“If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself. If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself. Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own transformation.”
~ Lao Tzu ~
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy with a wide variety of traditions, beliefs and practices which are largely based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha (Pali / Sanskrit “The Awakening”).
Two main branches of Buddhism are recognized: Theravada (“The School of the Elders”) and Mahayana (“Greater”) vehicle.
Theravada, the older branch, has a widespread following in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia. Mahayana has a large following across east Asia and encompasses the traditions of the Pure Land, Zen, Nichiren Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, Shingon, Tendai and Shinnyo-en. While Buddhism is the most popular in Asia, the two branches have now spread across the entire world.
The basic practices of Buddhism are geared toward meditation. But Zen Buddhist practices extend beyond.
Rinzai and Soto are two of the seven great Zen Buddhists in Japan with Soto being the most common one of the two. In fact, the word “Zen”, comes from the Sanskrit word for meditation. All can be transformed into “zazen” which is the name of a Zen Buddhist meditation technique. Regular daily practice is of paramount importance.
Buddhists from Monaco spend a lot of time meditating. Meditation on the koan is mainly used by the branch of the Rinzai Zen. All practitioners of Zen Buddhism seek enlightenment. Although meditation is the most important part of the practice, the addition of other techniques can help achieve this goal.
Buddhism is a religion based on the teachings of the Buddha, known as “Dharma”. Those who practice Buddhism are in a spiritual search to achieve a state of complete enlightenment known as nirvana.
This religion focused on the teachings of the Buddha, by supporting the Sangha (the trailer) to meditation as a means to train the mind to eliminate suffering and to attain nirvana.
Theravada Buddhism was the Tripitaka, the Pali canon of Buddhist teachings, and Ten Commandments that govern the lives of Buddhist monks.
Practiced mainly in China, Korea and Japan, Mahayana Buddhism includes elements of mysticism and cosmology. Mahayana Buddhism is fragmented into two variants. Zen Buddhism, which focuses more on the internalization of the spiritual journey and self-confidence and the Pure Land, which teaches the devotion to the Buddha Amitabha is needed to reach nirvana.
Although strongly influenced by Mahayana Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism or Vajrayana constitutes another significant discipline of the Buddhist faith. Also Tantric Buddhism known Vajrayana contains both text and writing including Theraveda Mahayana Buddhism and Buddhist tantra.
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Different Types of Buddhism
Just like there are many different denominations of Christianity – including Protestant churches and Catholicism, the different types of Buddhism reflect the way that this religion is practiced.
Buddhism is a dharmic religion and form of spirituality that revolves around certain beliefs and practices – all of which are aimed at bringing the participant closer to Buddhahood – the highest level of spiritual awareness. However, because the religion has gained followers in several different parts of the world (mostly in Asia), the way that Buddhism is practiced has split into several different sects. All of the Buddhist sects believe certain things in common: all accept Buddha as their teacher, use the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path in their teachings, and believe that Buddhahood is the highest attainment.
Most scholars divide the different types of Buddhism into three sections. The first of these is Southern Buddhism, or Theraveda Buddhism. The word Theraveda is a word in the Pali language (thought to be spoken by the Buddha) that means “the Doctrine of the Elders”. The biggest aim in the Theraveda practice is to use meditation to train the mind, and to encourage freedom of the mind from suffering. This freedom from suffering will allow you to reach the greatest spiritual goal – Nirvana. Theraveda Buddhism is the only surviving school from the earliest years of Buddhism, and it is mostly practiced today in Sri Lanka, Laos and Cambodia.
The second type of Buddhism that is mentioned is Eastern Buddhism, also known as Mahayana Buddhism. This sect not only teaches the Pali Canon (which is the religious text of Theraveda Buddhism) but also includes additional texts and beliefs. In order to reach Nirvana, Mahayana Buddhists believe that a person must practice universal compassion, which is the altruistic quest of the Bodhisattva to attain the “Awakened Mind” of Buddhahood. Mahayana Buddhism also has a level of mysticism involved. This type of Buddhism is practiced in China, Korea and Japan, as well as parts of other Asian countries.
