Tantric Buddhism

Enhancement or Degeneration

From the viewpoint

of Tibetan Perspective.


A paper at the conference

"Buddhism and christianity: Toward the Human Future"

August, 1987

Jeffrey Hopkins, University of Virginia




Tantric practices are often considered a "degenerate" development of Buddhism: there is a widespread notion that in tantric ritual the deeply altruistic motivation and penetrative insight of Great Vehicle Buddhism were discarded in favor of expression of baser instincts. As there notions take no account of the presence of more prevalent, high traditions of tantra that are preserved in Tibetan and Japanese Buddhism, they create great stumbling block to meaningful dialogue between tantric Buddhists and Christians. Therefore, in this paper I present the basic principles of tantra as these are described in one of the high Tibetan traditions, the Ge-luk-ba order. My emphases will be on hoe the tantric path is an enhanced embodiment of the teachings on compassion and wisdom basic to Great Vehicle Buddhism.




[At the risk of boring my colleagues form the Theological Encounter, I shall repeat here four paragraphs giving background information. My sources are primarily, but not cxelusively, texts and oral teachings of the Ge-luk-ba order of Tibetan Buddhism. This order was founded by the polymath and Yogi Dzong-ka-ba [1357-1419] who was from an easternmost section of Tibet. It came to have great influence throughout a region stretching from Kalmuck Mongolian areas near the Volga River [in Europe] where it empties into the Caspian Sea, Outer and Inner Mongolia, the Buriat Republic of Siberia, as well as most parts of Tibet and Ladakh. Dzong-ka-ba established a system of education centered in large universities, eventually in three areas of Tibet, but primarily in Hla-sa, the capital, which was as Rome was for the Catholic Church: young men came from all of the above mentioned regions to Hla-sa to study, usually [until the Communist takeovers] returning to their native lands after completing their studies. 


With respect to my personal viewpoint, as I have said in other places, I am a Buddhist but not a Ge-luk-ba, since I find the notion of being a Ge-luk-ba Buddhist too limited. I makm use of whatever seems valuable among what I encounter in the various sectarian and national  Buddhisms, and it is with such a spirit that I am enjoying, more and more, the encounter with Christianity.


Also, since the Buddhism from which I speak is concerned, for the most part, with very profound levels of realization, I cannot claim to have firsthand experience of these topics. It would be laughable were I to claim that all that I am about to say about compassion, realization of emptiness, and their combination in tantric Buddhism is for me a matter of validly induced conviction. However, at minimum, I have inklings that these presentations are helpful in arriving at the truth. Thus, although in some respects I am merely assuming the voice of a long tradition of explanation, I my self am fascinated by these doctrines and aspire to experience their meaning.


I shall be speaking largely from standard Ge-luk-ba perspectives on sutra and tantra; it is important to make this clear because it  means that I can speak from a highly developed, living, conceptual system without the primary focus being the ancient Indian sources for these perspectives and their subsequent development, controversies, and so forth in the various forms of Buddhism. This is not to say that neither I nor Ge-luk-ba scholars are concerned with the Indian sources of their views, for we are. Rather, when the focus of exposition is put on those sources and the varying interpretation of them, one is overburdened with a tentativeness that does not accurately reflects the larger, dynamically functioning world-view of the system. Conversely, when too much emphasis is put on the model system, a sense of the rich critical perspective embodied by many of these scholar-practitioners is not conveyed. At this point in our study of Buddhism, I usually choose to run the latter risk.


            Let us turn to our topic.



I was unable to attend the last Buddhist-Christian Theological Encounter, held at Purdue, as I was serving as a "study guide" for a Smithsonian tour of Tibet. Nevertheless, contributed a paper on ultimate reality in Tibetan Buddhism and have heard an account of discussions that took place during the conference. Some of the participants at that conference apparently put forth the view that the Tantric Buddhism is a degeneration from the high ideals of Great Vehicle Buddhism. Upon hearing this, I could not help but wonder what the participants at that Buddhism-Christian dialogue must think of those of us who are involved in Tantric Buddhism. Spiritual impoverishment! Moral bedpravity ! Psychopathic deviants! If I may carry the joke a little further, perhaps our Christian colleagues--interested in probing the reasons behind the appeal of Eastern religions--are using us as a laboratory for exploring the degenerate reversion to a paradigm suited only to the morally corrupt!     


