The Visualization of the Secret: Atiśa’s Contribution to the Internalization of Tantric Sexual Practices
Regarding consecrations there are two types: those applicable to householders, and those applicable to the celibate. Those applicable to householders include everything taught in the tantras, while the celibate from amongst those should avoid the secret and gnosis of the consort consecrations. Why should they avoid those two? Celibacy is understood to be one of the virtues which occurs as a point of doctrine, in reliance upon the Buddha’s teaching. Those two consecrations are regarded as not being in accordance with the practice of celibacy. Hence it is said that the two consecrations would bring about the end of celibacy, and the end of celibacy would be the end of the Buddha’s teaching. And by its ceasing the continuum of merit making would be broken. Since from that basis there would arise innumerable non-virtuous people, the celibate should thus avoid those two.10
There is no infraction even if a monk experiences the limits of the bliss of the two organs with an outer consort who is seen in a dream, if seen with discernment of the habitual tendency of the bliss of union that is so experienced.” One should understand this as a teaching on monastic discipline. However, in the case of an alternate instance, with respect to an evil person, the secret and consort gnosis consecrations should be bestowed with a gnostic consort (jñānamudrā) on such occasions. If there are no evil persons, then an actual consort (karmamudrā) only [is acceptable]. A monk who, while faithful, is not steadfastly intent upon reality should be prohibited from receiving consecration with an outer wisdom-consort.18
With respect to wisdom there are two, conceptual and non-conceptual wisdom. One establishes a mentality according with these two wisdoms, and, from the perspective of practice, meditate upon their non-dual integration. From the perspective of the four consecrations that are the means for achieving this, the jar consecration achieves the conventional truth, while the ultimate truth is achieved with the gnosis of the consort consecration for which the secret is a preliminary. The fourth [consecration] achieves the realization of their non-dual integration. They are attained in dependence upon and through the kindness of the guru. The characteristics of the adept who thus succeeds are [as follows]: First, [he] has stabilized the perfected spirit of awakening which arises from the power of compassion, and has obtained through the grace of the guru the consecrations, the jar, secret, and so forth.23
Next visualize the body maṇḍala. One should contemplate Vārāhī in the secret lotus, and Heruka on one’s crown. In one’s heart is Dākinī, in the throat Lāmā, in the navel Khaṇḍarohā, in the forehead Rūpiṇī, and the [goddesses] such as Pracaṇḍā in the twenty-four places such as the head and so forth. Visualize that in one’s mouth is Kākāsyā, in the right nostril Ulūkāsyā, in the rectum Śvānāsyā, in the left nostril Śūkarāsyā, in the left ear Yamadāḍhī and Yamadūtī in the right, and in the right eye Yamadaṃṣṭriṇī, and Yamamathanī in the left. Then visualize a sacred thread composed of the oṃ kara kara [portion of the root mantra]. Visualize the atoms of the twenty-four bodily elements as the twenty-four heroes. Then create the six insignia from the six [hero armor mantras], oṃ ha and so forth. Create a necklace from Vajravārāhī’s long mantra. Create the skull garland from [Heruka’s essence mantra], oṃ śrī vajra he, etc., earrings from [Heruka’s] seven-syllable [quintessence mantra], the elephant hide from the Mother’s essence, the sash from the heroine’s armor mantra. Use the mantras of each of the ḍākinīs to[create] the skulls in each of their hands. [Create] the skull crest with the Mother’s quintessence.24With the blessings of body, speech and mind, the blessings of the aggregates and so forth, the armor of the armor mantras, and the light rays of one’s heart, invite, worship and mix with the gnosis hero. Create the pride of being non-dual with him through the oṃ yogaśuddhaḥ mantra. Then invite and worship the thirty-seven [goddesses]. Next, those deities dispel obstructing forces with protective utterances. The heroines sing about the great bliss of play in consecration bestowal, the great bliss of the network of ḍākinīs, the great bliss which grants great pleasure, the great bliss of entreaty, songs such as “Alalaho, the great bliss supreme, the great bliss of the ḍākinīs’ net! Alalaho!” The heroes utter the benediction.25Imagine that the