Thangka depicting the Refuge Tree of the Karma Kagyu Lineage by Sherab Palden Beru, c. 1972

Tibetan Buddhist meditation – Reveling the nature of consciousness

The Deity Yoga meditation

In Tibetan Buddhism, the central defining form of Vajrayana is Deity Yoga (devatayoga).

This involves the recitation of mantras, prayers and visualization of the yidam or deity (usually the form of a Buddha or a bodhisattva) along with the associated mandala of the deity’s Pure Land.

Advanced Deity Yoga involves imagining yourself as the deity and developing “divine pride”, the understanding that oneself and the deity are not separate.

“Yidam” in Tibetan technically means “tight mind” which suggests that the use of a deity as an object of meditation is intended to create total absorption into the meditative experience.

Yidam practice focuses on three essential aspects of deities which, in turn, are the three principal aspects of all being: body, speech and mind.

Practitioners meditate on the body of the deity, usually visually themselves becoming that body.

Chanting mantra becomes the manifestation of enlightened speech with the meditation ultimately aspiring to become Buddha mind.

Most tantric practices incorporate these three aspects sequentially or simultaneously.

The true nature of consciousness

Deity practice should be differentiated from worship of gods in other religions.

One way of describing tantric practice is to understand it as a “strong method” for developing an awareness of the true nature of consciousness.

In this short video the true nature of consciousness is described by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche as:

“So easy, you cannot believe. So close, you cannot see.”

The ultimate nature of mind

Other forms of meditation in Tibetan Buddhism include the Mahamudra and Dzogchen teachings, each taught by the Kagyu and Nyingma lineages of Tibetan Buddhism respectively.

The goal of these is to familiarize oneself with the ultimate nature of mind which underlies all existence, the Dharmakāya.

In this second short video Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche explains the meaning of ultimate nature of mind:

Glossary of concepts & teachings

There are also other practices such as Dream Yoga, , the yoga of the intermediate state (at death) or bardo, sexual yoga and chöd.

The shared preliminary practices of Tibetan Buddhism are called ngöndro, which involves visualization, mantra recitation, and many prostrations.

This is a list of concepts and teachings for the practice of Tibetan Buddhist meditation.

Rainbow body

In Dzogchen, rainbow body (Tibetan: འཇའ་ལུས་, Wylie: ‘ja’ lus , Jalü or Jalus) is a level of realization. This may or may not be accompanied by the ‘rainbow body phenomenon’. The rainbow body phenomenon is a religious topic which has been treated fairly seriously for centuries, including in the modern era. Other Vajrayana teachings also mention rainbow body phenomena.

Chöd

Chöd, is a spiritual practice found primarily in the Nyingma and Kagyu schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Also known as “Cutting Through the Ego,”, the practices are based on the Prajñāpāramitā or “Perfection of Wisdom” sutras, which expound the “emptiness” concept of Buddhist philosophy.

Tummo

Tummo is the fierce goddess of heat and passion in Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Tummo is found in the Mahasiddha Krishnacarya and the Hevajra Tantra texts.

Dream yoga

Dream Yoga or Milam —the Yoga of the Dream State—is a suite of advanced tantric sadhana of the entwined Mantrayana lineages of Dzogchen. Dream Yoga are tantric processes and techniques within the trance Bardos of Dream and Sleep Six Yogas of Naropa. In the tradition of the tantra, Dream Yoga method is usually passed on by a qualified teacher to his/her students after necessary initiation. Various Tibetan lamas are unanimous that it is more of a passing of an enlightened experience rather than any textual information.

Phowa

Phowa is a Buddhist meditation practice. It may be described as “the practice of conscious dying”, “transference of consciousness at the time of death”, “mindstream transference”, or “enlightenment without meditation”.

Esoteric transmission

In Vajrayāna Buddhism, esoteric transmission is the transmission of certain teachings directly from teacher to student during an empowerment (abhiṣeka) in a ritual space containing the mandala of the deity. Many techniques are also commonly said to be secret, but some Vajrayana teachers have responded that secrecy itself is not important and only a side-effect of the reality that the techniques have no validity outside the teacher-student lineage.

Pointing-out instruction

The pointing-out instruction is the direct introduction to the nature of mind in the Tibetan Buddhist lineages of Mahāmudrā and Dzogchen. In these traditions, a “root guru” gives the “pointing-out instruction” in such a way that the disciple successfully recognizes the “nature of mind.”

Guru yoga

In Vajrayana, is a tantric devotional practice in which the practitioner unites their mindstream with the mindstream of the body, speech, and mind of their guru. Guru yoga is akin to deity yoga since the guru is visualized in the same manner as with a meditational deity. The process of guru yoga may entail visualization of a refuge tree as an invocation of the lineage, with the ‘root guru’ channeling the blessings of the entire lineage to the practitioner. The guru may be visualized as above the meditator, in front of them, or in their heart. Guru yoga may also include a liturgy, prayer, or mantra, such as the “Seven Line Prayer” of Padmasambhava, or the “Migtsema”.

Longchen Nyingthig

Longchen Nyingthig is a terma, revealed scripture, of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism, which gives a systematic explanation of Dzogchen. It was revealed by Jigme Lingpa (1730-1798).

Dark retreat

Dark retreat is a solo retreat in a space that is completely absent of light, which is an advanced practices in the Dzogchen lineages of the Nyingmapa, Bönpo, and other schools of Tibetan Buddhism. The time period dedicated to dark retreat varies from a few hours to decades. Dark retreat in the Himalayan tradition is a restricted practice only to be engaged by the senior spiritual practitioner under appropriate spiritual guidance. This practice is considered conducive for navigating the bardo at the time of death and for realising the rainbow body. The traditional dark retreat requires stability in the natural state and is only suitable for advanced practitioners. Ayu Khandro and Dilgo Khyentse are examples of modern, if not contemporary, practitioners of significant periods of dark retreat sadhana.