Need I say that I began wondering what dialogue could possibly mean when some participants, both Christian and Buddhist, have such a low view of the very traditions that some of us represent. Upon more reflection, however, I gradually come to consider the surfacing of their perspective as a positive development, a sing that we have come to know each other sufficiently will that deep-seated prejudgments are being expressed. Perhaps, later we will even arrive at such a point of mutual respect and openness that we will chose as a topic in one of our meetings "what Bothers Me About My religion". Perhaps, we will then reach the level of dialogue that Wilfred Cantwell Smitn calls "we all" talking with each other about "us".


In any case, given the state of scholarship on Tantrism, it is no wonder that people would consider Tantrism to be a degeneration from high Buddhist practices of morality, compassion, and philosophic insight. Many books on subject present a version of this opinion. For instance, even Mircea Eliade, who contributed so much to our understanding of so many fields of intellectual endeavor and had so much to do with creating an atmosphere of appreciation for the multi faceted appearance of world and local religions, describes Tantrism as suited for persons of local sensibilities tan Great Vahicle Buddhism. He says, "For Buddhists...the Vajrayana represents a new revelation of Buddha's doctrine, adapted to the much diminished capacities of modern man."


In a similar vein, numerous scholars, unnecessary to cite, describe Tantrism as a frustrated attempt to turn away from monastic celibacy and prolonged practice of the path to immediate gratification in sexual ritual, In contrast, David Snellgrove, in the introduction to his splendid translation of the Hevajra Tantra, speaks of the tantric commentarial tradition as embodying religion and scholarship of the first rank. He says, "No one can reasonably dispute the fact that the basic texts of the tantrs have this murky and macabre appearance...  one still must explain why these very same works should become endowed with such esteem In the solution of this problem real interest should begin for while the defects of some of these texts are so apparcnt, still more apparent is the glorious blossoming of human genius which they certainly nourished. Scholars, saints, and artists of first rank appear throughout the succeeding centuries and their works bear testimony to them to this day."


Still, the very vocabulary of some Tantric literature understandably creates the impression that the high moral and social ideals of Great Vehicle Buddhism have been discarded for base pleasure-seeking; the term bodhicitta, which in the sutra version of Great Vehicle Buddhism refers to the altruistic intention to become enlightened and to a Bodhisattva's direct cognition of emptiness, comes, in some passages of Highest Yoga Tantra, to mean semen! Also, the term karuna, which in the sutra version of Great Vehicle Buddhism refers to 'compassion' is sometimes used in Highest Yoga tantra to refer to 'bliss' particularly the bliss of orgasm without emission, as in some 'passages of the Kalachakra Tantra.


In a similar vein, my first encounter with Tantrism occurred in 1961 in the apartment of a friend in Boston, who had left college to purse karate. A friend of his dropped by and, over mu tea, was discussing Tantrism with him, ads I was sitting on the other side of the room seemingly absorbed in meditation. I suddenly asked, 'what is Tantrism? Without hesitation, he replied, 'Screwing dead bodies Need I say that my interest in Tantrism was not sparked!


Eleven years later, in d1972, I began the study and practice of a tradition of Tantrism found in Tibet. My central concern, after nine years of practicing sutra Great Vehicle Buddhism, was with the stuff of appearace in the face of the radical unfindability of objects under the type of analysis put forth by the Middle way school madhyamika). I became fascinated experientially and conceptually with the Tantric tradition's presentation of a union of compassion and wisdom in the manifestation o f a divine, ideal, physical form, This practice is called deity yoga. Since Dzong-ca-ba, the founder of the Ge-luk-ba order, considers deity yoga to be the central, distinctive feature of Tantrism, let us discus it briefly from the viewpoint of this high tradition.




