three major components :
the identification with a fierce, transgressive male resident deity such as iva (placed in a
residence "mandala") ;
the cult of the fierce goddess ("akti") burning the knots in the subtle channel connecting her
with her spouse and
a "subtle body" Yoga, involving the conscious manipulation of "prna" or the subtle energy
(wind) upon which the mind "rides", causing accomplishments - a "siddha" has paranormal
powers and can perform the Four Divine Actions of pacification, increase, control &
The art of circulating life-force may have been derived from Chinese Taoism ("chi'"), although the
underlying "subtle anatomy" can be found in the earliest Upaniads (like the Taittiriya Upaniad, dated
to the fourth or fifth century BCE). The interaction between China & India is however unmistaken.

The transgressive, antinomian spirit implied rituals involving cremation grounds, polluting substances
associated with sex & death, fierce gods & goddesses and initiations involving the consumption of the
"essences" of the male Guru and his female consort. The central theme was the union of "iva" with
"akti", of the masculine (Solar) transcendence with feminine, immanent (Lunar) energy. Hindu
Tantra allowed the Kundalin-akti or "serpent power" (at the base of the spine) to rise and unite with
iva at the crown of the head (cf. Kundalin Tantra).

In Hindu Tantra, the negative effects of the overall spiritual degeneration taking place in the dark age
("kali-yuga") must be countered with powerful, radical methods to break through the attachment to
conventional relationships and worldly concerns. For the "tntrikas", the Vedas were seen as an earlier
revelation which had lost efficacy ! This notion bordered on "heresy", for the Vedic heritage was
deemed a revelation of the Divine. But Tantra avoided any direct conflict by claiming its tradition
originated from the same source. The methods were adapted to the present age in which desire,
craving, grasping and hatred run amok. Confronting afflictive emotions instead of renouncing them,
the tantrics integrated practices unacceptable to the Brahmins.

Antinomianism is the basic feature of Hindu Tantra, i.e. it goes against the law or accepted norm.
These texts refer to going against the grain, inversion or reversal. This may lead to excentric,
extravagant or extremist behaviors. The contrast with the sober & clean way of life of the Brahmin
could not be more pronounced. Hence, Hindu Tantra developed two schools : the perilous "left-hand
path" of Vmchra, a "kplika-style" practitioner associated with the skull he wore, devoted to
transgressive practices involving fear, danger, pain & sexuality, and the "right-hand path"
("dakinchra"), featuring purification rituals and a total surrender to the Divine Mother ("akti" in all
her forms).

Although antinomianism runs agains the consolidation of power in outer architectures (rulers, kings,
states), Tantra got associated with the art & science of dominating the forces of Nature. Identifying
the "residence" of the king as the "mandala" of the resident deity, and amply using military symbols in
their rituals, both point to the importance of these magicians in the affairs of power, sexuality
(marriage, children, etc.), wealth & longevity. Even in Buddhism (in view of the invading Muslims),
Tantra was used to control and if necessary destroy the enemies of the Dharma (cf. the Klachakra
Tantra, covering the whole spectrum of esoteric Buddhism, and aimed to destroy these barbarians).

Hindu Tantra aims at a vast & profound understanding arising from the direct experience of higher
states of consciousness during meditation & ecstasy. But the distinction between "vaidika" (Vedic) &
"tntrika" (Tantra) always remained pertinent. Both poles of Hindu spirituality continued to interact,
giving Brahmin worship ("pj") Tantric features, or explaining Tantric processes in terms of Vedic
theology (cf. the pair "iva / akti").
The Rise of Buddhist Tantra
Within the context of Mahyna, Buddhist Tantra gave rise to again a completely new body of texts.
The emergence of this first phase of "Vajrayna" or "Adamantine Vehicle", the third phase of Indian
Buddhism, dates from the early 2nd century CE (other names for it are "Tantrayna" & "Mantrayna").
Its earliest tantras are from the "kriy" tantra class (Action Tantra) and were translated into Chinese
from the 3rd century. This expansion of the Mahyna consists in the adoption of additional
techniques ("upya", or "skillful means") rather than in wisdom ("praj"). In particular, rituals,
specific Yoga techniques & the use of Deity Yoga are outstanding.

Although Buddhists had strong commitments to avoid an inclusive, supreme deity (introduced in the
Klacakra Tantra as the "di-Buddha" as late as the 11th century), they developed a wide range of
visualizations of the Buddhas, intended to bring about their presence. This "buddhnusmriti" or
"recollection of the Buddha", seen in one of the first few Mahyna stras to be translated into
Chinese in the first century CE, probably a century after its redaction, evidences the practice of
meditation in front of images or paintings. This visionary procedure may have provided the
mechanism by with Mahyna texts were held to be the authentic words of the Buddhas. But there are
no sexual practices, nor transgressive symbols. Neither does the meditator identify with the visualized
Buddha. The first classes of Buddhist Tantras (Action Tantra & Performance Tantra) can be understood
as later monastic formalization of these early practices.

This "esoteric" Buddhism remained Indian, secretive, not systematic & a private minority interest until
the 8th century, when, with the arising of the Pla dynasty of Bihar & Bengal (760 - 1142 CE), the
Vajrayna entered the great universities, and Tantra was "purged" (internalized) and formalized. This
called for the elimination of aivite components, a redefinition of "akti" as "praj", wisdom, and a
reduction of sexual practices, arrived at by symbolizing & internalizing the union between compassion
(the male method-deity) & wisdom-mind (the female wisdom-consort). Indeed, the male was
systematically identified with method and the female with wisdom ! However, sexual practices and
transgressive symbolism were never completely eliminated, in fact, sexuality reemerged as an
important factor in the Klachakra Tantra, the culmination of the Buddhist tantric tradition.

Buddhist Tantra became international. This second phase marks the origin of the Vajrayna proper,
including its symbolism, terminology & ritual. The latter is adaptive to circumstance, uses the
"standard" subtle apparatus of Hindu Yoga (the Vajra-body of winds, channels, wheels & drops), but
adds the wisdom of seeing reality as it is, i.e. without "own-being" ("svabhva"). It was largely from
the Indian universities at Vikramala and Odantapur that Buddhism was then taken to Tibet. There, it
was integrated in the Buddhayna, to become the pinnacle of the path to enlightenment (cf.
"outwardly Hnayna, inwardly Mahyna, and secretly Vajrayna"). This happened in several stages,
integrating magical Tantra (Padmasambhava), Siddha-based Yogas (the Six Yogas of Naropa), and the
Tantras introduced by Atia (982 - 1054), Virupa (9th century) and others.

When Tibetan Buddhism was completely reorganized by Tsongkhapa the Great (1357 - 1419), the
monastic vow of celibacy and the Highest Yoga Tantra technique of attaining Buddhahood by way of
sexual union with a wisdom consort, were harmonized by allowing the monk to become a Superior
Bodhisattva, but only a Buddha immediately after death (hence not needing a wisdom consort and so
not breaking the vow of celibacy !).