The third of the different types of Buddhism is Northern or Tibetan Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhism is also considered to be a type of Mahayana Buddhism, but it also embraces other teachings, texts and practices that are not seen in the Eastern type of Mahayana Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhism is also sometimes called Tantric Buddhism or Vajrayana. This type of Buddhism uses both the Mahayana and Theraveda scriptures, as well as a number of Buddhist Tantras – all of which are aimed at attaining Buddhahood in just one lifetime instead of requiring many reincarnations.
While all of the different types of Buddhism have the same goal and same basis for their beliefs, the way that Buddhahood is obtained varies from sect to sect. It is important to understand the way that each sect works before choosing to practice a type of Buddhism.
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Perhaps no other classical philosophical tradition, East or West, offers a more complex and counter-intuitive account of mind and mental phenomena than Buddhism. While Buddhists share with other Indian philosophers the view that the domain of the mental encompasses a set of interrelated faculties and processes, they do not associate mental phenomena with the activity of a substantial, independent, and enduring self or agent. Rather, Buddhist theories of mind center on the doctrine of no-self (Pāli anatta, Skt. anātma), which postulates that human beings are reducible to the physical and psychological constituents and processes which comprise them.
Indian Buddhist analyses of the mind span a period of some fifteen centuries, from the earliest discourses of the Buddha (ca. 450 B.C.E.) to the systematic developments of late Mahāyāna Buddhism (500–1000 C.E.). Although philosophical accounts of mind emerge only within the Abhidharma scholastic traditions (roughly 150 B.C.E. to 450 C.E.), their roots are found in the Buddha’s teachings of the no-self doctrine. At the same time, these accounts parallel similar theoretical developments within the Brahmanical traditions, with which they share a common philosophical vocabulary (and a general view of mental processes as hierarchical and discrete). This article focuses on the picture of mind and mental phenomena that emerges from the canonical literature, the theories of mind advanced by the main Abhidharma scholastic traditions, and the epistemological issues of perception and intentionality debated by philosophers such as Vasubandhu, Dignāga, Dharmakīrti, Candrakīrti, Śāntarakṣita, and Dharmottara.
All references to the canonical literature are to the major collections of texts in the Pāli Canon, primarily to the Long, Middle, and Connected Discourses of the Buddha (the Dīgha,Majjhima, and Saṃyutta Nikāyas respectively). For the Abhidharmic account of mind and related phenomena I draw almost exclusively from Vasubandhu’s Treasury of Higher Knowledge (Abhidharmakośa and its bhāṣya; hereafter AKBh), a foundational text for most of the philosophical developments of late Indian Buddhism.
Coseru, Christian, “Mind in Indian Buddhist Philosophy”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2011 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2011/entries/mind-indian-buddhism/>.
On the fringes of Indian civilization, in the unsettled areas, in the edges of the forest, and in the frightening and impure spaces in the cremation grounds on the edge of major cities, a new vision of Buddhist practice began to emerge. This vision eventually came to be known as Tantra.
The Tantric version of Buddhism brought about a profound change in Buddhist values. Tantric Buddhism began to emerge in India during the 6th century A.D. I use the word emerge because we don’t really know when it began. There are stories that trace back the tradition to the time of the Buddha, but it only emerged as a fully cultural phenomenon many centuries after the lifetime of the Buddha.
Tantra is really a pan-Indian phenomenon. It’s not just found in Buddhism, but also in Hinduism, and in other Indian religious traditions as Jainism. You can also find Islamic Tantra. It is a religious tradition that is found across the whole sweep of the Indian religious landscape.
Tantric Buddhism shares a lot of important concepts, symbols and ritual practices with its tantric counterparts in other Indian traditions. As was true with earlier movements like the Mahayana, Tantric Buddhism produced an extraordinary transformation in Buddhist values. The first question we might ask is wether this means that Tantra is in some sense a whole new form of Buddhism.