According to Dzong-ka-ba, in both the sutra and tantra Great Vehicles, the basic motivation is an altruistic intention to become enlightened for the sake of all sentient beings; because of this, the motivational basis of the deeds of the path is the same in both sutra and tantra. The other main factor of method-within the division of all practices into method and wisdom-has to do with the deeds induced by that motivation. In the sutra Great Vehicle, these are the practices induced by the altruistic aspiration--the perfections of giving, ethics, and patience. However, these are also practiced in tantra, and tantra is said to have an even greater emphasis that sutra on the deeds of the perfections in that tantric practitioner is committed to engage in then at least six times during each day.


Also, both the sutra and the tantra versions of the Great Vehicle rely upon the same view of the emptiness of inherent existence as the fundamental practice of the factor of wisdom. Therefore, the profound distinction between the two vehicles cannot occur within the factor of wisdom, and, as we have seen, it also doeds not occur within method in terms of the basis  of a Bodhdisattva's deeds or in terms of the practice of the perfections that is induced by that motivation. Rather, it occurs in the fact that in tantra there is meditation on one's own body as similar in aspect to a Buddha's Form Body whereas in the sutra Great Vehicle there is no such meditation. This is deity Yoga, which all four tantra sets have but sutra systems do not. Deity Yoga means to imagine oneself as having now the Form Body of a Buddha; one meditates on oneself as an ideal, altruistically active being now. This distinctive feature of tantra is included within method since it is primarily concerned with creating a Buddha's Form Body, the main imprint of the practice of method.


In the sutra Great Vehicle, there is meditation similar in aspect to a Buddha's Truth Body--a Budha's wisdom consciousness. A Bodhisattva enters into meditative equipoise directly realizing emptiness with nothing appearing to the mind except the final nature of phenomena, the emptiness of inherent existence; the wisdom consciousness is fused with that emptiness. Even though, unlike the tantric counterpart, a sutra Bodhisattva does not specifically imagine that the state of meditative equipoise is a Buddha's Truth Body, meditation similar in aspect to a Budha's Truth Body does occur in the sutra system in the state of meditative equipoise on emptiness mimics a Buddha's exalted wisdom consciousness in its aspect of perceiving the ultimate.


However, the sutra Perfcction Vehicle does not involve meditation similar in aspect to a Buddha's Form Body, There is meditation on Buddhas and so forth as objects of offering, etc., but there is no meditation on oneself in the physical body of a Buddha.


In the sutra system, the sole means for achieving a Buddha Form Body is, on the basis of the altruistic intention to become enlightened, to engage in the first three perfecting--giving, ethics, and patience--in "in limitless" ways over a "limitless" period of time, specifically three periods of "countless" great eons ("countless" being said to ge a one with fifty-nine zeros). Though the Mantra Vehicle also involves practice of the perfections of giving, ethics, and patience, it is not in "limitless" ways over "limitless" periods of time Despite emphases on the perfections, practice in "limitless" ways over "limitless" time is unnecessary because one is engaging in the additional technique of meditation on  oneself in a body similar in aspect to a Buddha's form Body. In other words, in the tantric systems, in order to become a Buddha more quickly, one meditates on oneself as similar in aspect to a Buddha in terms of both body and mind This practice is significantly distinctive, and thus those systems that involve it constitute a separate vehicle, the tantra Great Vehicle.


In deity Yoga one first meditates on emptiness and then uses the consciousness realizing emptiness--or at least an imitation of it--as the basis of emanation of a Buddha. The compassionately motivated wisdom consciousness itself appears as the physical form of a Buddha. This one consciousness thus has two parts--a factor of wisdom and a factor of method, or factors of (1) ascertainment of emptiness and (2) appearance as an ideal being--and hence throughout the practice of deity Yoga, one simultaneously accumulates the collections of merit and wisdom, making their amassing much faster.