Applying Buddhist philosophy to Tantra involved a radical departure from the realist & idealist Hindu
ontologies, rooting the whole experience in great compassion & the wisdom-mind realizing emptiness,
the unique features of Buddhism, in particular Mahyna.
Requisites for Mahyna Tantra & General Principles
In terms of understanding reality, Buddhist Tantra does not differ from the wisdom of the Great
Perfection Vehicle, but introduces, to realize Buddhahood (the Mahyna "nirvna"), two powerful new
methods, or ways to carry out an action, namely (a) Deity Yoga (generation) and (b) Inner Fire Yoga
(completion). These Yogas cause the two baskets of merit & emptiness to be simultaneously filled (as
one result of one technique), and not separately (as two results of various techniques). Compassion
(merit) & wisdom (emptiness) are gathered together. This quick collection serves as the basis for a
this-life transformation of impure body, speech & mind of an ordinary person into the pure body,
speech & mind of a Buddha.

Bodhicitta is the necessary condition to practice Buddhist Tantra. To attempt it without this mind of
enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings is sheer folly and usually leads to an increase in
suffering due to increased self-grasping & self-cherishing (ego-inflation). Without great compassion,
the quintessence of relative Bodhicitta, it is impossible for wisdom to arise. The "energy" of merit
makes the mind supple enough to conceptualize emptiness distinctly & clearly. Then one understands
why the Consequentialism of the Middle Way ("Prsangika-Mdhyamaka") is the philosophical
viewpoint of the Four Tantra Sets. Inherent existence ("svabhva") is the target of this view,
designating emptiness or absolute Bodhicitta by way of a non-affirming negation. This theoretical view
on emptiness is "objective" (emptiness is an object of knowledge) and epistemic (emptiness is the end
of substantial instatiation or reification), identifying "samsra" as a state of mind, affirming the
functional existence of interconnected phenomena.

The Tantric Bodhisattva wants to attain Buddhahood for the sake of all sentient beings as soon as
possible. There is no time to waste. To really help these countless suffering beings, nothing less than
Buddhahood will do. Achieving this in this life, will allow this Buddha-to-be to manifest countless forms
to help & bless others until the whole of "samsra" ceases. So all Tantric Bodhisattvas are Sutric
Bodhisattvas, while not all Sutric Bodhisattvas are "tntrikas". Sutric Bodhisattvas possess Bodhicitta
and so are allowed to enter the Vajrayna.

The Stras are called "causal" because they shape the conditions for the effect, namely Buddhahood.
The Tantras as called "resultant" because they take the result (Buddhahood) into the path (Deity
Yoga) before it has been attained, but anticipate it. Imagining having the abilities of Buddhahood to be
gained in the future in the present, creates the causes to attain these more quickly.

As long as Bodhicitta is fabricated (i.e. not spontaneous), it needs to be "generated" and consolidated
(by mind training). At some point though, Bodhicitta comes as natural as breathing. Then the Path of
Accumulation is entered and the Bodhisattva is truly established (ready to take the Bodhisattva Vow).
To perfect the practice of the Six Perfections, further Insight Meditations into emptiness are required.
Bodhisattvas who attain "superior seeing" (begin the Path of Preparation) are able to establish
emptiness by way of conceptual thought. This enables them to enter the Tantic path (of generation)
and practice Deity Yoga, preparing them for the next stage, completion. The latter is however
impossible to finish without having entered the Path of Seeing and established, during meditative
equipoise, a direct experience of emptiness devoid of conceptualization.

In the completion stage of Highest Yoga Tantra, Inner Fire Yoga makes use of the subtle anatomy of
the body (cf. hylic pluralism), consisting of subtle winds ("prna"), channels ("nds"), energy wheels
("chakras") and seminal drops ("bindu"). To produce bliss, this Yoga aims to bring the winds into the
"central" channel and make (by means of vase breathing) the "drops melt", while Deity Yoga, the core
technique of generation stage Tantra, prepares for this crucial event. To achieve Buddhahood with
Action Tantra, Performance Tantra or Yoga Tantra, Deity Yoga is coupled with other Yogas than Inner
Fire Yoga. In these lower Tantras, the process of transformation can however not be completed in one
lifetime. Only Highest Yoga Tantra offers this !

As the subtle body is the energy-matrix underpining all physical processes, wrong techniques may
damage this fine network, causing reduced immunity, disease, shortened lifespan, insanity or sudden
death (cf. "wind" disease). By contrast, a successfull tantric, besides being very compassionate, has
strong health, feels & behaves youthful, has a prolonged lifespan, extraordinary mental capacities and
is able to choose where he or she will be reborn.
The Four Tantra Sets : Levels of Desire
The Gelugpa explanation of the Four Tantra Sets, constituting systems of analogy, involves the
intensity with which desire is satisfied. Desire is the overruling quality of cyclic existence as
experienced by the six classes of sentient beings of the Desire Realm in general, but manifests in the
human world as strong attachment, the exaggerated desire for what pleases and the exaggerated
desire to avoid was displeases. Therefore, in Tantra, desire is the "prima materia" to be transformed
into wisdom.

In accord with the late Indian Buddhist classification of philosophical trends in four views (analytical,
traditional, experiental & centrist), the Tantras are usually divided in four classes : Action ("kriy"),
Performance ("cary"), Yoga ("yoga") & Highest Yoga ("anuttarayoga"). The first three are also called
"lower Tantras", the last set "higher tantra". In the Tibetan Old Translation School (the Nyingmapas),
Highest Yoga Tantra is further subdivided in Father Tantra, Mother Tantra & Non-Dual Tantra.

Each level of intensity of desire is associated with a level of interiority (note how higher levels of
desire-satisfaction call for higher levels of interiority, causing sexual union to correspond with
complete interiority) :
Action Tantra : practitioners delight in external ritual over yogic concentration = partners in
love laughing at each other ;
Performance Tantra : practitioners delight in external ritual & internal yogic concentration
equally = partners in love mutually gazing at each other ;
Yoga Tantra : practitioners delight inner yogic concentration over external ritual = partners in
love holding hands ;
Highest Yoga Tantra : practitioners delight in internal yogic concentration = partners in love
sexually unite.
There are many unorthodox analogical schemes. In his Ngagrim Chenmo (Great Discourse on Secret
Mantra), Tsongkhapa argues against the idea Action and Performance Tantras curtail Deity Yoga by
eliminating Self-generation. For him, all Tantras involve Deity Yoga, and Deity Yoga implies Self-
generation. The threefold correspondence prevalent in Buddhist Tantras (body, speech, mind) suit the
Four Tantra Sets well :
Action Tantra : practitioners primarily purify the body by way of external ritual realizing its
emptiness (external washing) - the Deity is a superior, not an equal ;
Performance Tantra : practitioners primarily purify speech by way of the interaction between
external ritual and internal concentration realizing its emptiness (inner washing) - the Deity is
not yet an equal, but more like a senior family member ;
Yoga Tantra : practitioners primarily purify mind by way of internal concentration realizing
emptiness (secret washing) - the Deity is treated as an equal, a peer ;
Highest Yoga Tantra : practitioners purify & unite body, speech & mind by way supreme
internal concentration realizing their emptiness (ultimate washing) - the Deity and the tantric
are one being.
ACTION TANTRA primarily focuses on ritual activity : outer conduct, ablution, offerings, cleanliness,
eating & drinking codes, clothing etc. To overcome the separation between ordinary (conventional)
life and the Divine (in the form of the Deity), one conforms to a way of purity in attire & conduct,
visualizing the Deity and recollecting the emptiness of one's own ego. Traditionally, some Action
Tantras position the Deity only outside of oneself, and foster the notion of inferiority to the Deity. As
Tsongkhapa wrote, this is not the case for all Action Tantras. Eventually, a vivid experience of oneself
as indivisible from the Deity arises.

