In INSIGHTS by Max Corradi2 Comments

In tantric Buddhism we find the principle of vibration or sound expressed in the inner practices of transformation where we imagine and develop a mandala, or a pure vision of the dimension of a particular deity or enlightened being. It’s a facsimile of the dimension of a deity, a spontaneous effulgent radiance of reality, in order to transform our limited dualistic vision of reality into the total vision of enlightenment and realize the qualities of enlightened wisdom through that particular deity.

The tantric deities are symbols and personifications of enlightened mind and not deities or god-like beings still grasping at a self-nature, as such beings, although considered as deities are still bound by ignorance of the true primordial nature of reality. While in the Dzogchen path to self-realization we jump directly into the nature of pure being and integrate all dualistic experiences in that state. In other words, we identify with the lucid mirror-like expanse of mind and experience our reflections non-dualistically. In the Buddhist higher path of tantric transformation, we use precise symbols in the form of deities, equivalent to the mirror’s reflections, to discover and abide in the nature of the potentiality of pure being which is reflecting, equivalent to the mirror’s lucid surface potentiality.

In tantric transformation we also use sounds in the form of different Sanskrit syllables which represent the energy of that particular deity in order to help feeling the creative visualization. The tantric practitioner employs mantras, or strings of Sanskrit syllables, which are the natural vibration or energy of pure being manifested by that particular deity, in order to integrate or transform our limited periscopic vision into the total vision of reality. Ultimately the deity serves a symbol which allows the practitioner to integrate three aspects of body, speech and dualistic mind into the total and nondual nature of enlightened wisdom, the nature of mind beyond the dualistic distinctions of one and many.

On a more relative level, using tantric transformation and specific mantras we are also capable of actualizing specific relative actions or qualities for the benefit of self and others, for example the development of specific qualities like healing, intelligence, purification of negative karma, increasing wealth and prosperity, magnetizing beings, eliminating obstacles through fierce activities and protecting the mind from negative influences and destructive emotions. These actions or qualities, however, are not developed anew with the practice, but simply revealed as inherent qualities of the primordial base, our nature.

Moreover, these activities are considered magical actions as they manipulate reality at will, but to be able to actualize them we need to have developed a firm realization of oneself as a deity, a symbol of the power intrinsic to pure being. In a nutshell, to act like a deity we need to really to feel like a deity. Since reality evolves from all-pervading awareness into personal perception, we use the symbol of the deity as a magnifying glass in order to use the power intrinsic to pure being and set free from the bonds of ordinary causality as a temporary accomplishment, and finally realize the ultimate accomplishment of awakening into the state of the deity as the expanse of pure being itself. The shared public reality manifested into one’s perception by the workings of ordinary karma, cause and effect, is to the tantric practitioner an illusory reality, just as true and just as false as the reality he or she can evoke from the potentiality of pure being. It must be noted that, in general, certain mantras associated with the primordial natural vibration or sound of the deity, also have an independent power outside the tantric transformation framework, and can be used and directed by a practitioner who has the capacity to do so.

The Buddhist tantric system or vehicle leading to enlightenment is sometimes also called the resultant vehicle, as opposed to the causal vehicle of the Sutra system, because the path is no longer based on establishing causes, but by identifying directly with the fruition or effect, the fundamentally pure nature of mind and its qualities and activities, through the use of symbols of enlightened deities.

Buddhist tantric transformation, despite being widely applied nowadays, is not as easy as it seems. This is because of the natural tendency of dualistic mind to grasp at forms and sounds in dualistic terms of a separate subject and object. By considering these deities, which are visionary manifestations of the pure effulgent radiance of the potentiality of pure being beyond space and time, as self-existent beings separate from each other and from ourself, instead of individual symbols of the wisdom of enlightenment, and by considering their relative activities in terms of subject and object, we risk reinforcing the mind dualistic tendencies instead of transforming or dissolving them.

Do not harm others
Practice virtue and benefit others
Tame your own mind
This is the teaching of the Buddha

About the Author

Max Corradi

I'm a musician, a Self Help books author and a complementary medicine practitioner. I have been practicing and training in Tibetan Buddhism for some years under the guidance of Chogyal Namkhai Norbu and other Tibetan Teachers. I also like studying the ancient science of alchemy and spagyric medicine.

Featured image, Vajrasattva.

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    A truly wise distillation of the tantric transformation.

    As a long term Vajrayana and Dzogchen practitioner who has has the precious good fortune of perfect teachers, I so appreciate finding outstanding transmissions in English.

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    The visualization and understanding of the meanings behind the images of tantric deities and symbols should help our mind to go beyond dualism. This is their purpose I think.
    However as artist I notice how people visiting our workshop ask often questions about thangka paintings displaying dakinis, wrathful manifestations or deities in tantric union.
    I wonder if it is also part of their function to stimulate curiosity.
    Thank you Max for the interesting article.

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