The systems that have this practice are called Vajra Vehicle because the appearance of a deity is the display of a consciousness that is an indivisible fusion of wisdom understanding emptiness and compassion seeking the welfare of other--an inseparable union symbolized by a vajra, a diamond, the foremost of stones as it is "unbreakable Since the two elements of the tantric fusion--compassionate method and penetrating wisdom--are the very core of the sutra Great Vehicle one can understand that sutra and tantra, despite being different, are integrated systems. One can understand that compassion is not superceded by but essential to tantra and that the wisdom of the perfecting Vehicle is not forsaken for a deeper understanding of reality in the Tantra Vehicle.


To reiterate, the sutra Great Vehicle and the tantra Great Vehicle do not differ in terms of the goal, the state being sought, since both seek the highest enlightement of a Budha in order to be of supremely effective to others. However, there is a difference between the sutra and tantra Great Vehicles in the means of progress, not in wisdom but in method. Within method, although they do not differ in the basis or motivation of the deeds (the altruistic intention to become enlightened) nor in having as deeds the perfections, tantra has the additional technique of deity Yoga. A deity is a supramundane being who himself or herself is a manifestation of compassion and wisdom. In the special practice of deity Yoga, one joins one's own body, speech, mind, and activities with the exalted body, speech, mind and activities of a supramundane being, manifesting on the path a similitude of state of the final effect or practicing the path.


Deity Yoga, the very great and core of Tantrism, is a technique for enhancing the practice of compassion and wisdom. In this sense, therefore, Tantrism is not in the least a deviation from the high orientation of the sutra Great Vehicle.




But what about the usage of karuna, compassion, the mean "bliss", specifically the bliss of orgasm without emission-Let us discuss how Karuna comes etymologically to mean both compassion and bliss. Karuna generally is etymologized as "stopping bliss" [bde gog] by adding an anusvara [m] to the first letter k, thereby making kam, which means "bliss" [bde ba], and buy taking runa [not found in the Apte dictionary] to mean "stopping" [gog pa]. Compassion is a cause of "stopping bliss" in the sense that finding others' torment in a state of suffering to be unbearable stops, or interferes with, one's own happiness. Similarly, in the Kalachakra system [a type of Highest Yoga Tantra] the great immutable bliss involves a stoppage of the bliss of emission and thus is also a case of karuna, "stopping bliss", even though it is another type of bliss. Thus, both compassion and the supreme immutable bliss are so to speak, cases of "stopping bliss", karuna. Hence, it can be seen that the fact that the tem karuna is some times used in Highest Yoga Tantra additionally to refer to orgasmic bliss without emission does not rule out its other meaning as the wish that all beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.


For instance, the Kalachakra Tantra itself speak eloquently about suffering in the Initiation Dhapter [stanza12] where it says:


In the womb there is the suffering of dwelling in the womb; at birth and while an child there is also suffering.


Youth and adulthood are filled with the great sufferings of losing one's mate, wealth, and fortune, as well as the great suffering of the afflictive emotions.


The old have the suffering of death and again the fright of the six transmigrations such as the Crying and so forth.


All these transmigrating beings, deluded by illusion, grasp suffering from suffering.


Moreover, the tantric vows, taken during the initiation ceremony, call for practitioners to commit themselves to liberating all being:


I will liberate those not liberated [from the obstructions to omniscience].

I will release those not released [from cyclic existence].

I will relieve those unrelieved [in bad tranmigrations]

And set sentient beings in mirvana.


Also, that altruism is at the very heart of the initiation ritual is clear from the fact that the process begins with an adjustment of motivation toward altruism and ends with authorization to teach by way of the wise altruism. Thus, the special meaning of karuna as the bliss of orgasm without emission in Highest Yoga Tantra does not supplant one meaning of Karuna as compassion.