There are three families of Action Tantra Deities :
the Buddha or Vairochana family (manifesting the Vajra Body of the Buddhas) : Majur,
Vajrasattva, Mairichi ;
the Lotus or Amitabha family (manifesting the Vajra Speech of the Buddhas) : Amitayus,
Avalokitevara, White Tara, Green Tara ;
the Vajra or Akobya family (manifesting the Vajra Mind of the Buddhas) : Buddha Unmoving,
PERFORMANCE TANTRA focuses both on outer rituals and inner Yoga, training in a vast number of
actions while entering the inner, empty reality presenting itself in visual and audible Divine
representations. Here one is deemed close to the state of the Deity, but not yet fused with it. In
Conduct Tantra one visualizes oneself as the Deity and visualizes the Deity outside of oneself. One
trains to experience all form as the appearance of emptiness. The practices of this Tantra (Four
Concentrations & the Yogas with and without Signs) are very similar to those of Action Tantra.

YOGA TANTRA primarily focuses on the contemplation of the inner reality, placing the yogi in the
center of it and establishing a network of subjective relationships with it, appearing in a variety of
Divine features. Both are viewed as equal. Method and wisdom are applied inseparably in
contemplations on the indivisibility of one's body, speech, mind & activities (the Four Seals) and those
of the Deity.

HIGHEST YOGA TANTRA completely focuses on the contemplation of the inner reality, and this in two
stages : generation & completion. In Generation Stage Yoga, the three bodies of a Buddha are
brought into the path (the Three Bringings) and associated with the process of death, intermediate
state and rebirth. Death is brought into the path of the Truth Body. Intermediate state is brought into
the Path of the Enjoyment Body and rebirth is brought into the path of the Emanation Body. An
imagined Deity body is created or generated, which will become an actual Deity body (the
continuously residing body or very subtle wind abiding in the heart-wheel). In Completion Stage Yoga,
the winds are made to enter, abide and cease within the central channel and, through the force of
Inner Fire Yoga (vase breathing), the subtle drops are made to "melt" producing four levels of
increasing bliss. Completion is subdivided in the Yogas of Isolated Speech, Isolated Mind, Illusory
Body, Clear Light and Union. Completion Stage Yoga holds the promise of Buddhahood in a single
Guru Yoga : Outer, Inner & Secret
Without empowerment ("abhieka"), also translated as "anointing", "consecration", or "initiation",
Tantra cannot be practiced. This is the rule. Empowerment differs from inspiration ("adhitana"), often
translated as "blessing", "elevation" or "uplifting", like waves bringing magnificence. Empowerments
are given by the Tantric Guru or Vajra Master. Entry into Tantra presuppose the Bodhisattva Vow, for
without spontaneous Bodhicitta Tantra is vain. Tsongkhapa reminds us Tantra, although the most
expedient way to Buddhahood, is not for everybody.

Action Tantra calls for a water empowerment & a crown empowerment. Performance Tantra adds to
this the four vases empowerment (lower rebirth, all goodness, dispelling obstructions and love). Yoga
Tantra, similar to a Highest Yoga Tantra empowerment, adds the empowerment of the Five Buddha
Families & the empowerment of the Vajra Master. The latter gives one permission to teach the Tantra
and to continue the lineage. Yoga Tantra and Highest Yoga Tantra demand the commitments of the
Five Buddha Families and the Tantric Vows. Keeping these Vows is said to guarantee a swift & easy
movement towards enlightenment.

For Tsongkhapa, the Tantric guru is the root of the path, the source of realization, and a living Buddha
! Only through skillful devotion to such a being will blessings be received. Especially in Tibetan
Buddhism, emphasis on the virtues of the (usually male) Tantric guru is pertinent. Guru Yoga, a
ritualized devotional practice dedicated to the Vajra Master, is conceived as the most profound way to
cultivate results. The Tantric guru is the source of empowerment or initiation into the tantric Deity the
disciple experiences as his or her Inner Guru. Vows are taken, and if broken, then, after death, a
special "Vajra hell" awaits the renegade !

In Zen, a spiritual mentor or spiritual teacher is present, but he or she is not venerated as a living
Buddha. In the Theravadin tradition, the teacher is a valued and honored mentor worthy of respect.
Only in Tibetan Tantra is the Vajra Master viewed as the very root of spiritual realization. What to
think of these differences ? What to think of the Tibetan view ?

In the Stra approach, the spiritual teacher, Dharma instructor, meditation trainer, ritual coach,
Buddhism professor etc. are there to help us power up our spiritual journey. Because of their good
qualities, acting as cherished examples, they give oral transmissions and inspire. These spiritual
teachers address the gross levels of mind, based on self-cherishing and conceptual thought (acquired

In the context of Stra, Guru Yoga is a ritual way to acknowledge the good qualities of our teachers,
so we may relate to them and be uplifted. We may assist them and help them, but we never offer to
them. We always try to very generous with them. While we develop devotion and feelings of deep
friendship, we do not need to see our teachers as living Buddhas. We do request to be blessed by their
presence and inspiration, and this we visualize as entering our heart-wheel in the form of brilliant
light. In the Stras, our Inner Guru is Bodhicitta itself, i.e. the mind of enlightenment for the sake of
all sentient beings. Thanks to our Sutric Guru Yoga, Bodhicitta will be generated by knowing &
communicating with our Outer Guru. Just as this teacher before us, acting as the Outer Guru, our
Inner Guru is replete with good qualities, inspiring us to attain them by ourselves in excellent and
sublime ways. After years (or lives) of practice, we slowly transfer the spiritual authority away from
the Outer Guru to the Inner Guru, one's acquired compassion & wisdom.

In Tantra, the Vajra Master is the Outer Guru who empowers us to come in touch with the deepest
(absolute) level of Bodhicitta, one touching the very subtle mind of Clear Light, a mind beyond the
conceptualizations of the gross and subtle minds, a mind "recognizing its own face", its own empty
nature. In the Great Perfection Vehicle teachings, gross & subtle minds were center stage. In Tantra,
the Inner Guru is the "mind-bound" Tantric Deity ("ita-deva", "chosen Deity" or Tib. "Yidam") who
ferries us to this enlightened mind (enlightened speech, enlightened body). This Inner Guru is the
dynamical factor enabling us to reach the Clear Light. It is the "Sambhogakya" or "Enjoyment Body"
in which the Clear Light can manifest and communicate the ineffable bliss of the "Dharmakya" or
"Truth Body", its own absolute absoluteness, the nondual datum of Buddhahood. This process of
alchemical transformation has to be ignited by the "Vajra Master", fully realizing his or her own Inner
Guru. His role is to connect the disciple with his own Inner Guru and help the disciple to stabilize &
root the link with his own "Higher Self".

During the ritual, the Outer Guru must, at least at an intellectual level, be understood to be a living
Buddha, although this does not mean the Outer Guru has necessarily attained enlightenment. The
Outer Guru confers the "causal" empowerment that ripens. Calling for an accomplished ritualist, a
ritual and an instruction, this links the disciple with his or her Yidam and explains how to invoke the
Deity (Generation Stage). These planted seeds give rise to "pathway" empowerment from the Inner
Guru, the Yidam. Eventually, this leads to "resultant" empowerment from the Clear Light mind of a
Buddha (Completion Stage).

