Reflections from Tantra in Kadampa Buddhism
I attended an introduction to Tantra in the Kadampa Buddhism tradition. As usual the Buddhist terminology had me shaking my head in confusion. I’ve interpreted the gist of it in flavours I am more familiar with, starting with some background as to why one would even consider a practise in Tantra in the first place.
The first point is a basic concept I learnt from Harlequin. Our thoughts (beliefs, attitudes, associations and assumptions) determine what we do (our responses and the actions we take) and consequently what happens (the results we achieve in life). Wrapped up in this are our intentions and willingness to support them. But this is only half of it. From Psycophonetics I learn our thoughts also determine the meaning we give to what happens – the way we see and understand. We have filters we project onto our world such that we only see what we want to see according to our own inner-reality.
A common, simple example: two people meet a dog in the street, the first is delighted while the second is overwhelmed by fear. Same dog, different reaction – these two people attribute a different meaning to dogs. Any actions that follow these reactions will further yield different results. The first, bending down to pat it, may receive love and gratitude while the second, attempting to kick the dog, may get bitten. Same dog, different thinking, different results.
What I understand as being the ignorance Buddhist talk of is our lack of awareness of the thoughts behind our experiences and this results in suffering. This ignorance can create an attitude that abdicates responsibility to, and lays blame on, extremal forces rather than our own inner-reality. With this attitude we are likely to also look externally rather than internally for ways to ease or avoid our suffering, creating desires, cravings, addictions, dependencies and ultimately more suffering.
In Harlequin the message is blunt: If you don’t like the results change your thinking and do something different. The Buddhist approach is to watch the thinking though meditation, to become aware of what is behind our apparent reality, and in so doing to realise change. This is where Tantra helps by offering the potential for an experience of pure enjoyment once we no longer suffer ignorantly as a result of our thoughts.
So how is this done?
I understand that in the Kadampa Buddhism tradition this starts by recognising a quality in our heart energy they refer to as body-speech-mind – a subtle quality that exists beyond us. This could be understood in a variety of ways. From Psychosophy I see this as the ‘I’ that is connected to spirit. Not the ego, but an expression of our authentic being or the ultimate truth, or the oneness that connects us to everything such that there is no separate identity.
If we hold the belief that this innate potential exists in all of us then what is required is to remove the unconscious blockages that hold us in our disintegrated state. By realising our thinking results in our grasping for truth and reality in the external, and then becoming conscious of our own inner-reality, we can begin to let go of the illusion of ordinary appearances and conceptions and our self-limiting ideas of self.
The process given reminds me of some specific aspects of Psychophonetics. In very simplified and abridged terms I understand it like this:
Develop a strong wish with the right intention, supported by will and determination. In Buddhism the intention appears to be given: to become an enlightened Buddha. In Psycophonetics we would go through a specific process to clarify intention and find strength of will.
Then, using the faculty of imagination, invoke a sense of your higher potential, or Buddha nature, such that you stand in for or represent that ultimate truth.
What you’re doing is cultivating or training yourself at a subtle and deep level towards a state of being that exists in bliss. Not because there is no suffering, or because the external, phenomenal aspects of your existence or reality have changed. It is because your attitude and relationship to it is transformed. You no longer regard existence as an objective reality but one that changes according to your thinking. Same dog, different thinking.
I see no contradiction with the Tantra I practise (and Psycophonetics for that matter). However, in my practise there appears far more direct, experiential processes that are active and physical. These are aimed at releasing blockages as well as accessing the unconscious to raise awareness such that the necessary transformation can occur. Through presence in touch, movement, sound, role-play and other forms of expression, the physical body’s wisdom and intelligence is engaged – often at a level that is beyond the mind’s comprehension and could not be accessed through observation of thought alone.
I would love to read your comments.