Lama Zopa Rinpoche:
"My most dear, most kind, most precious, wish-fulfilling one,
Thank you very much for your kind letter informing me of everything that you have gone through. I am sorry it took many eons for me to reply.
Of course, I understand, but I just want to clarify this to you. After taking initiation from His Holiness the Dalai Lama or me, these commitments are not something that has no meaning or not much purpose in the life. It is not like that at all.
Generally these tantric practices are done with a lamrim foundation, correctly following the virtuous friend by looking at the guru as a buddha. The result is that you are able to see the guru as a buddha and from that realization you are able to generate all the realizations of the path to enlightenment. Correctly following the virtuous friend is the root of the path to enlightenment. This is such an important subject, the most important one in your life.
Also, without renunciation—renouncing this life and future lives’ samsara—the practice of tantra doesn’t become the cause to achieve liberation. Not only that, without renunciation of this life, even if you practice tantra it becomes the cause of the lower realms. Therefore, tantra has to be practiced on the basis of renunciation, renouncing samara.
And it should be done with bodhicitta, after having generated great compassion for all sentient beings. By knowing all the sufferings of each realm—the hell beings, hungry ghosts, animals, human beings, suras and asuras—and by [reflecting on] the general suffering in samsara, you can see how all beings are circling in samsara, through the twelve links. From this you generate great compassion for sentient beings and then you generate bodhicitta.
If you practice tantra with bodhicitta, then that tantra practice becomes the cause of enlightenment. But without bodhicitta, tantra practice doesn’t become the cause of enlightenment. Even if you practice kundalini or chakras, winds, drops, dzog chen or dzog rim, or anything, the graduated completion state and so forth, it doesn’t become the cause of enlightenment.
Without bodhicitta and without right view—the ultimate wisdom understanding emptiness—tantra practice doesn’t even become the remedy to samsara; it doesn’t eliminate ignorance. There is danger that it will become the cause of samsara.
You can achieve enlightenment by practicing Mahayana Sutra, which is practiced on the lesser vehicle path. The subject is the four noble truths, which is the very basis of Buddhism. By practicing Sutra you can achieve enlightenment, but you need to create the cause—the merit of virtue and the merit of wisdom. The merit of wisdom is the cause of rupakaya and dharmakaya. It normally takes three countless great eons to achieve rupakaya and dharmakaya—the Buddha’s holy body and holy mind. Normally that takes so much time and because it takes a long time then sentient beings have to suffer for so long.
Therefore, there is the need to practice tantra, the quick path to enlightenment. There are four levels of tantra: 1) Kriya Tantra; 2) Charya Tantra; 3) Anuttara Yoga Tantra; and 4) Maha-anuttara Yoga Tantra. With Kriya, Charya and Anuttara Yoga Tantra you can achieve enlightenment in this life, but you have to practice for a long life, for immortal life, to live for many hundreds or thousands of years and keep practicing, then it’s possible to achieve enlightenment even in that one life.
Maha-anuttara Yoga Tantra is the quickest way to achieve enlightenment in this brief lifetime of degenerate time. In the past, most people lived for up to one thousand years. Now those living even up to one hundred years are very few. I guess most people live until they are sixty or seventy years old. The life span has become shorter and shorter because of degeneration of mind. A brief lifetime can be three years; it can be any length of time—seven years, ten years, fifteen years, twenty years or twenty-five years. To achieve enlightenment in a brief lifetime of degenerate time you need to practice Highest Yoga Tantra, which has the extremely profound method showing the path.
The mind has gross mind, subtle mind and extremely subtle mind, and similarly the body has gross body, subtle body and extremely subtle body. The extremely subtle mind realizing emptiness is called clear light. [That realization is achieved] by developing the extremely subtle mind that directly perceives emptiness.
If you are able to actualize the wisdom of nondual bliss and voidness in this life, then you are the one who is able to achieve enlightenment, the unified state of Vajradhara, in this life. That means you are able to quickly free the sentient beings from the oceans of samsaric suffering and bring them to buddhahood, the peerless happiness.
From this you can understand that tantra has incredible skillfulness in the method, more than Sutra. Highest Yoga Tantra is the most skillful in method and wisdom.
People who practice tantra—lower tantra or especially Highest Yoga Tantra sadhana practices—are very fortunate, unbelievably fortunate people. These practices leave positive imprints on your mind, especially if they are done with lamrim: renunciation, bodhicitta, emptiness. If the motivation is pure, then doing sadhana practice is an unbelievably quick way to achieve enlightenment—so fortunate, unbelievably fortunate, so much merit.
It’s like those people who make profit every day of a million, billion, zillion, trillion dollars. Every day it’s like that, so the benefit [of tantric practices] is unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable. Even you don’t become enlightened in this life you have made so much preparation in the mind, you have planted the seed and you are much closer to realizations in the next life. You are much better able to attain the path and also in the next life you are closer and closer to enlightenment. This is a quick way to achieve enlightenment in this life or within seven lifetimes or sixteen lifetimes. It is amazing, amazing, amazing, wow!"
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