The ripening process occurs because the "pathway" empowerment is also a "foundational"
empowerment, resulting in all attainments and qualities ripening into Buddhahood. For the Inner Guru
is but a manifestation, actualization, luminous solidification of the mind of Clear Light, the sole natural
light of the mind, the Secret Guru or "Truth Body" of absolute wisdom.

So in Tantra, initiation has three levels :
Outer Guru : the Vajra Guru, approached as if he or she is a living Buddha, plants seeds in the
mindstream of the disciple (causal empowerment). These seeds ripen and bring the disciple in
direct contact with his or her Inner Guru, the Tantric Deity ;
Inner Guru : this is the Yidam with which the disciple will identify in Deity Yoga. This Yidam is
the "Sambhogakya" (or "Enjoyment Body") manifestation of the Clear Light mind or
"Dharmakya" (or "Truth Body") of the disciple (his or her own Buddha-potential or ultimate
nature of mind). It grants "pathway empowerment", acting as the foundation for Buddhahood
Secret Guru : the Clear Mind of each and every sentient being is his or her true Guru. As the
very subtle mind, it is beyond all gross and subtle minds. This Truth Body, "Dharmakya" or
"laya-jna" manifests as the luminous Enjoyment Body of the Yidam. It is the Clear Mind
encompassing all excellent qualities.
Traditional Tantric Guru Yoga views the Vajra Guru as a living Buddha. The ceremony for honoring the
guru is very extended (cf. Lama Chpa) and presupposes asymmetry between the Master and his
disciple. Veneration, devotion and offerings are common practices. When necessary, the Outer Guru
may use his miracle-powers of pacification, increase, control & wrath. This goes well beyond the mere
inspiration of Sutric Guru Yoga, for without the "special" blessings of the Vajra Guru, the path cannot
be finished. The Outer Guru must aim to connect an aspirant with his or her Inner Guru swiftly, with
ease and permanently.

Although Tantra involves the primordial wholeness and completeness of being, represented by the
union of the male method-Deities with their female wisdom-consorts, the deeply entrenched
domination of woman by the male elite (using sexual intercourse with woman exclusively to charge
one's spiritual batteries), gave rise to tantric teachings in which the mother goddess emanated from
the masculine god, and the androgyny (male-female forces possessed by a man) remained
uncompensated by gynandry (female-male forces possessed by a woman), building in disparity. Then,
bi-sexual eroticism is reduced to heterosexual machoism. As a result, and not solely because of this
feminist critique, some practitioners try to develop a Navaynic Buddhist Tantra for the West, i.e. in
harmony with Western science, secular thought & basic human rights. This goes against the
paternalism, the dogmatism and the authoritarian approach of some and calls for rethinking many
teachings, rituals and regulations, in particular in the context of Tibetan Buddhism training Western
minds !

To close, let me focus on a few salient points :

1. While it may be difficult (but not impossible) for a novice Westerner to walk the spiritual path
without a spiritual guide acting as their source of oral transmission, insight & inspiration, the process
of relating to Eastern teachers has its own hazards. They seem to lack a deep understanding as to the
nature of the Western psyche, in particular our childhood woundings. In the East, the tradition of
relating to a spiritual teacher is millennia old. In the West, this is hardly the case and so a certain
"navit" is often at work. The patriarchal nature of the Eastern Guru-system cannot be transported to
the West. Fortunately, in the last decennia, more Western spiritual teachers are at work and so these
cultural problems can, in principle, be eliminated.
2. In Buddhism, the crucial divide lies between Sutric teachers and Tantric Gurus. The former are
spiritual guides & mentors worthy of respect, who assist us while we study, reflect & meditate. They
are "special" in the sense of being accomplished and able to transmit their knowledge & insights. They
do not enter our mindstream, nor receive offerings. They are skillful teachers, with extraordinary
empathy, capable of being wise friends. Their wisdom protects, creating the "open space" their
students need to evolve. As teachers, they may encounter complex and demanding situations, and
although their method & wisdom is vaster than that of their students, they try to maintain symmetry
and work to allow the student to accomplish certain set goals (like meditative equipose in Calm
Abiding, or conceptual insight into emptiness in Insight Meditation). Whilst such cases cannot be
excluded (from the side of the student), demanding veneration does not exist from the side of the
teacher, who may choose to undermine the very tendency to disrupt symmetry and deify the teacher
(the teacher and anti-teacher).
3. In Tantra, only embarked upon after years of Sutric activity, the Vajra Guru or Outer Guru is
crucial. He or she is an accomplished meditation master who has finished or is finishing the
Bodhisattva training and who is willing to infuse the mindstream of their disciple, so he or she opens
up and is linked with his or her own Inner Guru. When this empowerment is conveyed, this yogi has
manifests as his own Yidam, and so is a "living Deity" ! This situation can be compared with Western
initiation, as in alchemy, Freemasonry or Western mystery traditions. In the West, we lack the culture
of viewing our teachers as "special beings", but in spiritual orders this attitude is amply cultivated.
Asymmetry is part of the equation. If this is done for the sake of the relationship between the Outer
Guru and the disciple, and not to link the disciple with his or her own Inner Guru, then abuse cannot
be excluded. In fact, when the disciple confuses his or her Inner Guru with the Outer Guru (because
the latter has not imposed the distinction), the Outer Guru is defunct. Indeed, the main task of the
Outer Guru is to connect the disciple with this Inner Guru. All techniques able to produce this effect
are welcome and necessary. So the Tantric Guru is more than a wise friend, he or she may also be a
dangerous friend !
Generation Stage Yoga and Deity Yoga
The technology of Highest Yoga Tantra involves (a) preparing the ground in the so-called "Generation
Stage" and (b) manipulating the subtle anatomy of the various invisible entities constituting the "Vajra
body" (cf. hylic pluralism), making the "winds" ("prna") enter, abide and cease in the "central
channel" of this "Vajra body" and allowing the subtle "drops" to melt under the influence of Inner Fire
Yoga. These & other procedures make up the "Completion Stage". In the Lower Tantras, of which
Action Tantra is the most common, the approach is somewhat different, while Completion Stage Yoga
is absent.

Although Buddhahood is only achieved at the end, Generation Stage Yoga includes the simultaneous
gathering of merit (the substantial cause of the "Form Body") and wisdom (the substantial cause of
the "Truth Body") by way of Deity Yoga. It is not causal, but resultant, taking the fruit (Buddhahood)
into the path. This is done by letting the "form" of a fully enlightened being or Deity spontaneously
rise as a result of interdependent conditions, being of the same empty nature as the yogi. As this form
rises after the inherent existence of the conventional "I" and its context have been cancelled, it is the
result of wisdom.

