Transcribing the oral tradition...

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Advice to the Three Fortunate Women - Unchecked

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by Sangharakshita

... knowledge. According to this biography
Padmasambhava was born forty two years after the Parinirvana of the Buddha which the
Tibetans place earlier anyway, which is in a way absurd if modern scientific history isn't
completely haywire. Padmasambhava historically lived in the eighth century but according to
Nyingmapa tradition he was born - appeared on the lotus flower forty two years after the
Parinirvana and lived for three thousand years. His function was to reveal the esoteric Tantra,
the Vajrayana proper. The exoteric tantras came to be called Mantrayana, the esoteric tantra
can be called Vajrayana. Also - this is another interesting thing - that the standard Buddhist
teaching is Buddhas appear in different world cycles etc., etc. The Nyingmapa teaching is that
in every world cycle you get not only a Buddha but also a guru, a Padmasambhava like figure
as it were. So it's as though the Nyingmapa tradition doesn't see simply a Buddha coming and
teaching, it sees a Buddha coming followed by a guru. Perhaps it would be better to speak
not of say the Buddha and then the second Buddha but of the Buddha and the guru, in the
sense of Padmasambhava. In fact there is a chapter in this work which gives a whole long list
of Buddhas appearing in different world systems at different times. It also names the guru
who follows immediately after them. Now this might sound rather strange not
to say bizarre but there is a meaning. So what do you think this meaning is?
A3 4Sona; Following the path of regular steps. You first of all have to have sutras.
S: You have the Hinayana sutras, Mahayana sutras and then you ttave the exoteric tantras and
then the guru comes and he promulgates the eso-teric tantras, the Vajrayana. So what ~oes
that represent? What is the tradition so to speak trying to say?
Sona; You can only progress so far with the teachings of the Buddha. You need something
even more.
S: Yes so why is that. Why can you so to speak progress only so far with the teachings of the
Buddha and what is that something more that you need which is apparently supplied by
Padmasambhava, according to the Nyingmapa tradition?
Dhammamati; A living teacher.
S: A living teacher. That is quite important too but you get Tiving teachers in the other
traditions. You get living Mahayana teachers, you get even living Hinayana teachers, you
can come into contact with something living through them.
John Roche ; Is it applying your own personal energy to that?
S: Your own personal energy. This is getting a little bit near. This is going in the right
direction so to speak, Try to think what might be the basic nature of the Vajrayana, the
esoteric tantra.
Sthiramati; It's based on experience.
S: It's based on experience but then all the schools of Buddhism are based on experience.
Well what is it about the Vajrayana experience which is perhaps special? What does it
represent? Well consider Padmasambhava's visits to Tibet. Why was he invited to Tibet.
Come on you've heard the lecture I'm sure. What was the story. How was he invited to Tibet.
Sona; To subdue to inimical forces.
S: What are they called in Tibetan tradition?
________ Demons.
S:Demons! The gods and demons of Tibet. So why was he invited To subdue the gods and
demons of Tibet?
Roger Jones; Because no one else could.
S: No one else could. Who had tried?
Roger Jones; Kamalasila.
S: No Kamalasila was a bit later. It was Kamalasila's teacher who tried so what was his
Sona; Sangha. . er
S: Santarakshita - and he is known as the Bodhisattva Abbot. He was a good monk, a
follower of the Bodhisattva ideal but he wasn't able to subdue the gods and demons of Tibet.
So what does this signify do you think. What do these gods and demons of Tibet repre sent?
Brian Duff; Do they represent the main forces to be overcome in particular cultures?
S: Yes they represent that both externally and internally because Those forces are not only
outside one, they're also inside one. It's
A3 5not just cultural conditioning. We also read that Padmasambhava throughout his biography,
he's constantly teaching the dakinis. He's subduing the dakinis and all sorts of weird sort of
psychic monstrosities almost. So what sort of impression do you get about Padmasambhava
and the nature of his activity. What sort of level does he seem to be operating on? Here's the
Bodhisattva Abbott teaching the Four Noble truths, the Eightfold Path, the Twelve Nidanas.
It is all very good, very true, very beautiful but he's not able to subdue the gods and demons
of Tibet. Now what does that mean?
