An Intro – Part 6

[See preceding posts in this series – parts 1234 and 5]

The spiritual crisis I mentioned in part 4 began to dissipate. I realized that yes indeed, Buddhadharma is pure, the various transmission lineages are pure, yet this does not mean that all Buddhists (including monks and Lamas) have been completely without kleshas (afflictions/obscurations). This is, of course, now blatantly obvious to me. It should have been back then too considering my understanding of the Four Noble Truths and the nature of samsara, yet my own kleshas were getting in the way.

Learning about the difficult history that occurred between the Gelug and Jonang lineages in the 1600’s CE was in fact an excellent opportunity for me to further understand the nature of samsara and to more clearly see the importance of Dharma practice. It was also a lesson in loving kindness and non-sectarianism. The advice (received through prayer/divination) from H. H. Penam Rinpoche to go to the Gelug temple was exactly what I needed to help me understand this. In addition, it was also exactly what I needed to embrace the Dharma and become a Buddhist. As mentioned, it was at the Gelug center (as part of the Vajrasattva empowerment) that I first took Refuge and Bodhisattva vows, thus formally beginning the path towards liberation and enlightenment for all beings.


After receiving the Vajrasattva empowerment in April of 2007 at Drepung Loseling (through the kindness of H. E. Sharpa Choeje Rinpoche) I began to do the sadhana associated with the empowerment on a daily basis.

There are two broad categories that have been assigned to the various lineages of Vajrayana coming from India to Tibet – the ‘Old’ (Nyingma) and the ‘New’ (Sarma) schools.

One of the systems of classification within the Nyingma lineage is the ‘Nine Yanas’. Yana means ‘vehicle.’ The first three yanas are:

  • Sravakayana (‘Listeners’ Vehicle’)
  • Pratyekayana (‘Solitary-Realizers’ Vehicle’)
  • Bodhisattvayana (‘Bodhisattvas’ Vehicle’)

The tantras themselves are grouped as follows:

The Three Outer Tantras of:

  • Kriya Tantra  (‘Action’ Tantra)
  • Charya Tantra (‘Performance’, or ‘Conduct’ Tantra)
  • Yoga Tantra

The Three Inner Tantras of:

  • Mahayoga (‘Great’ Yoga)
  • Anuyoga (‘Further’ or ‘Following’ Yoga)
  • Atiyoga (‘Utmost’ Yoga)

All of the above make up the Nine Yanas.

The Gelug lineage ( through which I received the Vajrasattva empowerment) is one of  the Sarma (‘New’, or ‘New Translation’)  schools of Vajrayana. Other lineages that are considered Sarma are Sakya, Kagyu and Jonang. One of the ways tantra is classified within the Sarma schools is by the ‘Four Levels (or Classes) of Tantra’, as follows:

  • Kriya Tantra (‘Action’ Tantra)
  • Charya Tantra (‘Performance’, or ‘Conduct’ Tantra)
  • Yoga Tantra
  • Anuttarayoga Tantra (‘Highest Yoga’ Tantra)

Without getting into all of the details here, one of the ways these classification systems are used is to indicate the relative emphasis each tantra places on external rituals and internal yogas. There is much more to it than this and I may devote a separate post (or series of posts) to the subject in the future, but for now I just want to point out that there are these different ways of classifying or categorizing tantra.

After practicing the Vajrasattva sadhana for about a month the question arose in my mind…’What level of tantra does this sadhana belong to?’ I sent an inquiry to Drepung Loseling. The contact said they would ask one of the Lamas. Shortly thereafter I received another reply confirming it was part of Charya Tantra. In short, Charya Tantra more or less places equal emphasis on both ritual and inner yoga.

Continued in part 7


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