CHAPTER IV. THE TIBETAN TANTRA AND QIGONG
(a) GENERAL CONCEPTThis lecture is not designed to make you able to teach
yourself Tantric Buddhism or Tibetan energy training or Qigong. To learn Tantric Buddhism or to learn Qigong orany mental energy exercise, you must have a knowledgeable teacher who is willing and able to teach you. If you try to experiment with it yourself, you might create serious mental or physical injuries. These lecture notes are designed to be used as a reference guide under the supervision of a knowledgeable teacher.
The term Qigong (chi kung) is a Chinese term thatrefers to certain types of control and training in human
biological signals delivered by electro-magnetic energy to improve health.
The sources of Qigong in China includes the chi (qi) exercises of the masses, Tao Philosophy group, Taoist religion, Ch'an (Zen) School Buddhism, Tien Tai School Buddhism, Pure
Land School Buddhism, Tantric School (Tantric) Buddhism, other various sects of Mahayana and Hinayana Buddhism, Confucianism,
and various types of martial arts etc.
It is a general belief that when Buddhism was introduced
to Tibet from India, it came with its energy exercises. These
energy exercises were deemed to be the modified version of Yoga energy exercises of Hinduism. The energy
exercises of Tantric Buddhism later incorporated the energy training methods of the original religion of Tibet, the Bön religion. According to Tantric lamas Buddhist yoga is not the same as Hindu yoga. It was developed independently. Yoga was a term loosely
referring to different types of training to harmonize the mind and body. Kundalini Yoga was one of the Yogas originating from
the predecessor of Bön religion, an old Taoist philosophy that later was absorbed by the original Yoga training.
The Bön religion was deemed by some scholars to have come from a branch of the Taoism of the central part of China. This is why the methods of energy training of the Bön religion are very similar to the "Chun Siang"3 training method of the Tao religion of the Six Dynasties Era4 and the "Nei Tan"5 training method of the Tao religion, which was popular during the Tang (618-906) and Sung (960-1279) dynasties. The Tantric School Buddhism incorporated the training techniques of the Bön religion.
The tantra training of the Tantric Buddhism is heavily clouded by religious rituals. There are thousands of different sub sects
and methods of tantric training within the Tantric sect of Buddhism. (b) THE DIFFERENT CATEGORIES OF TANTRA
The Tantra trainings are divided into four major
Rituals and ceremonies are the main methods. Susiddhi Sutra is the main text.
Methods used include mantras, seals, cleaning environment
and own self. II. Performance Tantra (Carya Tantra) Deities are identical as adept.
Rituals and internal methods are used, but rituals are
being used more than internal methods.
The training of "Body tantric, oral tantric, and mind tantric in
harmony" is emphasized.
Mahavairocana Sutra is the main text. III. Yoga Tantra Power of deities are recognized as arisen from non-duality.
Rituals and internal methods are equally emphasized. IV. Highest Yoga Tantra Only internal methods are used. The Nyingmapa sect divides highest yoga Tantra into 3 sub- categories: a. Mahayoga Visualization of deity is gradual.
Focuses on the development stage. Emphasizes the clarity and precision of visualization as skillful
Meditation on emptiness. b. Annuyoga Emphasizes energy centers, wind and energy.
Visualization on deity is generated instantly. c. Atiyoga Emphasizes mind development. 1. Dzogchen The word Dzogchen is derived from two Tibetan words:
Dzogpa and chenpo. Dzogpa means "complete" or "end"; and chenpo means "top". So Dzogchen means "Great Perfection." Some scholars deemed that the term Mahayoga was derived from two Sanskrit words:
Mahasandhi which means "quintessence" or "gathering
all;" and Atiyoga, which means "summit or zenith of
yoga." Actually Dzogchen existed in the Bön tradition
before the introduction of Buddhism to Tibet. Dzogchen is generally associated with the Nyingma sect.
It has been practised by masters of all sects throughout
2. Mahamudra (Chaggya Chenpo, or phyag rgya chen po) Mahamudra is generally associated with bKa-rgyud sect. It is also practised by masters of all sects. Actually, Mahamudra leads to the same goal as that of Dzogchen. It is considered as a later translation relative to Dzogchen, which is considered as old translation.7.1The treatise of Mahamudra is easier to read than that of Dzogchen because the text of Mahamudra is organized step by step, so deemed by many adepts. Mahamudra differs from the classical training of the Nyimapas in that it does not emphasize "three tantrics in harmony" because it does not have "Oral Tantric." Abhiseka (wong) is not necessary because in abhisekas tutelary deities enter into the initiates during the rituals, and in Mahamudra or Dzogchen, there is no tutelary deity involved. The training of Mahamudra is very similar to the training of Ch'an (Zen) sect. The difference between Ch'an (Zen) sect and Mahamudra is that Ch'an sect emphasizes sudden enlightenment while Mahamudra emphasizes gradual enlightenment through dyana (ch'an) meditation. To learn Mahamudra one must have a qualified teacher because deviations and accidents can happen if it is not practiced correctly. Mahamudra consists of two major types of training which can be categorized into four yoga stages: (I). Yoga of Ordinary Practice: (a) Concentration Yoga (Zhuan Zhu) (1) Visualization Among different visualization methods, visualization on the syllable "Hum"is deemed to be complete and best. (2) Adamantine (Jin Gang) Breath (3) Treasure Pot (Pot Shape) (b) Nondiscriminatory Yoga (Li Si) (II). Yoga of Extra Ordinary Practice (a) One-ness Yoga (Yi Wei) (b) Nonpracticing Yoga (Wu Xiu) The Gelugpa usually do not use the term Atiyoga;
instead they divide Anuyoga into: Father Tantra, Mother Tantra and Non-duality Tantra. The Non-duality Tantra corresponds to Atiyoga. During the period from King Songstsen Gampo ( 629-650), to the reign of King Lang Darma (838-842), there were only two categories of Tantra: Action and Performance. These two categories of Tantra are found in the religious writings of
theTibetan language and Han language.
The early Tantric Buddhism, whether in Tibet or in the
Among the four types of training, the Highest Yoga is the best. If the Highest Yoga is the best, why should one
study the other types of Tantra ? The Highest or Highest Yoga is reserved for those who deserve it because of their virtues and accomplishment in Tantric Buddhism. Another reason is that different people are suited to study different types of Tantra. The lower types of yogas are also used as a foundation for Highest Yoga. CHAPTER V. THE TRAINING METHODS OF TANTRIC BUDDHISM (a) EMPOWERMENT Empowerment (Abhiseka in Sanskrit or Wong in Tibetan) is a
ceremony: 1. to authorize the disciples to learn certain Tantric lessons. 2. to cleanse obscurations 3. to confer power to the disciples, and 4. to establish relationship with certain deities in the mandala. The empowerment ceremonies are borrowed partly from the Bön religion and mainly from the Hindu ceremony of crowning a king where the rituals involved pouring holy water from the top of an elephant onto the head of the enthroning prince. The initiation ritual of Tantric Buddhism is not a one- time event. A disciple can go through many empowerment ceremonies for taking various steps of Tantric lessons and various authorizations, such as authorization to teach the Tantric methods, authorization to give empowerments, etc.
These rituals can be elaborate or can be simple and symbolic and performed through visualization. Usually the Lama giving the empowerment constructs a mandala where different deities are arranged in a circle. Strips of fabric are distributed to the disciples taking the initiation. The disciples tie the strips over their foreheads, symbolizing the eyes are being obstructed.