five, the four mothers and Vārāhī, [descend] from the sky holding the jar filled with the ambrosia of gnosis, and that they bestow [the jar] consecration with their hands. Then, the four mothers dissolve into Vārāhī, and bestow the secret consecration with the spirit of awakening (bodhicitta) of equipoise with Śrī Heruka. Then, Heruka takes Vārāhī as his consort (mudrā), and through being equipoised their winds dissolve. Relying on that, contemplate the experience of the natural (sahaja). Then you, a child of the clan, unite with the consort (mudrā) as Heruka, and, depending on that, meditate on clear light, that wisdom which is attained in visionary experience. This is the very essence of the Transcendence of Wisdom (prajñāpāramitā) which is the purity of the three consciousnesses,26 and which is liberation from birth due to the non-existence of body, speech, and mind. This is the ultimate truth that has the characteristic of always appearing completely luminous like the moon, sun, fire, and jewels. Regard [everything] with the eye of the wisdom and gnosis [consecration], the vision that is beyond the objectification of the other. In this way, do not see anything in and of itself, but see the clear light. And while there is no sort of causation at work with this sort of clear light, conventionally, see the thirty-seven deities from mere wind-mind clear and complete like a reflected image, colored like a rainbow, and distorted like [the image of] the moon in water. Regard them as caused, and since they arise, they are conventional. The integration which does not divide the two truths, the great spirit of awakening, is the fourth [consecration].27Then imagine that the consecration deities enter into you, and that they are individually sealed. Then worship as before, understanding that the objects of worship, the worshipper, and the worship are all birthless. Then the ambrosia is tasted, meaning that from yaṃ and raṃ there is wind and fire, and from a the skull, within which, from go, ku, da, ha and na appear the five fleshes, and from vi, mu, śu, ma and ra, the five ambrosias. Above these are the syllables hūṃ, oṃ, trām, hrī and a, which are the five clans. Cover it with a lunar disk arising from a. Above that is oṃ āḥ hūṃ, the three clans, above which is a nine-pronged vajra arising from the moon disk, marked with a hūṃ garlanded with light rays, the six great secrets. Then imagine that the light radiating from the four syllables draws forth the gnostic ambrosia of the body, speech and mind of all Tathāgatas, and dissolves into each.28
However, with respect to those monks renowned for single-minded asceticism distinguished by [their adherence to] the disciples’ vehicle, there is no point in consecrating them with mantra, mudrā and so forth. Yet for those who have the disciple [monastic] vows and who have given rise to the spirit of awakening in the Mahāyāna, consecration with mantra and mudrā is efficacious, provided that there is no secret consecration and so forth. However, for those who have given rise to the spirit of awakening in the mantric method who also have the disciple [monastic] vows, it is efficacious for them to receive the consecrations in their entirety. That [sort of practitioner] will be [like] Vajrasattva chastising Mārā. But if this were the case, how would the monastic vow not be impaired? They wouldn’t be, since, it is said that without abandoning the monastic vows, the vows are conceived differently in the three vehicles, the outer, inner and secret.35
Conflicts of Interest
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See, for example, chapter four of the Mahāvairocanābhisaṃbodhi Tantra, which contains descriptions of violent rituals for the desctruction of enemies; it is translated in (Hodge 2003, pp. 153–58).
For an overview of this history, see (Davidson 2002, especially chapter 4).
For example, see the apology found in the Mahāvairocanābhisaṃbodhi Tantra, chapter four, following the above mentioned violent rituals. The text here has Vairocana “predicting” that “faithless beings of little intelligence” will criticize this work, arguing that it was “not what was spoken by the Buddhas, but it belongs to the non-Buddhists!” (Hodge 2003, p. 157). The author of this text clearly expected that it would be subject to criticism by some Buddhists.
See (Gray 2005, p. 67).
Examples of these attempts are discussed at some length in (Gray 2015).
See (Gray 2015, pp. 87–89).
Regarding the story of Atiśa’s journey to Tibet see (Decleer 1997).
For a translation of this text see (Davidson 1995, p. 301).
