This has four divisions:
1. How to become a suitable vessel
2. How to keep the vows and commitments purely
3. How to approximate the deity
4. How to establish the siddhis
How to become a suitable vessel
First, you become a vessel suitable to meditate on the path by obtaining empowerment bestowed in the maṇḍala of the essence of great compassion and so on that are mentioned in performance tantra. You must obtain the five knowledge empowerments since you are not permitted to practice if you obtain just the water and crown empowerments. Apart from these distinctions it is similar to action tantra.
Like action tantra, performance tantra is explained in four divisions. It also possesses three lineages: the tathāgata lineage is sourced in the Vairocana Complete Enlightenment Tantra, which was widely disseminated in Tibet, and the vajra lineage is sourced in the Vajrapāṇi Empowerment Tantra, but the sources of the lotus lineage were not translated into Tibetan.
Initiation into performance tantra, like other types of secret mantra, is conferred within a maṇḍala. In general there are seven types of maṇḍala, whether external such as colored sand and painted cloth, or internal such as the body maṇḍala. But visualization of the maṇḍala alone is not sufficient; we must also meditate on its emptiness. The Vairocana Complete Enlightenment Tantra specifically teaches the maṇḍala of the essence of great compassion.75 Since in this context great compassion refers to ultimate bodhicitta,76 meditation on great compassion is meditation on emptiness, and such meditation constitutes initiation into the maṇḍala of the essence of great compassion.
Performance tantra possesses five types of initiation called the five knowledge empowerments: the water, crown, vajra, bell, and name empowerments. Unlike action tantra, which requires just the water and crown initiations, performance tantra requires all five empowerments.
How to keep the vows and commitments purely
You must not give up the pure Dharma and bodhicitta, even to save your life, you must not act with avarice or harm sentient beings, and you must maintain the practice of abandoning the ten nonvirtuous actions.
Through initiation into performance tantra we gain the bodhisattva vows—the commitment to guard against the eighteen root and forty-six secondary bodhisattva downfalls. Other commitments must be guarded as well, and the Vairocana Complete Enlightenment Tantra refers briefly to some of these commitments. The author suggests that any remaining commitments correspond to those of action tantra.77
How to approximate the deity
The third has two parts:
In both action and performance tantras, yoga with signs denotes deity meditation that engages relative or conventional appearance either through visualizing our ordinary body, speech, and mind as the body, speech, and mind of a deity, or through visualizing ourselves as inseparable from the nature of the deity we have generated in the space before us. Sign refers to relative truth, and yoga with signs refers to practices engaging and focusing on relative truths.78 Conversely yoga without signs engages the non-inherent existence of the deity. It is meditation on the emptiness of the divine body that does not apprehend any relative signs.
Yoga with signs consists of recitation of the four external branches and recitation of the four internal branches, engaging in whispered and mental recitation without deteriorating either set of four branches, and engaging in restraint through vitality exertion during mental recitation. We briefly discussed the four branches of recitation in action tantra. Performance tantra, however, differentiates an external four branches from an internal
four branches as reflecting two different approaches to mantra recitation. In the first we engage in verbal or whispered recitation by moving our lips to produce an audible sound. In the second we engage in mental recitation by reciting the mantra only internally, not producing or verbalizing any sound, while engaging in the yoga of restraint through vitality exertion.80
Four external branches of recitation
In performance tantra we practice the external branches when we focus single-pointedly either on the divine body or on a seed syllable placed at the heart of the deity. We practice recitation with ourselves as the basis of the deity when we recite the mantra while focusing on a seed syllable in the heart of the deity of the self-generation; we practice recitation with another as the basis when we focus on a seed syllable in the heart of the front-generated deity; we practice recitation with sound as the basis when we focus on the sound of the mantric syllables either internally or externally; and we practice recitation with the mind as the basis when we focus on seeing our mind as one in nature with that sound.