After reciting mantras of empowerment, the master performs the watering ceremony where he or his representatives distribute some holy water. The disciples drink some of it and pour some on their heads. Then each of the disciples is given a flower (or a petal of flower) to throw into the mandala. A tutelary deity 7.2 is then selected by the master for each of the disciples who have thrown the flower, or sometimes if the number of the initiates is toolarge, a symbolic throwing will be performed and the master will select one deity for all of the disciples. Then some colored powder or water are distributed to the disciples to be applied to the foreheads, throats, chests, and navel areas to activate the energy wheels. Usually the rituals are accompanied by vajra bells, clapper drums, gongs, cymbals, trumpets, large drums, and chantings. Besides mantras, the chantings include blessings consisting of beautiful verses of five or seven syllables. The low tone chantings of the lamas, the piercing sound of the vajra bells, the bellows of the trumpets and occasionally the exploding sound of the large drums create a serene and stunning effect for the initiates. Ceremonies may last more than three hours. At the end of theceremonies the strips of fabrics are removed from the foreheads symbolizing the openning of the eyes so that the disciples can see clearly (spiritually). Usually after the ceremonies fruits and cookies are distributed to all of the participants of the ceremonies. (b) THE THREE SECRETS OF BODY, MOUTH AND MIND The Tantric Buddhism of Tibet and other western and south- western parts of China consists of "teachings" and "action". 7.22 "Teachings" refers to theories of Buddhism. "Action"
refers to training (gong) and techniques (fa). From the point of Qigong, training is Qigong training and techniques are supernatural techniques. The fundamental training method is "Three Secrets (tantric) in Harmony": I. Body Tantric, II. Oral Tantric, and III. Mind Tantric; e.g. ,the three should be practised harmoniously together and correspond to the three tantrics of the Buddha. In general the method of basic training calls for the use the postures of deities (Buddhas, bodhisatvas), chanting of mantras, and mentally visualizing the physical shapes of the deities. This training concentrates on focusing the body, sound, mental activities to a single target, and through meditation and mental visualization, one enters a calm and serene mental state and leads the body into enjoying the pleasure of calmness, emptiness, clearness and achievement of certain supernatural powers. If we compare the training methods of Tantric Buddhism with other exoteric sects of Mahayana Buddhism, we can find that they have some kind of basic similarity except the Tantric sect also emphasizes the training of the physiological part of the body which most of the exoteric sects lack. 8
The Tantric sect deems that the mental part of the body and physiological part of the body are inseparable. The Tantric Buddhism, especially the Highest Yoga differs somewhat with other Buddhist sects in that it emphasizes the training of essential energy9 converting the body and spirit, and to attain longevity. Its ultimate goal is to become Buddha (enlightened) and still be able to possess the physical body, while the Ch'an (Zen) sect maintains that the heart (mind) is the Buddha. It is very similar to the philosophy of Nei Tan Taoism10 which emphasized the "Training of the spirit and life, bettering the soul and the body."The Highest Yoga of the Tantric Buddhism of Tibet has special understanding of energy centers11 and life centers. Among the different popular theories, there is one that mentions "three channels and four wheels" ( also five wheels). The three channels refer to left, middle, and right channels.
The middle channel begins at the top of the head and runs down the the spine to the perineum. This is deemed to be the life center. The left and right channels run along the spine and are the supplements for the middle channel. The four wheels refer to "the four layers of the wheels of the channels. " They are situated at the top of the head, at the throat, at the heart, and at the navel. With the perineum, the total number of wheels becomes five. Every wheel contains certain numbers of branch channels. The branch channels connect all the other channels. The three channels correspond to the Tu Mai12 of the Nei Tan Taoism. The top, heart, navel, and bottom wheels correspond to the different Tan Tians. The Tibetan Highest Yoga of the Tantric sect uses certain secret words on the Wheels and visualizes the secret words during meditation. This corresponds to the "Ie Sian"13 of the Nei Tan Taoism. The Highest Yoga depends on absorbing the energy in the universe as the main method of training.
I. Body Tantra
The Tantric sect believes that when the body is in harmony, the energy circuit will be in harmony, and when the energy circuit is in harmony, the chi energy will be in harmony, and when the chi energy is in harmony, the mind is in harmony. There are many postures used according to the different requirements in various training methods. One of the fundamental postures is called the "seven branch sitting method."1. Seven Essential Points of Sitting Method:
II. Oral Tantra
Oral Tantric refers to reciting mantra. Mantra means "clear" or "tool of thinking."13.02Mantra can be used to clear
the anxieties and sufferings of mankind. Recitations are done while inhaling. It is just opposite from the ordinary method of exhaling and reciting at the same time. Recitations are also done with visualizations. There are five different methods of reciting mantras: 1. Lotus recitation Chanting with sound. 2. Adamantine recitation Using the tongue to chant; no sound 3. Samadhi recitation Visualizing the syllables of the mantra; no sound 4. Sound creating thought recitation Visualizing a lotus flower in the heart and white sea shells on the lotus flower and sound of mantra comes out from the white sea shells. 5. Light visualization recitation Visualizing the chant of mantra and light is being emittted from the mouth. III. Mind Tantra
Mind Tantra is visualization. Objects of visualization can be the three channels and the four canon wheels (or five canon wheels). In any type of training, visualizing the tutelary deity (ben-tsun, or yidam) is the first step. After empowerment and under the guidance of the master, the disciple throws a flower to a chart of deities (mandala). The picture of the
thedeity where the flower lands, will be the deity selected as the patron deity.