Although no-self ("antman") is one of the seals of Buddhism, Tantra personifies our potential for
enlightenment or wholeness in the symbolic form of the Deity, embodying our Buddha-nature,
generated out of the ultimate nature of our mind. This Deity bridges the two aspects of reality, namely
conventional (relative) truth & ultimate (absolute) truth. The Deity is an interface or ferry, carrying
consciousness to the "other shore of wisdom", i.e. from the Emanation Body of conventional truth to
the Truth Body or ultimate truth.
Body of Truth
ultimate truth
emptiness : permanent
Secret Guru
Enjoyment Body
wisdom + compassion : dynamic
Inner Guru = guru yidam
Emanation Body
conventional truth
interdependence : impermanent
Outer Guru
The Deities are the countless inspirational Enjoyment Bodies of the supreme virtuous minds of
absolute Bodhicitta, the infinite masks of ultimate truth or manifestation of emptiness. No longer a
mere conventional truth, a Deity is a pure, luminous & dynamic, rainbow-like manifestation rising out
from the ultimate nature of all phenomena : emptiness. The latter is not a positive state, nor a
negative state, nor any logical operation between these two states. Utterly ineffable, only the un-
saying of the "Via Negativa" remains.

Of this emptiness or ultimate truth, the Deity is a threshold-phenomenon, and isthmus, i.e. a
relatively narrow strip connecting the Two Truths, touching both simultaneously and dynamically, i.e.
with a definitive movement away from conventional truth to the right view understanding its objects
thoroughly, i.e. wisdom. This shift is the work of the Deity, emerging out and remaining in emptiness
and thus radically unlike the "Gods & Goddesses" of Western Paganism (Ancient Egypt, Hermetism,
Greco-Roman religion, Hermeticism) as well as Hinduism, who are examples of theo-ontologies, i.e.
Supreme Beings conceived as inherently existing "out there".

The function of the Buddist Deity is to allow the Truth Body of a Buddha to manifest and benefit others
(which cannot be the case on the level of ultimate truth). This luminous body with its very subtle mind
is however without any trace of substantiality, and functions to cross the divide between the ultimate
reality of the Buddhas ("Dharmakya") and the relative reality of our conventional world
("Nirmnakya"). Hence, the Deity in Buddhism is exceptional. Without being God or a God, the
Buddhist Deity is Divine !

Like unproduced space (lacking obstructive contact), emptiness is a permanent phenomenon. While
space negates obstructive contact, emptiness negates inherent existence, a "reality" on its own
("svabhva"). The Deity appears as a luminous form in unproduced space and is, at the same
moment, cognized by a mind realizing emptiness. The appearance of and identification with the Deity
is "entering the vessel" of alchemy, the "furnace" or "athanor" in which the transformation takes
place. The Deity is the "Higher Self" emerging out of emptiness.

In Deity Yoga, the Deity can be generated outside or within. In the former case, the Deity is visualized
outside and in front (or above) us, in the latter, the Deity is made to rise from within and coincides
with our own subtle body & subtle mind. This Self-generation is the mental generation of the
"tntrika" as enlightened being. Both cases establish the Deity in six stages known as the "Six
Deities". Establishment means a shift has taken place from the Deity as a cognitive object to the Deity
as a cognizing subject.
1. Deity
all is dissolved in emptiness, the true absence of
inherent existence
2. Deity
of Sound
spontaneously the seed-letter is heard as from
outside, with the mind as a disk at the heart-
3. Deity
of Letter
the seed-letter is visualized on a disk at the
heart-wheel, with the mantra set around the
edge, emitting rays of enlightening light
4. Deity
of Form
withdrawn back into the letter & wheel, this
transforms into the form of the Deity
5. Deity
blessing parts of the body of the Deity provides
the seals and finalizes the pledge-being
6. Deity
next, this clearly appearing pledge-being invites
the actual wisdom-being to merge with it,
completing the Deity of Signs, establishing the
presence of the Deity at hand.
Deity Yoga establishes the reality of the Deity (the Resident Mandala) and its environment (the
Residence Mandala), transforming the impure "I" & its world in the subtle reality of the Deity-in-its-
Mandala (the Resident in the Residence). The Deity making the mind firm is not designated on the
basis of "my" physical body and "my" casual mind or conventional "I". This would identify it with the
conventional truth of myself only and stop the needed dynamic away from the deluded understanding
of reality, one appearing as inherently existing while ultimate analysis shows otherwise.

The Deity is designated on the basis of (a) a body of light rising out of the wisdom realizing emptiness
like a fish jumps out of water (implying a direct conscious awareness of emptiness, like in "superior
seeing"), and (b) a wisdom-mind fused with a seed syllable and the mantra of the Deity, as in
meditative equipoise during Calm Abiding.

The aim of Deity Yoga is a perfect visualization of the generic image of the Deity with a mind in
meditative equipoise on its empty seed or mantra and this while generating the Divine Pride of
identifying with these subtle bases of designation (the luminous body and the enlightened mind). The
measure of firmness in Deity Yoga is indicated, according to Tsongkhapa, by "whether going,
standing, or sitting is always immovable though moving about". Once this is realized, the yogi enters
and exits the Deity (switches from gross to subtle bases of designation) as one would put on and off a

This signals the readiness for completion.
Completion Stage Yoga and Inner Fire Yoga
In Completion Stage Yoga, only available in Highest Yoga Tantra, the "tntrika", while assuming the
Deity, makes the subtle winds enter, abide and cease in the central channel of the Vajra-body,
allowing the very subtle mind carried by the very subtle wind (in the heart-wheel) to manifest as the
"Truth Body" ("Dharmakya") & the "Form Body" ("rpakya" or "Nirmnakya" + "Sambhogakya")
of a Buddha, actualizing the ultimate nature of mind, its Clear Light.

The subtle & very subtle techniques of Completion Stage Yoga make, once the winds enter, abide &
cease in the central channel, the seminal drops to communicate. The "white drop", Lunar, of the
nature of bliss and received from the father (crown-wheel), and the "red drop", Solar, of the nature of
emptiness and received from the mother (navel-wheel), define the vitality, strength and power of the
subtle energy-body, directly linked with the "Enjoyment Body" to come (the very subtle wind is the
substantial cause of the "Sambhogakya"). Using "vase breathing", the red drop, abiding in the navel
energy-wheel, is ignited and this "inner fire" unbinds the "knots" of the heart-wheel & the throat-
wheel, making the white drop, abiding in the crown-wheel, to "melt", causing levels of bliss (known as
the Four Joys). This great bliss is then mixed with the wisdom realizing emptiness, destroying very
subtle delusion, making the Clear Light shine forth, entering Buddhahood.

The Form Body is generated to help others, to actually perform enlightened actions and engage
Dharma. It is of no other use. There is no better reason to cease the singular focus on the ineffable
bliss of the "Dharmakya" than the sublime thought generating compassion for those who are still
suffering. How can there be true peace when there are still beings contaminated and in pain ? This
mind of enlightenment for all sentient beings or Bodhicitta the great treasure of the Mahyna.
Dedication of all merit to the benefit of all others, projects the vast scope of working for every single
sentient being.

Although a Buddha has vast miracle-powers, s/he is not omnipotent (cannot take away ripening
"karma", but merely deflects it) and does not interfere in the free will of human beings, except if the
survival of the Dharma is at stake (cf. the "Dharmaplas"). Final enlightenment bestows omnipresence
& omniscience. Sentient beings open to receive the blessings of a Buddha instantaneously do so,
benefiting countless others.
A Critique of Tibetan Buddhist Tantra
The dynamic structure of the Vajra-body was no discovery of Vajrayna, rather it was adopted from
pre-Buddhist times (cf. the Upaniads) and possibly from Chinese medical thinking. Although the
Klachakra Tantra displays many parallels with Hindu Kundalin Yoga, with regard to the subtle bodily
techniques needed to arouse the female "kundalin", important differences between these cultural
traditions pertain.

