Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Vajrayana Buddhism: The way of transformation

Like China (where Buddhism encountered Taoism), Tibet had its indigenous religion, called Bonpo, which included magical practices designed to appease the local spirits and deities. When the great Indian master Padmasambhava brought Buddhism from India to Tibet in the seventh century A.D., he first had to conquer the hostile spirits that resisted his efforts. Ultimately, these spirits were incorporated into Tibetan Buddhism as protectors and allies in an elaborate pantheon that included various Buddhas and dakinis (awakened women).

Tibetan Buddhists believed that the historical Buddha taught simultaneously at different levels, depending on the needs and abilities of his disciples. The most advanced teachings, they said, were kept secret for centuries and ultimately conveyed to Tibet as the Vajrayana (“the diamond way”). In addition to traditional mindfulness meditation, this approach incorporated elements of Indian tantra and involved powerful practices for working with energy. Instead of eliminating negative emotions and mind-states like anger, greed, and fear, as traditional Buddhism recommends, the Vajrayana teaches practitioners how to transform negativity directly into wisdom and compassion. Meditation in Tibetan Buddhism also employs visualization — the active use of the imagination to invoke potent spiritual forces that fuel the process of spiritual realization.

No comments: