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Preparing for tantra – Dharma talk series


Preparing for tantra – Dharma talk series

Tantra is part of the Buddha’s esoteric teachings for advanced practitioners. They are higher practices meant for disciples who seek quicker methods to achieve greater results on the spiritual path, and ultimately enlightenment in the shortest possible time. Since we cannot be certain when/if we will meet the Dharma again in our future lives, we should make the most of our potential in this lifetime through the practice of Tantra.

In this day and age, our overwhelming distraction is lust — which turns into difficulties short and long term. It is so hard to suppress. So in tantra, it’s transmuted into an energy that brings enlightenment.

— Tsem Rinpoche —

By tradition, tantric teachings are only given to a select group of sincere practitioners who:

  • Possess a solid foundation in the teachings
  • Are consistent in their daily practices/sadhanas
  • Have sound devotion to their spiritual teacher

These prerequisites are some of the key factors used to determine if we will be able to uphold the commitments of tantric practice. Why is keeping our tantric commitments so important? Because if we break tantric vows and commitments, it will eventually lead to the abandonment of our practice altogether, and create dire consequences for our tantric guru’s lifespan.

The high lamas of our tradition have advised that all students of H.E. Tsem Rinpoche who wish to practise Tantra in the future should prepare themselves by having a firm grounding and understanding of the Lamrim, or at least the Three Principal Aspects of the Path

Tantric practice also requires taking and upholding the Bodhisattva Vows, therefore we should have a firm grasp of what these are. In addition, we should have a basic understanding of Tantra and what it entails. With this in mind, we are pleased to announce these upcoming talks as part of the Preparing for Tantra series.

All talks will be held in person at Kechara Forest Retreat. A good grounding in Buddhism is recommended for anyone who wishes to attend this series of talks.

The Three Principal Aspects of the Path

The Three Principal Aspects of the Path revolves around the topics of Renunciation, Bodhicitta and Wisdom. Composed by Lama Tsongkhapa in poetic verse, it contains the essence of Buddha’s complete teachings and is one of the most popular texts on the stages of the path to enlightenment.

This seminal text was originally transmitted to Lama Tsongkhapa by the Bodhisattva Manjushri in a pure vision. Along with the Lamrim, it is prerequisite study material for anyone aspiring to receive higher tantric initiations like Yamantaka and Vajra Yogini.

Part 1: Renunciation
Part 2: Bodhicitta
Part 3: Wisdom

The Bodhisattva Vows

The Bodhisattva Vows are formal promises to refrain from two sets of negative actions. Buddha himself prohibited these actions for disciples training in the bodhisattva path to enlightenment. In other words, these vows guide our behaviour so that we can be of greatest benefit to ourselves and others.

The Tibetan tradition of the Bodhisattva vows consists of 18 root vows and 46 secondary vows. They are derived from the Akashagarbhasutra, as cited in the Compendium of Trainings compiled by Shantideva in the 8th century. The 10th-century Indian master Atisha received this particular version of the Bodhisattva vows from his teacher Dharmakirti of Suvarnadvipa, which he later transmitted to Tibet.

Part 1: The Root Vows
Part 2: The Secondary Vows

Introduction to Tantra

According to scripture, Buddha manifested in the form of Vajradhara to expound the Tantras. Tantra is a set of esoteric teachings that focuses on quick and efficacious methods to achieve enlightenment.

This talk delves into the basics of Tantra and how it operates to enact quick transformation for practitioners. It will be conducted from the perspective of general Buddhist Tantra, which is the foundation on which all tantric practices are based. The talk will also touch on the prerequisites for tantric practice, such as guru devotion, preparatory practices, and the role of sadhanas, initiations, yidams (meditational deities) and vows.