Traditional Buddhist Tantra, as it was preserved and developed in Tibet, unleashes the "inner fire" in
the navel and do not focus on the point between the anus and the root of the penis like the Hindus &
the Chinese. The "candali" flares up in the belly of the Vajra Master and her heat, kindled by vase
breathing, rises to "melt" the "cool" white drops abiding in the crown wheel. This melting takes places
in four stages (the Four Joys). Once she has vaporized the wheels up to the roof of the skull and
melts, on account of its "watery" character, the white male drops stored there, the "fire woman" is

Why is the feminine, linked with the passive element in India, China & the West, here equated with
the activity of destructive fire ? Is the hostile attitude of Sutric Buddhism towards the world of
appearances, form & womanhood at hand ? As the feminine and the act of birth were deemed
responsible for the "terrible burden of life", are "world" & "womanhood" made synonymous ? In Early
Buddhism, women could not reach "nirvna". They had to work hard to "earn" a male incarnation ! At
first, even the Buddha doubted whether an order of nuns was appropriate ... By kindling the feminine
"drops" within himself, the male symbolically casts the "world-woman" upon the pyre ! All form
becomes victim of the flames. Is traditional Buddhist Tantra, as preserved in Tibet, based on a
patriarchic male ideology ? The role of the female is made subservient to the salvic goal of the male.
As a "wisdom-consort", she merely served the male to establish the supreme goal : the union of bliss
and emptiness. How, given this subtle physiology, a woman may attain enlightenment is unclear (are
her red drops situated in her crown-wheel ?).

Moreover, why associate wisdom with the Lunar and the ritual Bell ? Wisdom-mind, being the
realization of the Clear Light, cannot be consistently identified with the derivative "cool" light of the
Moon (visible at night), but only with the self-kindling, hot fire of the Sun (making the day), the power
of the Vajra ... Indeed, the "Sun of wisdom" stands for awakening, while the Moon refers to the
method leading up to it (cf. Yesod and the Grade of Theoreticus in the Qabalah). In Tibetan Tantra,
this has been reversed.

Contemporary Navayna Tantra should therefore work out a system leading to a blissfull union of
polarities and not to one "males only". On the one hand, the Vajra-male "takes" the feminine, Lunar
form-energy of the woman to reach androgyny, on the other hand, the Lotus-woman "assimilates" the
masculine, Solar force-energy of the man to reach gynandry. The ideal being sacred omni-eroticism
through the union of Lunar bliss & Solar wisdom. In the spirit of the Highest Yoga Tantra, androgynous
guru-god and gynandric mistress-goddess are one. This Tantric scheme is far more balanced. It can
already be found in Taoist Inner Alchemy, were both male and female bodies are able to achieve
enlightenment by means of their respective omni-erotic energies.

To arrive at such a new Buddhist Tantra, prevailing correspondences are no longer valid. As in Hindu
Yoga, Taoist Inner Alchemy, Traditional Chinese Medicine & the Western Tradition, the feminine is
equated with the Lunar, with Form (Left Pillar) & the passive, i.e. with Yin. This is consistent with the
association of the "kundalin" ("akti") with the bottom of the spine (cf. the Gate of Life & Death or
Hui-Yin at the perineum & the passive Earth Field or Tan-Tien at the navel in Taoism, or
Malkuth/Yesod in Qabalah). The masculine is then Solar, active, Force (Right Pillar), i.e. Yang, situated
at the top of the spine ("iva", and the active Heaven Field or Pui-Hui at the crown, or Kether in

The traditional Tibetan Buddhist correspondences, based on an exclusive masculine model, mostly do
no more than foster Guru-Yoga to "enhance" and "develop" the process ignited by initiation. Instead of
giving the disciples the tools to grow up by themselves well assisted, they often result in an increased
dependence upon the male Vajra Guru, at times leading to grotesque, abasing & potentially abusive
forms of Guru-worship, whereby the Guru needs to be "deified" as a Living Buddha ... Projected
collectively as spirito-communal phenomena, such strategies bring to life the doctrine of "lineages",
"tulkus" & other Buddhocratic & Buddhomanic inventions, as Tibetan Buddhism evidences.

The question before us : what is the structure of such a Navaynic Tantra ?
The Mandala of the Navayna
The specificity of Buddhist Tantra lies in (a) the negation of the inherent existence of the deities, and
hence of iva & akti and their immortalizing & liberating union and (b) building all tantric technology
on the Three Doors of "karma" : body, speech & mind. Because "karma" is a "dependent-arising", it is
part of the "method-side" of the tantric equation (together with compassion & bliss), whereas
emptiness or the lack of inherent existence is the "wisdom-side" (together with space). The Tantras
offer only a new method (Deity Yoga) to manipulate "karma", and has nothing to add concerning
wisdom. Indeed, without at least the conceptual realization of the latter, Tantra may be dangerous
(for a relapse into reification remains possible and this time on subtle mental levels). Without
compassion, integrating desire leads to increased self-cherishing. This is why Tsongkhapa places so
much emphasis on meditations on emptiness. Being able to negate reification is (one of the two)
essential preliminaries to Tantra.

Buddhist Tantra wants to transform the samsaric, "karmic" (bound) state into the nirvanic, unbound
state. It assumes the unbound state to be the fundamental, original nature or situation of things, and
the suffering state merely a reduction, veiling or clouding this original nature. They are not "causal"
but "resultant", taking the fruit (Buddhahood) into the path (as the ever-present ultimate nature of
the mind itself).

Tantra tries to integrate all afflictive & non-afflictive elements of "samsra" into one "Gestalt" or
visualized whole. This is the "mandala", composed of Residence (the actual matrix representing the
world as a whole) and Resident (the consciousness prehending this matrix, positioned in its center) ;
this is the notion of "two-in-one" upon which all Tantras are based. The idea is to transform the world
and its prehension, starting from gross (deluded) to very subtle (enlightened). Very akin to inner
alchemy, Tantra seeks the path to experience the world and ourselves as pure. In the context of the
Buddhadharma, "purity" or "perfection" is not entering some perfected, refined or highly "polished"
higher or "Divine" ontological plane, but the direct experience of oneself & the world as lacking
substance or own-form, i.e. an existence possessing its properties inherently, from its own side, self-
powered & self-settled. This experience is automatically complemented by the direct witnessing of the
interconnectedness between all phenomena, i.e. oneself (and other selves) and the world at large.
This experience of emptiness is what the Buddhadharma identifies as "Divine" and this is not the same
as the goal of Hindu Tantra, namely union with a self-settled Deity. There are no self-powered Deities.
To think there are, is the pinnacle of delusion ! A Buddha is not self-powered, not a "substance of
substances", but displays an ongoing symmetry-transformation, a unique & perfect kinetography.

