The characteristics of Tibetan Buddhism (Part One): Why do we need a Yidams in meditative practice?

Posted On: 16 February, 2017

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Chogyal RinpocheYidams is one of the characteristics of Tibetan Buddhism. Most of the other Buddhism Dharma practices are carried out directly through the control of our mind. But as everyone knows that our psychology, spirit and soul etc. are abstract existence, and so for most people, it is difficult to try to figure out and difficult to get started. While in Tantric practice, especially the practice of the Yidams deity, we can view the deity in the process of meditative practice. The deity is a dependable, observable, accessible object to rely upon, so as to help improve the level of our practice step by step, and ultimately get enlightened. It is an easier way for us to understand and learn at the beginning. And, in the end, you will find that the nature of the deity is our own nature, or Buddha nature.

At the beginning of the practice, you will feel that the deity can protect you. So we keep chanting his mantra, as if we chant for the deity. Just like, we chant the name of the Amitabha when dying as we believe that the Amitabha in the Western Pure Land can help us. So we chant his mantra. When your practice attains a certain level, you will understand that Amitabha is what we call the Buddha nature. It is not that you will leave for the Western Pure land, but that the Western Pure land is right here in your heart. Because the Buddha nature is the Western Pure land, is the Amitabha, and also is the Green Tara…. So the Buddha nature is our inherent nature and the ultimate pure mind. It does not belong to any religion, or vary upon different religions. It is the most pure great compassion, great wisdom, and great energy. When people practice different Dharma door, some call it Allah, some call it the God, and some say it is the Buddha. As a matter of fact, it does not belong to any religion. It is like one person, he can be a doctor, and meanwhile he is a father, a son, a friend, and a boss. The same person, for different people and by different relations, can have many different identities.

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In Tantric teachings, there are many discussions on the topic of three veins and five Chakras. While their content needs to be understood through practice, not merely by language. The human body has 7200 veins. But because of the greed, hatred, and stupidity, these veins are blocked. The greed, hatred, and stupidity are the fundamental cause of our cyclic existence. So we need Tantric meditative practice to open the veins in our body. Practicing the deity is the most direct way to eliminate all the greedy, hatred and stupidity and ultimately to combine our own body and deity to be one, that is to achieve the Buddha hood.

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When you start your Tantric practice, you will visualize many deities, later you only visualize your fundamental deity. So at the beginning, the deity and you are separated, you are yourself, deity is deity. But gradually, when your practice comes to a certain extent, the guru will tell you that your fundamental deity is you yourself. And then when you visualize your deity, you do not need to separate your deity and yourself, but visualize you both to be one. That means, you begin to understand the blessing of your fundamental deity, his great wisdom and great compassion and that you can directly receive all his blessing.

Then slowly, you become to be your deity, your mind and you consciousness are changed to his great wisdom, great compassion and great meditation. You and he are no longer separated. The Tantric practice is such a process. And then after a period of time, when you have carefully visualized and contemplated your deity, you will find that he does not exist at all. And through longer-term visualization, you will find the deity is empty, he have not ever come, he will never disappear. As said in “Heart Sutra”, “not produced, not destroyed.”

When you achieve the great wisdom, great compassion and great meditation, you will naturally realize that you become the fundamental deity of yourself.