Four internal branches of recitation
A unique feature of performance tantra is to transform meditation on ourselves as the deity into the four internal branches of recitation. To do this we visualize at our heart another miniature deity four finger-widths in height, and in its heart a seed syllable. We imagine that our body, speech, and mind are one in nature with the body, speech, and mind of this deity. When we focus on the sound of the mantric syllable found in the heart of the miniature deity, it is recitation on sound as the basis; when we focus on the sound of that seed syllable in the heart of the miniature deity as one in nature with our mind, it is recitation with mind as the basis; when this sound is not seen as different in nature from ourselves, it is recitation with ourselves as the basis; and when the bodies are seen as separate, it is recitation with another as the basis.81
Yoga without signs consists of attaining a calm abiding [4b] that focuses on the body of the deity and so on, then meditating on emptiness mixed with deity yoga, and then establishing a union of calm abiding and the insight that comprehends emptiness through alternating between analysis and placement. In the three lower tantras, calm abiding is established during the practice of yoga with signs, while meditation on emptiness is established during yoga without signs. Similarly, in highest yoga tantra, calm abiding is established in the generation stage, while meditation on emptiness is established in the
completion stage.82 For example, in self-generation in action tantra, we first generate ourselves as the deity and cultivate calm abiding by focusing on the body of the deity. Once calm abiding is obtained, we generate insight apprehending the emptiness of that divine body through mixing meditation on the emptiness of the divine body with deity yoga. In this process we alternate between placement and analysis by first applying single-pointed focus on the object and then analyzing the emptiness of that object. Ultimately we seek to establish analysis while maintaining stability and stability while applying analysis, thus preventing any disruption to meditation.
Yoga with signs is deity meditation and mantra recitation without meditation on emptiness. Yoga without signs is deity meditation and mantra recitation with meditation on emptiness but not meditation on emptiness alone.
Jé Rinpoché (i.e., Tsongkhapa) observes that yoga without signs is not simply meditation on emptiness but a type of yoga that frequently apprehends the divine body. Yoga without signs therefore focuses on the divine body and meditates on the emptiness of that body while alternating between placement and analysis. If it were meditation on emptiness alone—separate from bodhicitta or any other aspect of method—then it would not act as the union of method and wisdom. But this point is disputed by scholars.
Points of debate
Reply: This should be analyzed, because there is yoga with signs that is influenced by the mind realizing emptiness—because it is said that meditation on emptiness exists prior to yoga with signs, and if the mind realizing emptiness at that time is sufficiently strong, the yoga with signs that follows will be influenced by it.
Some assert that yoga with signs is not affected by meditation on emptiness. But meditation on the six deities begins with meditation on the empty deity, and that is yoga without signs apprehending emptiness; meditation on the remaining five deities is yoga with signs. If at the beginning we meditate intensively on emptiness, then the practices that follow will tend to be influenced by that meditation, even though they are classified as method.85 The author then cites Tsongkhapa to show that he has not fabricated this assertion:
Condensed Stages of the Path states:
When wisdom realizing emptiness is strong, it is not contradictory that when you practice generosity, prostrations, circumambulations, and so on, the minds that focus on these actions engage these actions with the force of that wisdom, even though they do not comprehend emptiness. Similarly when bodhicitta is strongly generated at the beginning of the session, it is not contradictory that when (you later) engage in concentration on emptiness, at that time bodhicitta influences that (concentration on emptiness), although it does not manifest.
This passage presents two illustrations of the union of method and wisdom. In the first, meditation on emptiness precedes and influences the practice of method, while in the second bodhicitta precedes and influences wisdom.
This is how method and wisdom are conjoined in the sūtra system, but method and wisdom are not conjoined in the mantric system by this means alone. There both the extensive practice of deity yoga and the profound wisdom realizing non-inherent existence are taken to be the inseparable union of method and wisdom by nature simultaneously combined [5a] in a single awareness.
In accordance with the Condensed Stages of the Path, if we meditate on bodhicitta at the beginning of a session and then devote the main part of the session to meditation on emptiness, this constitutes method influencing wisdom. Alternatively, if we meditate on emptiness at the beginning of a session and then devote the main part of the session to method, then this constitutes wisdom influencing method. In these cases, method and wisdom influence each other, but they do not manifest at the same time in one mind. This instead is a unique feature of tantra.