Let us first discuss a few schemes introduced to organize the core view of the Buddhadharma. Indeed,
to classify the structures organizing it, various analogical scheme exist. These correspondences
accommodate ritual activity as well as visualization. The fundamental structure is the "key in three",
the Triple Gem.
Three Poisons Three Functions
Buddha mind Ignorance
not knowing reality as it is
grasping, attracting, lust
Sangha body Hatred
negation, denial, rejection, repulsion, unlust
This can be expanded :
Psychological Cosmological
mind meditate fruit Formless Dharmakya Mother
speech/wind reflect path Form Sambhogakya Son
body study view Desire Nirmnakya Energy
And even assist organizing the Buddhadharma as a whole :
Three Vehicles Three Methods Three Gates Three Ways
Dzogchen self-liberation mind Wisdom
Tantra transformation energy/speech Compassion
Sutra renunciation body Renunciation
These correspondences are universal and pose no problems. Another important classification is the
"key in five". It organizes the five aggregates ("skandhas"). Indeed, tantrics study themselves (or look
for objective information about their psychological constitution) to discover their predominant desire
and work on it by way of the corresponding Buddha Family (cf. the so-called "meditational" or
"Dhyni" Buddhas).

In the Tibetan tradition, the following correspondences are proposed :
Aggregates & Cardinal Directions in Tibetan Vajrayna
White / Center
body, sensation
Water - Vajra
Blue / East
Wisdom of
Earth - Ratna
Yellow / South
Wisdom of
Fire - Padma
Red / West
Air - Karma
Green / North
Cardinal correspondences are not absolute, but are largely due to cultural conditioning. For example,
in the Western Mystery Tradition, based on the Qabalah & Ancient Egyptian religion, "Earth" is green
(vegetation, nature, etc.), not yellow. "Air" is yellow (dawn, Sun-rise, etc.), not green. "Water" is
associated with feeling, "Air" with thought and "Earth" with form etc, while in the East "Water" is form,
"Air" will and "Earth" feeling ! Hence, Buddha Amitabha is associated with the aggregate of thinking,
not feeling. He is deemed Fire, not Water. Moreover, within the Tibetan tradition, variations pertain
between the sects & lineages. This shows these correspondences are not to be taken as absolutes.

The record here result from a Western understanding of the five elements (Space, Air, Fire, Water,
Earth) and their corresponding seasons, colors, cardinal directions, etc. hand in hand with tantric
practices. Although the elements represent a universal experience, the way they are perceived
depends on conditioning. Someone who first used to train in the Qabalah, finds the Tibetan
correspondences impossible to work with, while a newcomer will have less difficulty associating
"Earth" with the color yellow and the aggregate of feeling. Once the correspondences are "locked",
they "work". They do not possess inherent, substantial value, but express particular associative
networks of interdependent phenomena. The mandala can be constructed in various ways and "works"
as long as it symbolizes all possible phenomena in a stable set. Of course, greater understanding
unfolds more complex mandalas.

To arrive at a comprehensive view, the Navayna tries to combine Eastern & Western systems of
correspondences. It should also be remarked the "elements" as used in Tantra represent stable states
(orientations) and not dynamical ones (as in Chinese medical theory, where they represent the 5
phases of one circulating energy : Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water).
Aggregates & Cardinal Directions in Navayna
White Vairochana
Space - Center - White
Eightspoke Wheel
Blue Akobhya
East - Air - Yellow
Green Amoghasiddhi
South - Fire - Red
Wisdom of
Red Amitabha
West - Water - Blue
Wisdom of
Yellow Ratnasambhava
North - Earth - Green
The Five Aggregates with their Afflictions :
Aggregates (Navayna) Functions Afflictions
Space / Buddha
clarity &
luminosity &
Air / Vajra
Fire / Karma
volitional factors
will jealousy
Water / Padma
Earth / Ratna
sensation pride
The Six Worlds with their Delusions & Perfections :
Realm Colors (all dull) Delusion Perfection
Gods white pride concentration
Demigods green jealousy ethics
Humans yellow attachment joyous effort
Animals blue stupidity wisdom
Hungry Ghosts red greed generosity
Hell-beings black hatred patience
The Subtle Body & the Harmony of Li & Kan
In the Tibetan Tantric system, the "Vajra-body" is the subtle body surrounding the gross physical
structure (cf. hylic pluralism). This is an energy-body, acting as an interfase between the physical &
mental planes of existence. Working directly with this energy-field, Tantra quickens the process of
liberation, prompting awakening. Of course, the better the structure & function of this energy-field is
understood, the more efficient & thorough this "work with energy" ("ch'i kung") will be. The dangers
involved with directly working with this vital field demand deep understanding & long (slow) practice.

This said, the Vajra body consists of subtle winds ("prna" or "ch'i"), channels ("nds"), energy
wheels ("chakras") and seminal drops ("bindu"). Of the millions of channels, the Tibetan tantrics only
incorporated three : "lalan" (left, the Hindu "id"), "rasan" (right, the Hindu "pingla") and
"avadhti" (central, the Hindu "suumn"). How to visualize these three main channels ?

The central channel is thin as a drinking straw, supple, transparent, blue-grey on the outside, oily red
on the inside. Visualize the central channel exactly midway between the left and right halves of the
body, to the back. The central channel runs in the spine, beginning at the brow-wheel, ascending in an
arch to the crown-wheel (connecting with it) and then descending in a straight line to the perineum.
Bringing all left & right winds into the central channel purifies the minds mounting them.

Visualize how, starting at the nostrils, the left (white - Lunar) and right (red - Solar) channels arch
and descend left and right of the central channel. They come together in the sacred wheel where they
enter the central channel. The red Solar channel is the wisdom channel, the white Lunar channel is the
method channel.

Visualize three drops. I the crown-wheel is a white drop and in the sacred wheel a red drop. At the
level of the heart-wheel and inside the central channel is the sacred drop, the size of a small pea, top
half white and bottom half red. It is like a tiny ball of crystal simultaneously radiating coloured rays of

The Tibetans visualize these channels differently than the Hindus, and crucial variations in
correspondences are also the case. Comparing these views on the Varja body with the Chinese system
of 12 meridians (channels), 10 organs, 8 wonder meridians and 3 elixir fields (main wheels), the
simplicity of the former becomes clear. Could it be the Indians & Tibetans derived their model from
the Chinese and also highly simplified it ? Or did India provide the basic architecture for China to add
complexity & sophistication ? The Tibetan system clearly simplifies the Indian one.

The Chinese view on the subtle (energy) body is very complex and takes into account the whole body,
gross & subtle. The system of medicine based on this is sophisticated and has been operational for
thousands of years. Its merits are without discussion. As it would take a separate book to outline this
and compare it with the Hindu & Buddhist accounts (both Indian & Tibetan), only a broad sketch can
be offered here.

In terms of sexual polarity, the first traditional (written) tantras represent a "canonical" discourse
made ready for a monastic & academic audience. Mind that before the emergence of these texts in the
7th century CE, Buddhist Tantra was already half a millennium old ! It remains unknown how, in the
early days, sexuality (as part of "samsra") was made part of Tantra. And indeed, a questionable
reversal of polarities is present in the first historical tantras.

In most (if not all) symbolic systems of correspondences, the Chinese included, the masculine is
associated with the Sun and the feminine with the Moon. Even in Vedic times this had been
acknowledged. Indeed, "Yang" is masculine and associated with the Sun (day, light, heaven) and "Yin"
is feminine, associated with the Moon (night, darkness, earth). Now in traditional Buddhist Tantra this
polarity is reversed, causing an incomprehensible conflict of energies. The masculine is associated with
the Moon (the feminine with the Sun) !