Sometimes, people treat the Tantric tradition as a separate vehicle, alongside the Theravada and the Mahayana. I think that it is more accurate and helpful for us to think of Tantra as an extension of the values of the Mahayana. In the next series of articles we are going to study Tantra and its fundamental teachings:
- The Meaning of Tantra: The best way for us to start studying Tantra is to look at some of the names that people use to refer to the Tantric tradition. What does the word Tantra mean? It turns out that this is pretty mysterious. It has several meanings and it is hard for us to know exactly which one is the one that most directly applies to the Tantric tradition.
- The Fundamental Teaching Of Tantric Buddhism: What is the fundamental teaching of the Tantras? Think of Tantra as simply a radical extension of the idea of non-duality. It is about overcoming duality. How does the Tantra do this? In a way that for us is quite striking.
- The Practice of Tantra: A common question about Tantra is whether there is anything that distinguishes the practitioners of Tantra from the ordinary practitioners of other traditions. Who are these people? Who practice Tantra in this form?
- The Buddhist Mandala: The Mandala is a system of Tantric symbolism that is based not in the number two, but in the number five. The word Mandala means simply “circle”. In its most simple form, a Mandala consists of five major points: North, South, East, West and the point of the center.It is useful to think of the Mandala as functioning in a simple ritual way. It simply draws a line around some ritual space, demarcates it and separates it from the profane space that lies outside.
Please note that this very brief explanation is merely intended to give a taste for the profundity of tantric practice as antidote to what many people think is a mere superstitious belief in thousands or strange “gods” with many arms and feet that are having sex all the time. All the images and ritual involved are merely intended to practice very advanced techniques for training the mind and controlling subtle energies within one’s body.
It is quite the opposite of ordinary sex with attachment and craving.
As mentioned in my Tantric Exercises article, parts of the exercises in tantric practice are involving controlling and transforming bodily energies. Sexual energy happens to be one of the strongest forms of physical energy; simply said, it is built-in by nature to ensure the survival of the species. Also these sexual energies need to be completely controlled and transformed. What is usually overlooked is that sexual practices in tantra should be free from the ordinary desires and lust, and only very advanced practitioners should try these practices after permission from their teachers. Simply said, it has very little to do with ordinary sex. Arousal of the sexual energy is preferably done by just visualizing a consort. The union of male and female are symbolic for the union of method or compassion and wisdom, or more specific in tantra, the union of bliss and emptiness. (See also Keith Dowman’s website for a more elaborate explanation.)
“Through the skillful methods of tantra, meditators are able to cultivate pleasure in a way that actually aids in spiritual progress. Afflicted grasping and desires based on mistaken ideas are the problem, not happiness and pleasure. If the pursuit of happiness and pleasure can be separated from afflictive emotions, then it can be incorporated into the path and will even become a powerful aid to the attainment of enlightenment.” From ‘Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism’ by John Powers
This also illustrates one of the typical aspects of tantra: rather than repressing negative emotions like attachment, they are transformed into positive energy. But using this transformation principle has two sides: it is not only a very effective means of making mental changes, but if they are done without proper guidance of a qualified teacher, the practitioner can easily increase negative emotions rather than reducing them. So very powerful psychological techniques like tantra need to be treated with much care and consideration to avoid disastrous results for the practitioner.
Transmutation is a transformation of energies, and specifically this refers to the transformation of the sexual energy. The base sexual energy exists within the hormonal secretions of the endocrine system, as well within sperm and semen. In esotericism, semen refers to the sexual secretions of both man and woman, and is also referred to as the Ens Seminis. This Ens Seminis can be transformed into an extremely vivifying energy that is literally the cornerstone of the great work of self-realization. All the effects of sexual transmutation culminate into a type of spiritual stimulation that can produce true, fundamental, psychological change.
Samael Aun Weor often speaks of psychological revolutions. A revolution only occurs by destroying the decaying norms of the past while simultaneously forming a new creation. In Hinduism, the divine couple of Shiva-Shakti is the creator-destroyer, and they are often posed in tantric union. Likewise, only the sexual energy can create and destroy, and this is related not just with the physical, but as well with the psychological.