The throwing of the flower can also be symbolic. The disciple can just throw the flower in the air, and the master that conducts the empowerment can choose mentally a certain deity as the tutelary deity. During meditation, the disciple visualizes the image of the deity. The image of the deity becomes clearer and closer. Eventually the deity and the disciple become one (in Caryayoga Tantra). The disciple has to have a clear picture of the tutelary deity. He/she should scrutinize the image of the deity and create a clear mental picture of the deity: the positions of the arms, legs, expressions, and body postures etc.. After getting a clear picture of the tutelary deity, the disciple should visualize that the deity enters into his body, and become one with the deity. The following trainings are deemed to be representative of the Tantric training: (c) THE THREE PROCEDURES OF TANTRIC TRAINING
I. (a). Mind focusing(b). Breath Regulating. II. (a). Nine Section Wind (b). Treasure Pot (c). Adamantine Chants (Jin Gang Yung) III. gTum mo (Ming tien, zhuo Huo Ding, Psychic Heat) ad I. Mind focusing (ie-so) and Breath Regulating (a). Focusing attention at one spot. This method involves focusing attention toward an external object like a deity or crystal, wooden ball, butter lamp
light, candle light, bead or a secret writing etc., or focusing attention at a certain part of the body to achieve mental concentration and to enter into a trance. First assume a training posture e.g. , the seven branch
sitting postures and maintain certain seal (hand sign). Exhale nine times to get rid of the polluted air, and inhale
three times to take in fresh air. Then visualize that there is a little white and bright spot as large as a sesame seed between the eyebrows. This training relaxes one's body and voice.13.1 (b). Breath Regulating While sitting in the prescribed position, breathe at the rate of 15 breaths per minute. The number of breaths can be lowered as the training becomes more proficient. 2. Adamantine (Tsin Kang) breath counting method. 14 This method uses breathing methods to control the functions of the body.
ad II. Nine Section Wind, Treasure Pot and Adamantine Chants
Lastly, visualize the polluted air being purged from the body through all the pores. (b). Treasure Pot (four breath methods) Treasure Pot is also called "Pot Shape Energy Training".
This method involves visualizing the body as a teapot. After expelling the stale air from the lungs by exhaling three times, visualize the energy or air being absorbed into the body through the top of the head. After the whole body is filled with the energy from the universe, the diaphragm has to be lifted and the abdomen flattened. Breathe in through the nose and send the energy to one and a half inches below the navel (same as dan tian in Nei Tan Taoism). Hold the breath until unable to hold it any longer, then slowly exhale. As training becomes better, the length of time of holding the breath can be longer. Eventually the breath almost becomes undetectable. Breathing is done as if through the middle channel. At this stage one can abstain from eating and drinking fluid many days without losing weight or feel hungry. (c). Adamantine Chants
One of the mantras used is "Om Ah Hum.". "M"s in both "Om" and "Hum" are pronounced closer to "ng" than "m". Mantras are not read but are chanted according to certain intonations and rhythms.
Ad III. gTum Mo (Jue Huo Ding Psychic Heat) 16 Jue Huo Ding or gTum Mo is one of the Six Doctrines (Six Yogas): 1.gtum-mo, 2.sgyu-lus, 3.rmi-lam, 4.hod-gsal, 5.bar-do, 6.hpho-ba. Among the Six Doctrines, gtum-mo is considered as energy training, while others are considered as religious training.
Che Huo refers to a sudden burst of fire in the body. The sudden burst of fire can make the body heat up. Ding refers to deep trance achieved by advanced meditation. The term "Treasure Pot" is sometime used instead of "Che Huo Ding." Actually, Treasure Pot is the foundation of Jue Huo Ding.
The training method is to place a writing of half "A" or short "A" (Sanskrit) at the navel and visualize that the writing is giving out a strong red light. The posture involves tilting the tail bone forward and drawing the anus upward. This method of energy exercise enables one to resist extremely cold temperatures and to improve one's essence of life and sexual energy.
Note: The transliteration of the Chinese words in the early writings used in this website are from the Merriam Webster Dictionary. Later writings used in this website use the pinyin system of mainland China.
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Last update: Feb 24, 2008; 12:37 p.m. LAH