Mantric Stages states:
In the resultant phase both the deity basis that is adorned with marks and signs and its supported mind of non-observation abide simultaneously and inseparably. So too in the path phase, both the method—that is, your body appearing to your yogi mind as a tathāgata’s body—and the wisdom focusing on the non-inherent existence of the suchness of the mind are by nature necessarily simultaneously and inseparably combined in a single awareness, which is the inseparable union of method and wisdom.
The resultant phase is when we attain buddhahood and our mind perceptually comprehends reality and diversity simultaneously. In the path phase a yogi generates an experience that is similar to the resultant phase, where two processes occur in the mind simultaneously. First a practitioner’s own self appears in the aspect of a divine body, speech, and mind; and second his mind comprehends non-inherent existence. This type of yogic awareness is called the mind of non-observation. During the path phase this awareness of an ordinary being acts like a double-sided mirror. One side reflects what appears—the deity—and the other reflects what is ascertained—the non-inherent existence of the deity. In other words, a single awareness possesses two objects simultaneously.
Though wisdom realizing the non-inherent existence of its held aspect—the appearance of the deity—is one in nature with the mind of extensive deity yoga, method and wisdom are posited as distinct due to being designated as different isolates that negate wrong (modes of ) distinction.
When we speak of the union of method and wisdom we employ two distinct terms, method and wisdom. As names, “method” and “wisdom” constitute two distinct states or isolates (ldog pa), but in terms of meaning or nature, they constitute a single awareness. For example a vase and the emptiness of a vase are one in nature but distinct as isolates. The ordinary mind cannot accomplish two functions simultaneously such as perceptually comprehending a vase and the emptiness of that
vase. This may be illustrated by one of the seven basic types of mind discussed in lorig texts, namely inattentive awareness (snang la ma nges), or awareness to which an object appears but is not ascertained. For example we may wonder whether we saw an old friend in a large crowd. We know we saw a face but cannot decide whether it was our friend’s face due to possessing inattentive awareness that apprehends the appearance of a face but does not ascertain the identity of that face. However, in tantra there can be a single awareness that performs two functions simultaneously: apprehending the appearance of an object and ascertaining that object’s nature or identity.
Therefore, in this context, yoga without signs is profound, clear, nondual yoga. It is not merely deity yoga influenced by the mind realizing emptiness, for if it lacked meditation on emptiness it would not be concentration without signs. General Classes of Tantra states: Though they accomplish absorption with signs, they still do not have the direct antidote that severs the root of saṃsāra; for this they need yoga without signs. When they cultivate yoga without signs, they do not meditate on any relative aspect, such as the body of the deity; rather they skillfully cultivate analytical and placement meditation on emptiness based on past advice.
The author describes yoga without signs as nondual, profound, clear yoga where profound refers to the depth and vastness of the wisdom realizing the non-inherent existence of the divine body, and clear refers to the clarity of the appearing object. Then, to establish the need for yoga without signs, he quotes Khedrup Rinpoché’s General Classes of Tantra, which indicates that yogis who merely establish the clear appearance of the body of the deity cannot harm the ignorance grasping at true existence that is the very root of saṃsāra. They must therefore supplement meditation on the divine body with meditation on its emptiness. The term saṃsāra describes the beginningless cycle of suffering experienced by sentient beings. The root or source of saṃsāra is the ignorance of the way the “I” actually exists, a state that generally remains obscured. In order to sever this root, a yogi must practice yoga without signs, which meditates on the emptiness of the divine body.
Meditation on emptiness should be performed with intelligence and persistence. We should unremittingly apply the various logical arguments that establish emptiness, such as the reasoning that dharmas are neither truly one nor truly many.91 By maintaining such a stream of analysis, we develop stable discernment of emptiness, and this in turn influences other aspects of our practice.
When does the basis of emptiness appear?
Someone says: Take yoga without signs; it follows it is not deity yoga because a deity body with a face, arms, and so on does not appear to it—because it is awareness explicitly 92 realizing emptiness.
