Foundations: The Tathāgatagarbhatārā Tantra


The Vajrayana essentially follows the old principle of hermetic magic, ‘as above so below’. By manipulating the mundane consciousness, it effectively induces change on the spiritual level. By reconstructing the mundane environment as a reflection of the Enlightened Mind, it imbues ordinary mind with a sacred quality. Although this reconstruction of the normal channels of consciousness is by no means an easy affair. One can easily get burned in the practice of Tantra. Unless one’s karma is somehow immaculately pristine and devoid of adventitious defilements—an unlikely scenario—then long time preparation in the foundation of Sutrayana, as well as many years spent experiencing Dhyāna and Deep Samādhis, is a good prerequisite before embarking on the spiritual trek of the Vajrayana.

Rather than attempting to block or counteract feelings and dark thoughts emanating from the Alaya Receptacle, Vajrayana begins the process of transmuting these volatile energies—in particular through the agency of the Five Wisdom Tathagatas, or the Five Dhyāni Buddhas, who actually and mystically reassemble the Five Skandhas into aspects of Pure Translucent Light. An indispensable factor to bear in mind is the very nature of Vajra:

“The word Vajra, commonly rendered as the thunderbolt, is taken here to connote the immutable adamantine nature of the dharmas. It has been said—‘Sūnyatā, which is firm, substantial, indivisible and impenetrable, incapable of being burnt and imperishable, is called Vajra’ To realize the Vajra nature of things is, therefore, to realize the ultimate void nature of things. Some of the most important Mantras of the Vajra-yānists are,–‘I am of the adamantine nature, which is Śūnyatā-knowledge.’ [An Introduction to Tantric Buddhism, Dasgupta, pg. 77-78]

Radmila Moacanin in his book, Jung’s Psychology and Tibetan Buddhism, dovetails Tantra in this fashion:

“According to the teaching of Tantric Buddhism, enlightenment, liberation, can be attained in the present life. It consists of a fundamental change in our perception of reality,’ the turning about in the deepest seat of consciousness,’ [Lanka—inclusion mine] when the I or self-consciousness has turned its attention towards the universal consciousness. It is the ‘intuitive experience of the infinite and the all-embracing oneness of all that is. ‘The experience can also be described as a discovery of a world beyond the ordinary world of appearances , in which all opposites no longer exist. In this open space, one abandons all limitations; there is no exclusiveness, no this or that, but this and that, everything is included, nothing rejected. This is the world of nonduality, pleroma, from which everything originates, and into which everything disappears. Buddhists call it sunyata, emptiness, the open space which contains both the principle of causality and synchronicity.” [78-79]

One of my favorite mystics, Lama Anagarika Govinda, goes even deeper concerning the real inner-Tantric experience of the Authentic Siddha:

“The real siddhi, however, consists in inner conversion, in the ‘turning-about in the deepest seat of consciousness’, as it is called in the Lankavatara Sutra. It is the re-orientation, the new attitude,- the turning away from the outside world of objects to the inner world of oneness, of completeness- the all-embracing universality of the mind. It is a new vista, ‘a direction of the heart’ (as Rilke calls it), an entering into the stream of liberation. It is the only miracle which the Buddha recognized as such and besides which all other siddhis are mere playthings.”  [Govinda, Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism, pg.75]

The Tathāgatagarbhatārā Tantra is developing into a vast Opus—one that peers into the very depths of the Generation of Bodhicitta Itself, while simultaneously reflecting the imperishable adamantine vajra-śūnyatic cycle. The presiding, “tutelary deity” (ista-devata) of the tantra during its Generation Stage is Arya Tārā—one whose sacred womb (garbha) enshrines the essence of Buddhahood Itself; in this vein the yogin may take on the characteristics of a devotee who offers daily devotions to this Holy Matrix. The realization of this highest aspect of Bodhi develops as Arya Tārā, the Wisdom (prajñā (or śūnyatā) Principle—the ebb and flow from which all emanates from and eventually returns—conjoins with the dynamic means and Luminative Principle (upaya) as represented by Vajradhara Buddha. Their mystical-union produces the Bodhichild, who reaches maturity through the Ten Stages, or Bhumis. In effect, these female/male polarities is not some kind of union outside ourselves, but rather the union of our inner-male and female nature in the process of Dhyāna.

The Completion Stage essentially completes the cycle first initiated in the Lankavatarian Book of the Dead, and that is the transformation of the Bodhisattva into the Vajrasattva—the Adamantine Diamond Mind/Being. Vajrasattva, the sixth Dhyani Buddha, is generally regarded as the priest of the five Dhyani Buddhas and is epitomized with the priestly symbols, the Vajra and the Ghanta, (Bell); in this sense Vajrasattva is the embodiment of the Five Wisdom Tathagatas collectively. The Divine Liturgy of Vajrasattva will encapsulate the consecration of the Prajñā (Blood) and Upaya (Body) Principles under the species of Manna and Wine and conclude the Vajaric-Rite with symbolically paying homage to the “empty” Presiding-Chair—thus representing Vajrasattva’s esoteric relationship with Samantabhara—the Adi (Primordial) Buddha, who is the personification of the Unborn Dharmakaya.

The mystery of the Tantric Body, Speech, and Mind, is indicative of the Holy Initiation, wherein the Yogin through Sādhana (the prescribed method (dhyana) of union with the Sacred Deities)—or the process of realizing the Infinite-Unborn Spirit—becomes the Body of all Buddhas; whose Speech becomes the Sacred Word of all the Shining Ones; and whose mind becomes the Self-Realized Bodhicitta, or the Bodhi-Mind of all Tathagatas. Thus the Holy Teaching of the Unborn Adamantine Vehicle (Vajryana) drives home the self-realization of the guidance that is directed by that inner-Unborn and Luminous Light—the very power of Enlightened Consciousness, a power that holistically empowers the Unborn Light Adept (Yogin) to grow in Sacred Gnosis and Divine Wisdom.

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