The Mongolian scholar and  Yogi, Jang-gya-rol bay--dor-jay, lama to the Ch'ien-lung Emperor during the Manchu domination of China in the eighteenth century, emphasizes that the practitioners for whom tantra was specifically taught are even more compassionate and of a higher type that the practitioners of the sutra version of the Great Vehicle. In his Clear Exposition of the presentations of Tenets, he says, "It is said in the precious tantras and in many commentaries that even those trainees of the Mantra Vehicle who have, low faculties must have far greater compassion, sharper faculties. and a more superior lot than the trainees of sharpest faculties in the Perfection Vehicle. Therefore, those who think and propound that the Mantra Vehicle was taught for persons discouraged about achieving enlightenment over a long time and with great difficulty make clear that they have no penetration of meaning of tantra. Furthermore, the statement that the Mantra Vehicle is quicker than the perfection Vehicle is in relation fo trainees who aqre suitable vessels, not in term just anyone. Therefore, it is not sufficient that the doctrine be the Mantra Vehicle; person must be properly engaged in the Mantra Vehicle." Jang-gya emphasizws tyhat the mere wish of a practitioner to practice tantra is not sufficient; the person must capable of its prctice. Far from being taught for those who are unabhle to proceed on the Perfection Vehicle, the four sets of tantras were expounded for persons of particularly great compassion. 


In a similar vein, the Seventh Dalai Lama says that practitioner of Mantra are especially motivated by compassion, intent on the quickest means of attaining highest enlightenment in order to be of service to others. He says, "Some see that if they rely on the Perfection Vehicle and so forth, they must amass the collections [of merit and] wisdom for three countless great eons, and thus it would take a long time and involve great difficulty. They cannot bear such hardship and seek to attain Buddhahood in a short time and by a path with little difficulty. These people who claim that they, therefore, are engaging in the short path of the Secret Mantra Vehicle are [actually] outside the realm of Mantra trainees. For to be a person of the Great Vehicle in general, one cannot seek peace for oneself alone but, from the viewpoint of holding others more dear than oneself, must be able, for the sake of the welfare of other, to bear whatever type of hardship or suffering might arise. Since Secret Mantrikas are those of extremely sharp faculties within followers of the Great Vehicle, persons who have turned their backs on others' welfare and want little difficulty for themselves are not even close to the quarter of Highest Seeret Mantra... One should engage in Highest Yoga Tantra, the secret short path, with the motivation of an altruistic intention to become enlightened, unable to bear that sentient beings will be trouble for a long time by cyclic existence in general and by strong sufferings in particular, thinking, 'How nice it would be if I could achieve right now a means to free them-" even though the path of the Mantra Vehicle is quicker and easier, a practitioner cannot seek it out of fearing the difficulties of the longer, sutra path. Rather the quicker path is sought due to being particularly moved by compassion; a Mantra practitioner wants to achieve enlightenment sooner in order more quickly to be of serviced to others.  


In Highest Yoga  Tantra, just as the unusual usage of karuna to mean the bliss of orgasm without emission does not cancel its also meaning compassion in other contexts, so the term "mind of enlightenment" also has an unusual meaning that does not rule out its having, in other passages of Highest Yoga Tantra, its usual connotations. The term mind of enlightenment" has as its broadest referents the conventional mind of enlightenment, which is the altruistic intention to become enlightened, and the ultimate mind of enlightenment, which is a wisdom consciousness in the continuum of a Bodhisattva directly realizing emptiness. However, the term "mind of enlightenment" is also used to refer to semen or, more accurately, to the white and red essential fluids that both males and females have. This unusual usage of the term fluids does not cancel out its more usual meanings, for as has already been indicated, altruism and realization of emptiness are the very basis of the fundamental tantric meditation of deity yoga. Rather, as with karuna the term bodhicitta is used additionally in specific circumstances, to refer to essentaial white and red fluids of male and female. 