Reply: That is not logically necessary because you must accept that the subject—a basis that is empty—appears to rational conceptual awareness realizing emptiness—because [[[Tsongkhapa’s]]] Great Commentary to the Madhyamakakārikā and Stages of the Path state just that.
When Ngawang Palden states “that is not logically necessary,” he asserts that a mind that explicitly comprehends emptiness can be deity yoga because relative truth can appear to it—because relative truth can appear to a conceptual awareness that comprehends emptiness explicitly but not perceptually. So too the basis that is empty appears to inferential awareness, since inferential awareness is a conceptual mind. In other words, the self that is the basis of the emptiness of the self appears to conception that explicitly comprehends the emptiness of a self. But the basis of emptiness does not appear to the yogic perception of a sentient being. This then marks a fundamental difference between a sentient being’s perceptual and conceptual modes of realizing emptiness. The source of this assertion is Jé Rinpoché’s Great Commentary to the Madhyamakakārikā as well as his Stages of the Path.
There are different views regarding whether the generic image appears or not to the union of calm abiding and insight.95 For example, in the debate manuals of Drepung Losaling, it is said that although the generic image is a focal object, it is not the appearing object. Conversely Sera Jé College holds that the generic image is an appearing object and therefore it does appear.96 Losaling manuals state that on the path of seeing, the basis of emptiness appears to the
person who is in equipoise but it does not appear to the awareness that perceptually comprehends emptiness. Therefore there is no one mind to which both truths appear but there is a person to whom they both appear. Again it may be said that both appear to self-cognition but not to the mind itself. There is an account in the writings of Jé Rinpoché about a Geshé Sherap Sengé from Narthang Monastery who grasped his upper robe out of fear when he comprehended emptiness perceptually for the first time. This fear was due to the self not appearing when the emptiness of the self appeared. Out of fear of losing the self, he grasped something tangible to reaffirm his existence.
The inferential comprehension of emptiness may also be illustrated by the earlier example of seeing a familiar face in a crowd. Here we are certain that we see a face but uncertain that it is the face of someone we know. Debate may arise as to whether just one awareness arises that is both certain about the face and uncertain about whether it is our friend’s face or whether there are two different minds. Consider another example. Before someone who aspires to be a polo
player has learned how to ride a horse, he cannot both ride the horse and hit the ball at the same time since his main focus is to keep his balance. Later, after gaining experience, he can both ride the horse and hit the ball at the same time. But which is his main focus, riding the horse or hitting the ball? Or when he is simultaneously riding the horse and hitting the ball does he possess two minds, one for each function, or does one mind perform both functions? I personally think that it would be difficult for the basis of that emptiness to appear to the mind of a beginner who comprehends emptiness for the first time.
But later, as he or she gains familiarity, the basis of the emptiness would appear. At first only emptiness would be the appearing object, but later the basis of that emptiness would also appear to one part of the mind. As I said, there are different opinions on this issue. Some say that it is the focal object but not the appearing object while some say that it is an object that appears but is not ascertained. We should contemplate these issues at length.
In fear of overstating the point I will not write more, but I refer you to my work Exposition of the Two Truths. Although many sources support the author’s statement,97 he refrains from a more detailed explanation and suggests one of his own works for further discussion of these points. Still the central issue is whether the physical form of the deity needs to appear in deity yoga, given the difference between the conceptual comprehension of emptiness where a generic image does appear to the mind, and the perceptual comprehension of emptiness where a generic image does not appear to mind.
In response he says: It follows that the physical form of the deity will appear when such yoga without signs perceptually comprehends emptiness due to the power of meditation, because your [[[Ngawang]] Palden’s] thesis is tenable.
The author previously asserted that the conceptual awareness that explicitly comprehends emptiness can be deity yoga since relative truth appears to it. In response the opponent claims that if this assertion were true then it would be logically necessary that the deity would also appear to the mind perceptually realizing emptiness.
