Ignorance, Attachment, Aversion


“All types of karma are tainted by the ignorance of not realizing the natural state. Ignorance leads to self-cherishing. Action that is motivated by self-cherishing becomes the cause of cyclic existence. If I wonder whether I have this affliction of ignorance, I need only examine my mind. I do not know the nature of cyclic existence, nor when or how it began. I do not know the nature of liberation or the methods of attaining it. I do not even know how to become certain about these things. It is possible I may have a rudimentary understanding through study and reflection, but when I examine the way things appear in my own mind, no matter how I look at it, finding truth is like trying to imagine a distant country I have never visited. I am left with just a vague, blurry, uncertain concept. Because I do not understand the condition of cyclic existence and liberation, doubts about ultimate truth arise. From that, all wrong views, such as clinging to a self where there is no self, arise; hence, all wrong views proceed from basic ignorance.

Furthermore, initially I am attached to my body and mind. Based on that, I become attached to other sentient beings – [sexual partners], my close friends, servants and so forth. I also become attached to things – food, clothing, possessions, my house, field, wealth, goods, country and so forth. The sense of painful mental longing and liking I feel towards my body and possessions is the emotional affliction of attachment. Based on this, pride, greed, and jealousy arise.

Towards anything that harms me or my possessions, I feel aversion. With a feeling of discomfort, I fixate mentally on sentient beings who harm or threaten to harm me or anything I hold dear. This mental state is anger or aversion. Sometimes I even become angry at inanimate objects. For example, a place or dwelling may trigger mental discomfort. I may become irritated that my field is flooded by a river. All of these are examples indicating the presence of aversion. The coarse mental state arising from strong anger that wishes to harm others, wrath, irritation, malice and so forth are all forms of aversion.

Since these three poisons [of ignorance, attachment, and aversion] cause me and all sentient beings to wander in cyclic existence, I will abandon them as much as possible. I will recognize the emotional afflictions that arise in my continuum and identify the actions that proceed from those afflictions.”

[From Essence of Ambrosia by Tāranātha]


Vajradhara and 84 Mahasiddhas

“According to the great Tibetan scholar Lama Taranatha (sixteenth to seventeenth century) in his ‘History of Buddhism in India’, Vajrayana Buddhism can already be located in the time of Nagarjuna (first to second century) in the jungles of India, among a small group of isolated and anonymous meditators who followed this path to realization. These masters, known as siddhas (‘perfected ones’), were practitioners of the unconventional traditions of highest or innermost tantras. According to Lama Taranatha, these masters passed their lineages of practice and realization to only one or perhaps a very few disciples. Tulku Thondup Rinpoche says that ‘the Tantras of the Inner Yanas, the highest teachings of Buddhism, were introduced into India under the strictest secrecy.’ By the eighth century, we hear of the existence of eighty-four mahasiddhas, or ‘great siddhas’, who lived throughout India, following the Vajrayana traditions, and who taught, performed wonders, and transmitted the Vajrayana teachings to chosen disciples. As we shall presently see, the siddhas played a central role in the transmission of Buddhism to Tibet, and subsequently Tibetan siddhas carried on the teachings of their Indian counterparts in the Tibetan environment down to the present.

“The siddhas were men and women who, in their pretantric lives, often found themselves in situations of great distress, dislocation, and suffering. For them, as for Gautama Buddha, ordinary life held no hope of relief and no ultimate promise of satisfaction. Typically, they encountered a guru who accepted them as disciples and admitted them into Vajrayana practice through the abhisheka, or initiation liturgy. Subsequently, they spent many years practicing intensively. Sometimes their practice was carried out in cremation grounds or in solitary retreat. At other times it was carried out in the world, but secretly. Tantric gurus were known for their uncompromising and even ruthless approach to the spiritual path. Not infrequently they would place their disciples in difficult or degraded circumstances to teach them the renunciation of comfort, status, and security, and to free their minds for the ultimate. Eventually, their tutelage complete, the disciples attained realization and themselves became known as siddhas.

