[Clarification – the following comes from the Vimalaprabha, which is a commentary on Kalachakra-tantra written by Pundarika, the second Kalki. The context of this quote is in reference to practices within the Anuttarayoga Tantra class (see this post, which includes a listing of the different classes of tantra within the Indo-Tibetan tradition). Elsewhere, in a discussion about this quote, a friend brought up the fact that there are mantras which are commonly known and used that do not require empowerment or teachings. For example, the mantra of Chenrezig. I agree, and realized my post could be taken the wrong way. Hence, this note. That said, I stand behind the idea that tantric practice requires empowerment from a qualified Dorje Lopon (Vajra Acharya), and without such, can lead to further entanglement in samsara, confusion, and other afflictive states. This is due in part to the many misconceptions that are held regarding tantric practice and teachings. I am also reminded of the analogy given of tantra, that it is like a snake in a bamboo tube. There are only two ways to go–up or down. I am ever grateful for my kind teachers who guide me on the path.]
“People who practice the sadhana with mantras read from a book and who are excluded from traditional teachings become mentally afflicted.
“What if the traditional teaching is received from a book? Then it is disclosed by the text of the composition, which has a provisional meaning.
“Those who practice the sadhana of gods and goddesses, with mantras that are read from a book, miss the true meaning of mantra and aim to eat space.
“For the adepts with the vigor of a steadfast mind or who pray with recitation of mantras, a desired mundane siddhi may arise.
“Those devoid of practice do not succeed by means of the recitation of mantras, fire offerings, and the means of worshiping shrines. These words are in accordance with the fact.
“Therefore, for the sake of the sadhana of the teachers, bodhisattvas, and gods, the wise receive this very essence of mantra with every caution.”
[From the Vimalaprabha (Stainless Light) commentary. Translated by Vesna Wallace]