Relative appearances such as the face, arms, and so forth of the deity do not appear to the mind that perceptually comprehends emptiness. Nevertheless, this practice is called deity yoga due to the continuity of mind (rgyud) of the person involved. To understand this point we need to examine the difference between the meditative equipoise of a learner that perceptually comprehends the two truths sequentially and the equipoise of a non-learner buddha, that perceptually comprehends both truths simultaneously. Further we need to distinguish between the pristine wisdom of equipoise and the person who is in equipoise. For instance, the textbooks of some monastic colleges assert that relative aspects do not appear to a learner’s equipoise perceptually realizing emptiness but they do appear to the person who is in equipoise. The term continuity of mind here refers to the stream of consciousness of the person who previously cultivated deity yoga with signs, whose consciousness now engages emptiness but who continues to be aware of the deity.
The four types of deity yoga
In general, it is not logically necessary that the physical form of the deity appears to either yoga with signs or yoga without signs because in this context there are four yogas—deity yoga, empty yoga, wind yoga, and recitation yoga—and because these (four) occur within both yoga with signs and yoga without signs.
Mantric Stages states:
Action and performance tantras have four significant yogas, namely deity yoga, empty yoga, wind yoga, and recitation yoga. Together relative deity yoga and ultimate deity yoga are the main factors establishing the two bodies. Recitation yoga is a branch invoking the mind of the deity meditated upon and thus it is included as a branch of relative deity yoga. Wind yoga is a branch stabilizing both deity yogas and thus it occurs within both yogas. Therefore the four yogas are subsumed by both yoga with signs [6a] and yoga without signs.
Mantric Stages reveals that, of the four yogas, the two main ones are empty yoga and deity yoga, and they subsume or include the other two. Empty yoga here means yoga without signs—the ultimate deity yoga meditating on the emptiness of the deity body. Deity yoga here means yoga with signs—relative deity yoga where the body of the deity appears. Recitation yoga is subsumed within relative deity yoga. Wind yoga acts as a stabilizing factor for both yoga with signs and yoga without signs and is therefore classified in both. We practice the two main yogas, relative and ultimate deity yogas, to obtain, respectively, the resultant form and dharma bodies.99 As such, meditation on the appearance of the deity establishes the form body, while meditation on the non-inherent existence of the divine body establishes the dharma body.
The difference between empty yoga and deity yoga reflects the difference between the focal object and appearing object of an inferential awareness that explicitly comprehends the emptiness of the divine body. The dharma body is established in dependence on the focal object, and the form body is established in dependence on the appearing object. It also reflects the difference between profound and clear in Ngawang Palden’s description of yoga without signs as “profound, clear, nondual yoga.”100 Unless we examine the nature of the appearing and focal objects, we cannot explain how both method and wisdom may exist simultaneously and inseparably with the nature of a single awareness in tantra.
The difference between sutra and tantra in the presentation of method and wisdom is not related to the way emptiness is presented but rather to the way the mind realizing emptiness is explained. And as we progress from the lower tantras to highest yoga tantra, and the presentation of the mind realizing emptiness is gradually refined, more subtle differences become apparent.
How to establish the siddhis
Fourth, it is stated in this tantra that you are established as the knowledge bearer of the sword and so on through relying on external substances such as the sword; you establish the feats of pacification, increase, and so on through meditating on the maṇḍalas of earth, water, fire, and wind within your body; and at the end of recitation you obtain a vision of a bodhisattva such as Mañjuśrī where he strokes your head, speaks words of encouragement, and you obtain the concentration that never forgets bodhicitta. Many methods of establishing these and other siddhis are stated here and elsewhere.
The author mentions three different ways of attaining siddhis, or attainments. The first relies on external substances such as a sword, the second relies on visualizing various maṇḍalas mapped to our physiology, and the third relies on meeting one of the main deities of the three lineages,101 namely Mañjuśrī, Avalokiteśvara, and Vajrapāṇi. Therefore in the first we obtain the capacity to fly by relying on the sword.102 In the second we obtain the ability to pacify obstacles, increase our life and merit, and powerfully subjugate others, and wrathfully eliminate obstacles by visualizing maṇḍalas related to the elements in our body. In the third we obtain the special concentration recalling the mind of bodhicitta by meeting the lord of the lineage we have cultivated and by receiving praise and encouragement from him.
see also : Charya tantra