On top of this, the reversal is associated with the pair "wisdom/method" in a way conflicting with the
actual contents of these terms. Indeed, the "Sun of Wisdom", the final clearing of delusion (the advent
of "bodi-mind" itself), is associated with the Moon, i.e. a satellite of the Earth ! Mutatis mutandis, the
mere method (secundary causes & conditions) to achieve enlightenement is then related to the Sun.
This is moving against the wisdom of the Buddhadharma, the highest of its perfections. The end of
reification clears the ignorance realizing the deluded state of consciousness and only the wisdom
realizing the lack of own-power (affirming other-power) is able to thoroughly do this. Hence, the Sun
is associated with the wisdom clearing away ignorance and the Moon with the methodology we
earthstriken deluded minds may use to liberate ourselves & awaken (for the benefit of all sentient

Why did this odd reversal happen ? In Hindu Tantra, the "feminine" consort ("akti") of the male Deity
("hiva") seeks to reunity with him. She is "fiery" and dances on delusions to achieve union. In
traditional Buddhist Tantra, this fiery woman becomes the "wisdom-consort" of the male Vajra Heruka
awakening to Buddhahood. Hence, wisdom ("praj") = feminine and hence Lunar !

These correspondences are clearly wrong, as evidenced by the Chinese account. Heaven is "the great
Yang", masculine, Earth is "the great Yin", feminine. The one is above, the other below. Humanity
stands in-between, able to achieve the harmony of enlightenment.
Navayna Tantra is based on the following correspondences :
Polarity Area Gender Side Luminary Wings
YANG heaven masculine right Sun wisdom
YIN earth feminine left Moon method
Now the actual "yoga" introduced by traditional Buddhist Tantra (namely the "melting" of the drops
leading to the Four Joys) must be realigned with the above correspondences. To do so, an important
issue needs to be addressed. The Crown wheel is regarded as masculine (both in India & China), and
thus in touch with "heaven". The Root wheel is regarded as feminine, and in touch with "earth".

The drops represent the two vital elements of the body, namely "semen" (the white drops, "amrita")
and "blood" (the red drops, "rakta"). The connection between semen (received from the father) and
longevity connects the white drops with the long-life vase (of method), whereas the purity of the
blood (received from the mother) and the power of the brain allows one to identify the red drops with
the skull-cup (of wisdom).
Drops Vital Fluid Power Symbol Luminary Wings
health skull-cup Sun wisdom
longevity long-life vase Moon method
If these correspondences are applied to the wheels (vital in the yoga of "melting the white drops")
then inconsistencies seem to appear. Indeed, the white drops are mainly situated in the Crown wheel,
whereas the red drops are located in the Sacral wheel ("svdhithna") or the Navel wheel
("manipra"). How can the "Lunar" component be associated with the Crown wheel, deemed
"heavenly" and so Yang (masculine) ? How can the "Solar" component be associated with the Sacral
wheel, deemed "Earthly" and so Yin (feminine) ? This problem can however be solved by integrating
the central key of Internal Taoist Alchemy into traditional Buddhist Tantra, thereby transforming it.

This central key implies "Li" and "Kan", two trigrams representing Fire and Water respectively. These
two trigams are the more interactive, transformative aspect of Heaven -Yang-Yang-Yang- and Earth -
Yin-Yin-Yin- respectively. "Li" is "Fire" and written as Yang-YIN-Yang. It represents the state of
consciousness associated with the Crown wheel & the Brow wheel. "Kan" is "Water" and written "Yin-
YANG-Yin" and represents the "gut feelings" of the lower abdomen (the Navel, Sacral & Root wheels).
So when the tantras state the white (Lunar, Yin) drops are situated in the Crown wheel, they refer to
the YIN component of Fire, which -as a whole- is Yang. When they associate the red (Solar, Yang)
drops with the Sacral wheel, they refer to the YANG component of Water, which -as a whole- is Yin.
This balances the structure, for the polarities of the wheels (Solar Crown wheel versus Lunar Sacral
wheel) and the distribution of the drops (Lunar White at Crown versus Solar Red at Sacral) are no
longer in conflict ! Nor is the core meaning of wisdom in the Buddhadharma harmed.
Navayna Tantra
Wheel Polarity Wheel Wings Drops LI/KAN Polarity
Solar (Sun)
Fire (Li)
mainly White
Lunar (Moon)
Water (Kan)
mainly Red
A last standing issue is the ritual use of Vajra & Bell. In the Tibetan tradition the Vajra (outstanding
symbol of wisdom, a weapon of the Solar Indra) is associated with male method, whereas the Bell
(outstanding symbol of method) is associated with female wisdom ! Again an incomprehensible
polarity-reversal. How can wisdom be feminine, Lunar & dark ? How can method be masculine, Solar
and light ? Why this ambiguity regarding the core concept of the Diamond Vehicle, "Vajra" ? Clearly
wisdom is the Sun of Awakening arrived at thanks to the method of Lunar practice accummulating
merit (compassion) ? Vajra is the power of this Sun to clarify there are no substances, whereas the
Bell is the sound gathering the countless dependent arisings, making them emerge and stand out in
concert. One cannot reverse the symbol of the Vajra. But one can easily work out a wrong method
(like holding the Bell upside down).

Holding the Vajra in the Solar right hand associates it with the Solar right channel, connected to
wisdom. Holding the Bell in the Lunar left hand associates it with the Lunar left channel, or method.
This activity reflects the conditions of the energies of the subtle (Vajra) body. On the altar however
(passive), the Solar Vajra is placed left and the Lunar Bell right. Indeed, this cross-over represents the
physical situation, for the right hand is associated with the left hemisphere of the brain and the left
hand with the right hemisphere. When actively using Vajra & Bell, the subtle body is addressed. When
passively positioned on an altar, they represent the physical body.
Towards A Pan-Erotic Tantra
Consistent with Eastern and Western Alchemy, after having identified the putrified components
("negrido"), the basis or root is the "albedo" or "white phase", to be identified with the Lower Elixir
Field, the three lower wheels, the "red drops" (the fire of Water, KAN) and with Lunar "method".
Mutatis mutandis, the "rubedo" or "red phase" refers to the Upper Elixir Field, the Brow & Crown
wheels, the "white drops" (the water of Fire, LI) and with Solar "wisdom".
Navyana Tantra
Energy Wheels Polarity Drops Goal
white drops
red drops
The "operators" are Vajrayogini-Heruka, and so omni-erotical, implying the partners assume the role
they prefer. In case of opposite sexes, it may be common for the female to assume Vajrayogini and
the male Heruka. In the case of two woman or two males, the complementary polarity is sought, for
Heruka has Vajrayogini as His wisdom-consort and Vajrayogini has Heruka as Her wisdom-consort.
The goal being to allow all possible operators to experience all types of bliss and empty it. However, in
this Tantra both partners assume Buddhahood (Generation) and fully realize it (Completion).

Then, instead of exclusively building the completion technology on fierce Inner Fire through vase
breathing (the fire-goddess "Candl" burning at the navel), the gentle circulation & harmonization of
the life force ("prna", "c'hi", "ka", "pneuma" or "ruach") may offer alternate methods to make the
winds enter the central channel, realizing the nondual union of bliss & emptiness by building the
"illusionary body" slowly & with great care. The ultimate state is clearly associated with the Heart
wheel, the indestructible drop therein, the HeartMind Elixir of Taoism (or Middle Elixir Field), or
Tiphareth in Qabalah. In Hindu Yoga, this is like slowly untying & dissolving the knots ("bandhas"), not
burning them up violently !