I shall not prusue here the very interesting topic of why terms for compassion and altruism are also used to refer to states and substances of sexual intercourse to indicated four point:


[1] Since the tradition, as detailed earlier, holds that only the most compassionate are capable of Highest Yoga Tantra, which involves using the bliss arising from union of male and female in the path, it clearly posits a connection between the capacity of compassion and the capacity to use sexual bliss in the path.


[2] One of the two main techniques for generating compassion begins with identifying all beings as mothers and proceeds in a very tactile way to reflections on the kindnesses bestowed by a mother:


[3] In Highest Yoga Taqntra it is explained that during the intermediate state prior to rebirth as a male, the person is sexually attracted to the mother and that a person about to the reborn as a female is sexually attracted to the father.


[4] A male's tantric consort is called "Mother" [yum} and a female's consort is called "Father" [yab].


Aside form the obvious Freudian bares of trumpets and bugles, there is time here only to mention that the tradition appears to be seeking to utilize the deepest and strongest of affective states in the path.


This raises our final point; why is sex brought into the path in Highest Yoga Tantra? Why is the bliss of orgasm used in a spiritual path? To understand this, it is necesary6 first to discuss Briefly a presentation of levels of consciousnesses in Highest Yoga Tantra.


Considered by the Ge-luk-bas to be the final system, Highest Yoga Tantra divides consciousnesses into the very subtle, the subtle and the gross. According to the system of the Guhyasamaj Tantra, a Highest Yoga Tantra that is parallel in importance to the Kalachakra Tantra, the very subtle level of consciousness is the mind of clear light, called the fundamental innate mind of clear light, the subtle are three levels of consciousness called the mind s of vivid white, red  [or orange], and black appearance; and the gross are the five sense consciousness and the mental consciouness when not manifesting one of the above subtler levels. When the grosser levels of consciousness cease, as in the process of dying, the more subtle become manifest. The first to manifest is the mind of vivid white appe4rance that is described as like a clear night sky filled with moonlight, not the moon shining in empty space but space filled with white light. All conceptuality has ceased, and nothing appears except this slightly dualistic vivid white appearance, which is one's consciousness itself.


  When that mind ceases, a more subtle mind of vivid red or orange increase dawns; this is compared to a clear sky filled with sunlight, again not the sun shining in the sky but space filled with red or orange light. When this mind ceases, a still more subtle mind of vivid black near-attainment dawns; it is called "near-attainment" because one is close to manifesting the mind of clear light. The mind of black near-attainment is compared to a moonless, very black sky just after dusk when no stars shine; during the first part of this phase it is said that one remains conscious but then becomes unconsious in thick blackness. Then with the three pollutants of the white, red, and black appearances cleared away, the mind of clear light dawns; it is the most  subtle level of consciousness.


Because the more subtle levels of consciousness are considered to be more powerful and thus more effective in realizing the truth of the emp0tines of inherent existence, the system of Highest Yoga Tantra seek to manifest the mind of clear light by way of various techniques. One of these techniques is blissful orgasm because, according to the psychology of Highest Yoga Tantra, orgasm--like dying, going to sleep, and fainting--involves the ceasing of the grosser levels of consciousness and manifestation of the more subtle. The intent in using a blissful, orgasmic mind in the path is to manifest the most subtle mind--that of clear light--and use it to realize the emptiness of herent existence. In this way, the power of the path-consciousness realizing emptiness is enhanced such that it is more effective in overcoming the obstructions to liberation and obstructions to omniscience.


A consciousness of orgasmic bliss is used because, when the sense of pleasure is powerful, one's consciousness is totally involved with that pleasure and thus completely withdrawn; this is the reason why the subtler levels of consciousness manifest during the intense bliss of orgasm, even if they are not noticed, nevermind utilized, in common copulation. Without desire, the involvement in the bliss consciousness would be minimal, and thus Highest Yoga Tantra makes use of the arts of love--making and so forth, in order to enhance the process.