John Roche; A kind of ferocious, kind of warrior like quality.
Yes. That type of teaching howerer good, however true, that sort of mental
philosophical ethical rational teaching doesn't really penetrate down to quite deep levels of
the psyche where there are very powerful energies which can be represented, can be
symbolised to use that word in terms of gods and demons and so on. That type or that mode
of teaching just doesn't penetrate deeply enough. So Padmasambhava has to be called in. His
kind of teaching, his kind of approach, the Vajrayana to give it its sort of traditional term, is
able to do this. We could also look at it in another way. You could say the Buddha or
someone like say the Bodhisattva Abbott, comes along and took Buddhism to Tibet in very
much the same way that the Buddha taught in India. So yes the Four Noble Truths, Noble
Eightfold path this is all very good, it's all very beautiful, it certainly has a great effect.
People follow it. But on a sort of broader front so to speak, even though the individuals may
gain liberation through following that teaching, in the world so to speak all sorts of deepe~
forces and energies are churned up and come into opposition. Do you see what I mean? So
it's as though the initial pr~mulgation of a teaching in the course of its very success, stirs up
or churns up very basic energies,in society, in human beings, not just individually but perhaps
socially speaking in particular cultures, which later on have to be brought under control of
some more radical presentation of the teaching. And Padmasambhava represents that. So it's
as though after every Buddha, representing the more rational you need the Guru who starts
dealing with, or who deals with, the powerful psychic forces that have been aroused by the
promulgation of the Buddha's teaching and which now needs to be brought under control, and
to be integrated. Do you see what I mean? In a way of course the G~ru is an aspect of the
Buddha. You mustn't too literally think in terms of two separate figures as it were.
Padmasambhava - he's basically a histo~ical figure but that historical figure has been
elaborated in the sort of ways that it has to cover or to represent the need within Buddhism ,
within the history of Buddhism, to follow up the Buddha's initial teaching by attempts to
reach down and to tackle the very much deeper almost primordial energies, which have been
stirred up by the fact that the Buddha's teaching has been introdveed into the world. That
process of stirring up must have taken some time. The Buddha didn't live long enough to
experience it and to deal with it but somebody has to deal with
The Buddhist tradition itself has to deal with it, and the figure of Padmasambhava
seems to represent that sort of attempt. It's as it were a personification to the extent that the
figure isn't historical, of Buddhism's attempt to come to terms with, to cope with, to integrate,
those very powerful, in a sense negative energies which have been stirred up by the
introduction of something like Buddhism, a catalyst like Buddhism, into the samsara. So
therefore he's called the second Buddha. Not in the sense that he does the Buddha's work all
over again, no the Buddha has done his work, but there's a second work to be done. There's a
follow up
A3 6needed. So you can see this occurring on different levels in different contexts because in
India, yes it was the Buddha followed by the Vajrayana tradition or Padmasambhava if you
like. In Tibet it was the Bodhisattva Abbott followed by Padmasambhava. So maybe this
represents a sort of general law or general principle whether in terms of the individual or
whether in terms of the group so to speak or a spiritual tradition. You remember that in the
context of the Buddha's Noble Eightfold Path the stage of vision is followed by the stage of
transformation. So perhaps in this sort of context the Buddha represents more the stage of
vision and Padmasambhava more the stage of transformation.
Not transformation simply of your speech and your livelihood but something even
deeper than that. The transformation of very basic human and even cosmic energies.. So that
it isn't enough just to accept Buddhism mentally, it isn't enough just to agree with it rationally.
You might go on like that for a few months or a few years and then you find that Buddhism
having been introduced into your life, very deep energies have been stirred up, very deep
resistances have been provoked and your present understanding of Buddhism is unable to
cope. You have to deepen your understanding of Buddhism. Your Buddhism has so to speak
to become tantric to cope with and integrate those energies which your earlier more rational
ethical involvement ...

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