Dark retreat is a solo retreat in a space that is completely absent of light, which is an advanced practices in the Dzogchen lineages of the Nyingmapa, Bönpo, and other schools of Tibetan Buddhism. The time period dedicated to dark retreat varies from a few hours to decades. Dark retreat in the Himalayan tradition is a restricted practice only to be engaged by the senior spiritual practitioner under appropriate spiritual guidance. This practice is considered conducive for navigating the bardo at the time of death and for realising the rainbow body. The traditional dark retreat requires stability in the natural state and is only suitable for advanced practitioners. Ayu Khandro and Dilgo Khyentse are examples of modern, if not contemporary, practitioners of significant periods of dark retreat sadhana.

Tibetan tantric practice

, also known as “the practice of secret mantra”, and “tantric techniques”, refers to the main tantric practices in Tibetan Buddhism. The great Rime scholar Jamgön Kongtrül refers to this as “the Process of Meditation in the Indestructible Way of Secret Mantra” and also as “the way of mantra,” “way of method” and “the secret way” in his Treasury of Knowledge. These Vajrayāna Buddhist practices are mainly drawn from the Buddhist tantras and are generally not found in “common” Mahayana. These practices are seen by Tibetan Buddhists as the fastest and most powerful path to Buddhahood.

Tögal

In Dzogchen, tögal literally means “crossing the peak.” It is sometimes translated as ‘leapover,’ ‘direct crossing,’ or ‘direct transcendence.’ Tögal is also called “the practice of vision,” or “the practice of the Clear Light” (od-gsal).

Trul khor

Tsa lung Trul khor, known in short as Trul khor “magical instrument” or “magic circle” is a Vajrayana discipline which includes pranayama and body postures (asanas). From the perspective of Dzogchen, the mind is merely vāyu “breath” in the body. Thus working with vāyu and the body is paramount, while meditation on the other hand is considered contrived and conceptual.

Namchö

Namchö translates as the “sky/space dharma”, a terma cycle especially popular among the Palyul lineage of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism. It was revealed by the tertön Namchö Migyur Dorje, transmitted to Kunzang Sherab and compiled by the Kagyu school master Karma Chagme.

Sky gazing (Dzogchen)

In both the Bön and Buddhist Dzogchen traditions, sky gazing is considered to be an important part of tregchöd. Detailed instructions on the practice are provided by the Nyingma teacher Tarthang Tulku.

Tapihritsa

Tapihritsa or Tapahritsa was a Bon practitioner who achieved the Dzogchen mastery of the rainbow body and consequently, as a fully realised trikaya Buddha, is invoked as an iṣṭadevatā by Dzogchen practitioners in both Bon and Tibetan Buddhism. He famously achieved the rainbow body achievement.

Trekchö

In Dzogchen, trekchö means “(spontaneous) cutting of tension” or “cutting through solidity.” The practice of trekchö reflects the earliest developments of Dzogchen, with its admonition against practice. In this practice one first identifies, and then sustains recognition of, one’s own innately pure, empty awareness. The main trekchö instructions in the Lamrim Yeshe Nyingpo state “This instant freshness, unspoiled by the thoughts of the three times; You directly see in actuality by letting be in naturalness.”

Zhitro

In Tibetan Buddhism and Bön, Zhitro is the name referring to a cycle or mandala of 100 peaceful (zhi) and wrathful (khro) tantric deities and of a genre of scriptures and associated tantric practices which focus on those deities which represent the purified elements of the body and mind. These hundred peaceful and wrathful deities are believed to manifest to a deceased person following the dissolution of the body and consciousness in the intermediate state, or bardo, between death and rebirth. The best-known, though by no means only, example of this genre of texts and practices is commonly known as the Kar-ling Zhitro cycle after Karma Lingpa, the tertön who (re)discovered or revealed this collection of texts. The text which is well known in the west as “Tibetan Book of the Dead” forms one section of Karma Lingpa’s Zhitro cycle.

Kora (pilgrimage)

Kora is a transliteration of a Tibetan word that means “circumambulation” or “revolution”. Kora is both a type of pilgrimage and a type of meditative practice in the Tibetan Buddhist or Bon traditions. A Kora is performed by the practitioner making a circumambulation around a sacred site or object, typically as a constituent part of a pilgrimage, ceremony, celebration or ritual. In broader terms, it is a term that is often used to refer to the entire pilgrimage experience in the Tibetan regions.

Five Tibetan Rites

The is a system of exercises reported to be more than 2,500 years old which were first publicized by Peter Kelder in a 1939 publication titled The Eye of Revelation.

Tergar Meditation Community

is a Buddhist meditation community led by Tibetan meditation master and best-selling author Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche.

Tonglen

is Tibetan for ‘giving and taking’, and refers to a meditation practice found in Tibetan Buddhism.

Five faults and eight antidotes

The are factors of samatha meditation identified in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. The five faults identify obstacles to meditation practice, and the eight antidotes are applied to overcome the five faults. This system originates with Maitreyanātha’s Madhyānta-vibhāga and is elaborated upon in further texts, such as Kamalaśīla’s Stages of Meditation (Bhāvanākrama). This formulation has been commented upon by generations of Tibetan commentators. This formulation derives originally from the Yogācāra tradition.

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