“The siddhas often brought their realization back into the world, where they pursued ordinary lives as men and women lay practitioners, representing all levels of society, working as kings, scholars, blacksmiths, sweepers, and so on. In this way, they used ‘ordinary life’ as the vehicle for their teaching and the transmission of their lineages. The eighty-four siddhas sometimes remained anonymous, appearing as unexceptional, unspiritual people within conventional society. At other times they exhibited their realization in shocking and unconventional ways. Sometimes they were called crazy (nyonpa), referring to their uncompromising expression of ultimate wisdom and compassion within conventional society, behavior that seemed ‘crazy’ by ordinary standards.”

[From Indestructible Truth – The Living Spirituality of Tibetan Buddhism by Reginald Ray]

Attending to our Karma


“Buddhism, particularly in its Tibetan form, often contains ritual ceremonies, or pujas, directed toward various Buddha-figures or fierce protectors in order to help dispel obstacles and accomplish constructive purposes. Performing these ceremonies provides conducive circumstances for negative potentials to ripen in trivial rather than major obstacles, and positive potentials to ripen sooner rather than later. If we have built up overwhelmingly negative potentials, however, these ceremonies are ineffective in averting difficulties. Therefore, propitiating gods, spirits, protectors or even Buddhas is never a substitute for attending to our karma – avoiding destructive conduct and acting in a constructive manner. Buddhism is not a spiritual path of protector-worship, or even Buddha-worship. The safe direction of the Buddhist path is working to become a Buddha ourselves.”

[From Taking the Kalachakra Initiation by Alexander Berzin]

Children of the Victorious One

Arya Maitreya

Arya Maitreya

“Those whose seed is devotion towards the supreme vehicle,
whose mother is analytical wisdom generating the buddha qualities, whose abode is the blissful womb of meditative stability, and whose nurse is compassion, are heirs born to succeed the Muni.”

[From Buddha Nature – The Mahayana Uttaratantra Shastra by Arya Maitreya]

Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi


“Bhikṣus, in regard to these three turnings and twelve motions of the Four Noble Truths, if they had not given birth to vision, wisdom, understanding, and Bodhi, then amongst all the devas, māras, brahmās, śramaṇas, and brāhmaṇas who hear the Dharma, I could not have achieved liberation, gone beyond, and departed. I also would not have had self-realization of the attainment of Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi. Yet I have, from the three turnings and twelve motions of the Four Noble Truths, given birth to vision, wisdom, understanding, and Bodhi. Amongst the devas, māras, brahmās, śramaṇas, and brāhmaṇas who hear the Dharma, I have gone beyond and achieved liberation, and have had self-realization of the attainment of Anuttarā Samyaksaṃbodhi.”

[From the Saṃyukta Āgama, 379: Turning the Dharma Wheel]

The Six Paramitas



“One fulfills one’s bodhisattva vow through acting to benefit beings. Since this kind of activity runs against the deeply engrained habitual patterns of our usual approach, practices need to be given that unlock our compassion. The most important set of bodhisattva practices are the six paramitas. Paramita means ‘transcendent action’ and refers to practices that, in being directed to others, transcend ego. These transcend ego also in the sense that their energy flows ultimately from the selfless buddha-nature within.”

[From The Indestructible Truth by Reginald Ray. 2000.]

The Six Paramitas:

Generosity (Dana-Paramita)
Discipline (Shila-Paramita)
Patience (Kshanti-Paramita)
Exertion (Virya-Paramita)
Meditation (Dhyana-Paramita)
Wisdom (Prajna-Paramita)

Diversity in the Dharma

“There is a Tibetan saying that just as every valley has its own language so every teacher has his own doctrine. This is an exaggeration on both counts, but it does indicate the diversity to be found within Buddhism and the important role of a teacher in mediating a received tradition and adapting it to the needs, the personal transformation, of the pupil. This diversity prevents, or strongly hinders, generalization about Buddhism as a whole. Nevertheless it is a diversity which Mahayana Buddhists have rather gloried in, seen not as a scandal but as something to be proud of, indicating a richness and multifaceted ability to aid the spiritual quest of all sentient, and not just human, beings.”


“From earliest times in Buddhism there was a strong tendency to portray the Doctrine not as a series of tenets to be accepted or rejected, but rather as a medicine for curing quite specific spiritual ills. Mahayanists in particular see adaptation, and perhaps even syncretism, as a virtue in the Dharma, enabling the teachings to be adapted to the needs of hearers, and thereby indicating the wisdom and compassion of the Omniscient Buddha.”

[From Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations, 2nd edition by Paul Williams. 2009]