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A Note on the Practice of Vajrayana

A Note on the Practice of Vajrāyana

Vajrayāna began in India and was first taught by the Buddha to a select group of students due to the ripening of their karma. Nowadays, Vajrayāna has become one of the most popular practices throughout the world. Today, Vajrayāna is practiced in Tibet, China, Bhutan, Nepal, India, South East Asia, Europe, United States, and many other counties.

What is the nature of Vajrayāna? It is a union of the wisdom that has totally realized the true essence of everything, emptiness, and skillful means, which refers to profound compassion.

In order to practice Vajrayāna effectively, one must first acquire the foundational understanding of the Buddhist path shared with both Sutrayāna Buddhism. One is then prepared to begin training in the Vajrayāna teachings.

Secondly, to join the Vajrayāna family, one must be initiated into the mandala of a Vajrayāna deity such as Mother Green Tara. The initiation ripens one’s mental continuum so that one can follow the teachings with unshakable confidence and devotion.

Thirdly, anyone who is interested in practicing Vajrayāna must be completely committed to keeping both major and minor precepts and to practicing diligently everyday the specific practices that one is given. There are also commitments involved, such as practicing the visualization of certain deities everyday, the recitation of mantras, avoiding negative emotions, and so forth, all according to whichever initiation one has received.

Vajrayāna is a practice for devoted individuals since without commitment to the practice success will not come. A person who embraces Vajrayāna must acquire wisdom through listening, contemplating, and meditation. If one is fully committed to the practice and keeps the major and minor commitments then one is able to attain liberation within this life.

The word “vajra” means indestructible and refers to the truth of the teachings. The word “yāna” means vehicle which represents a means for traversing the path from samsara to enlightenment. The distinction of the Vajrayāna path is that in addition to engaging in the profound Mahāyāna practices of loving-kindness, compassion, the six perfections, etc., one also follows the profound practices of the four classes of tantra. The four classes tantra are Kriya, Charya, Yoga and Highest Yoga. They include the additional methods of mantra recitation, deity meditation, and other ritual practices such as fire ceremonies and smoke offering ceremonies.

To engage in the method side of tantric practice correctly, one must receive very clear instructions on the practice. For example, if we are practicing Mother Green Tara we need instructions such as: where to practice, what kind of person is qualified to practice, the correct way to recite the mantra, and how to make torma offerings and conduct the fire ceremony. One has to learn the details of these practices from qualified teachers.

According to the Mahāyāna tradition, it is said to take three countless eons to attain Buddhahood. One of the unique qualities of Vajrayāna is that if we are able to practice well with unshakeable devotion and keep all the major and minor commitments, then we will be able to attain Buddhahood without this kind of hardship.