In its essence, the key of self change lies within the transmutation of creative energy, because only it can create a spiritual nature within. Unfortunately, many devout aspirants are unaware of this tremendous reality, and thus it is inevitable that those who do not practice some form sexual transmutation will find themselves stagnant and unable to overcome their own personal vices and defects. Testaments to this fact are all the lamentable stories related to celibates in schools of Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, etc., etc., that do not know how to control their own sexual energy (the Holy Spirit), and thus they either suffer endlessly from wet dreams, take up the vice of masturbation, or worse, sexually abuse others. These problems can only be resolved through the science of sexual transmutation.
Any devoutly spiritual act is fueled through transmutation, thus meditation, mantra, prayer, etc., are complements of the transmutation of sexual energy. Nevertheless, it is necessary for single persons to employ the practice of specific Pranayama exercises in order to take advantage of the otherwise latent sexual energy. Those who are married should perform sexual magic, as this is the definitive method of sexual transmutation.
“Being able to have sexual contact without releasing semen is something needed when you practice the advanced stages of the complete stage.” – The 14th Dalai Lama (Berzin Archives)
“For Buddhists, sexual intercourse can be used in the spiritual path because it causes a strong focusing on consciousness if the practitioner has firm compassion and wisdom. Its purpose is to manifest and prolong deeper levels of mind (described earlier with respect to the process of dying), in order to put their power to use in strengthening the realization of the emptiness. Otherwise, mere intercourse has nothing to do with spiritual cultivation. When a person has achieved a high level of practice in motivation and wisdom, then even the joining of the two sex organs or so-called intercourse, does not detract from the maintenance of that person’s pure behavior…”
“Through special techniques of concentration during sex, competent practitioners can prolong very deep, subtle, and powerful states and put them to use to realize emptiness. However, if you engage in sexual intercourse within an ordinary mental context, there is no benefit.” – How to Practice, Way to a Meaningful Life, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Translated by Jeffrey Hopkins
“Actually, [..] the sexual organ is utilized, but the energy movement which is taking place is, in the end, fully controlled. The energy should never be let out. This energy must be controlled and eventually returned to other parts of the body. And here we can see there is a kind of special connection with celibacy.” – Quoted from “The Good Heart,” H.H. the Dalai Lama
“There’s a great difference between the movement of the regenerative fluids for two individuals engaged in ordinary sexual intercourse as opposed to a highly realized male yogi and female yogini who are engaged in sexual intercourse…
“In principle, the general difference between the two types of sexual act is the control of the flow of regenerative fluids. Tantric practitioners must have control over the flow of the fluids, and those who are highly experienced can even reverse the direction of the flow, even when it has reached the tip of the genitals. Less experienced practitioners have to reverse the direction of the flow from a higher point. If the fluids descend too far down, they are more difficult to control.” – Sleeping, Dreaming, and Dying, by The Dalai Lama (1997, Wisdom Publications)
“Although I am using this ordinary term, sexual climax, it does not imply the ordinary sexual act. The reference here is to the experience of entering into union with a consort of the opposite sex, by means of which the elements at the crown are melted, and through the power of Meditation the process is also reversed. A prerequisite of such a practice is that you should be able to protect yourself from the fault of seminal emission. According to the explanation of the KalachakraTantra in particular, such emission is said to be very damaging to your practice. Therefore, because you should not experience emission even in dreams, the tantras describe different techniques for overcoming this fault.” – The 14th Dalai Lama
“One night a number of dakinis (female deities) were gathered in Birwapa’s room at the monastery. Other monks heard female voices through the walls and the next day, at a gathering in the big hall, the head disciplinarian expelled Birwapa from the monastery. Birwapa left wilingly, recognizing that the time had come for him to practice “union” and to develop the Great Bliss which penetrates emptiness through reliance on an external consort…” – The Dalai Lama’s Secret Temple, by Ian Baker, pg. 167 (Thames & Hudson, 2000)