The usage of desire in the path is, therefore, explicitly for the sake of making the wisdom consciousness more powerful by way of utilizing a subtler level of consciousness. The difficulty of using an orgasmic cousciousness to realize anything indicates that it would take a person of great psychological development and capacity to be able to utilize such a subtle state in the path.


Since other, not so intense, levles of bliss are used in a similar way in other tantra sets, actual practitioners of tantra in general and Highest Yoga Tantra in particular must be more highly developed that the practitioners of the sutra version of the Great Vehicle. The view, evinced in the passage by Eliade cited at the beginning of this paper--that "For Buddhists--the Vajrayana represents a now revelation of Buddha's doctrine, adapted to the much diminished capacities of modern man,"--does not take into account the exactly opposite view of Dzon-da-ba and his Ge-luk-ba followers, whose school was important throughout a vast region of Central Asia.


In conclusion, it is within the contest of hundreds of years of such commentary in India and Tibet that tantra offers a spiritual path to a high goal of altruistic service, even if its implementation in practice is obviously beyond our present capacities.




1.       In History of Religions, Essays in Methodology, ed. by Mircea Eliade and Joseph M. Kitigawa,   [Chicago, 1959], see Smith's article "Comparative Religion: Whither--And Why-" p. 31-66 and especially p.34.

2.       Mircea Eliade, Patanjali and Yoga translated by C.L. Markhann, [New York: Funk and Wagnalis, 1969], p.179.

3.       D.L.Snellgrove, The Hevajra Tantra, A Critical Study, [London Oxford University Press, 1959, part 1, p.9.

4.       The presentation of the distinctivenese of tantra is drawn from Tsong-dha-pa, Tantra in Tibet, and the Dalai Lama's introduction.

5.       For my sources and more discussion, see Tenzin Gyatso and Jeffrey Hopkins, The Kalachakra Tantr, Rite of Initiation, [London: Wisdom Publications, 1985], Introduction, an.108.

6.       In the Kalachakra Tantra, Rite of Initiation, see the beginning of the rituyal with the Kalai Lama's commentary, pp. 170-174. Also for the end of the ritual, see my introduction, p. 124, middle, as well as the ritual and the Dalai Lama's commentary, 333-338.

7.       Lcang skya rol pa'i rdo fje, 1717-86.

8.       As citd in The Kalachakra Tantra, Rite of Initiation, p.33.

9.       IBD, pp. 31-32.

10.   The material on the levels of consciousness is drawn from LatiRinbochay's and my translation of a text by Yang-can-ga-way-lo-dro; see our Death, Intermediate state, and  Rebirth in Tibetan Buddhism, [London: Rider and Co., 1979]

11.   Eliade's view however, somewhat similar to that put forward by late Indian commentator on tantra, Tripitakamala, who held that the top rank among the highest tantric practitioners did not need to use sexual union in the spiritual path. He held that those just below the very top rank meditate on an imaginary consort, and he posits the usage of an actual consort only for the third level [albeit among the top level of practitioners]. Hence he appears not to have held Dzong-da-ba's view that an actual consort is needed in order to bring about withdrawal of the grosser levels of consciousness as in the process of dying.


It seems that he viewed the practice only as a technique for those distracted by desire. Perhaps, his thought was that by trying to meditate on emptiness and so forth in the midst of ritualized sex, a practitioner could overcome the sense that sex is separate from the scope of emptiness This psychological value of exposing oneself to one's own inner desires, fears, and so forth in the midst of a different, intentional background is unquestioned. However, it seems that Tripitakamala was not cognizant of the doctrine of the levels of consciousness manifested in orgasmic bliss and thus did not even conceive of utlilizing them in the path. Such an orientation casts a completely different light on the meaning of using desire in the path.  


For a discussion of Tripitakamala's opinion and Dzong-ka-ba's refutation of it, see Tsong-ka-ba, Tantra in Tibet [London: 1977], pp. 145-150.

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