My translation from Atīśa’s Bodhimārgadīpapañjikā, 290a.7–b.4: de la dbang ni rnam pa gnyis te/khyim pa’i phyogs la brten pa dang/tshangs par spyod pa’i phyogs la brten pa’o//khyim pa’i phyogs la brten pa gang zhe na/ji snyed rgyud las gsungs pa thams cad do//tshangs par spyod pa’i phyogs la brten pa gang zhe na/de dag nyid las gsang ba dang/shes rab ye shes spangs pa’o//de ci phyir de gnyis spangs she na/‘di ltar sangs rgyas kyi chos la brten nas dge ba ji snyed cig ‘byung ba de dag thams cad nib stan pa gnas pa las ‘byung yin la/bstan pa gnas pa yang tshangs par spyod pa kho la ltos shing/dbang bskur ba gnyis ni tshangs par spyod pa’i mi mthun pa’i gnas su mthong ba’i phyir ro//de bas na dbang bskur gnyis ni tshangs par spyod pa zad par byed pa yin la/tshangs par spyod pa zad par byed pa yin la/tshangs par spyod pa zad na sangs rgyas kyi bstan pa nub par ‘gyur zhing/de nub pas bsod nams mngon par ‘du bya ba rnams rgyun chad par ‘gyur la/gzhi de las dge ba ma yin pa dpag tu med pa ‘byung ba’i phyir de gnyis tshangs par spyod pa rnams la spangs so zhes gsungs so/.
The final verse of the Bodhimārgadīpa indicates that Atiśa wrote it in response to being “implored by Byang chub ’od”, the member of the royal family who invited him to Tibet. See (Davidson 1995, p. 301).
My translation from the Tibetan edition of the Sarvarahasya-nāma-tantrarāja; see To. 481, 2b.2-3: /sbyor lnga sangs rgyas bdag ces bsgom//ting ‘dzin ye shes las byung ba//sangs rgyas nyid phyir mdor bsdus pas//sangs rgyas rnal ‘byor med par ni//rnal ‘byor pa ni ‘tshang mi rgya/. Note that the idea of the “five” yogas in the first line appears to be an interpolation in the Tibetan translation. It does not occur in the Chinese translation (see T. 888, p. 537). Prof. Alexis Sanderson has also informed me that it does not occur in the extant Sanskrit text, which I have not had the opportunity to consult.
Both Nāgārjuna and Buddhaśrījñānapāda argued that visualization meditations can purify the mind of the conceptualizations (vikalpa) that bind us to cyclic existence, thus investing this practice with tremendous soteriological significance. They make this argument in their Piṇḍīkrama-sādhana (To. 1796) and Samantabhadra-nāma-sādhana (To. 1855), respectively.
See (Hopkins 1977, p. 134).
See (Bühnemann 1992, pp. 122–23).
Abhayākaragupta, Vajrāvalī 61b.5. I am indebted to one of my peer reviewers for bringing this work to my attention.
Regarding the meaning of the term of art mudrā in this context see (Gray 2013).
Abhayākaragupta, Vajrāvalī 67a.2-4: dge slong gi nyams su myong ba de’i sbyor ba’i bde ba’i bag chags sad pas rmi lam du mthong na rmi lam du mthong ba’i phyi rol gyi phyag rgya la dbang po gnyis kyi bde ba’i mthar thug par nyams su myong na yang ltung ba med do zhes ’dul bar bstan pa de rtogs par bya’o//gal te phyogs kyi bye brag skye bo ngan pa’i spyod yul du gyur na/de’i tshe de la yang ye shes kyi phyag rgyas gsang ba dang shes rab ye shes kyi dbang sbyin par bya’o//skye bo ngan pa med na ni las kyi phyag rgya kho nas so//de kho na nyid la mos pa mi brtan pa’i dge slong la ni dad pa dang ldan yang phyi’i shes rab ma’i dbang bzung ba bkag ste/. I am aware that the Sanskrit for this text was edited in (Mori 2009). However, as I have not been able to secure a copy of what is evidently a very rare edition, I am unfortunately unable to take into consideration the Sanskrit text for this work.
Regarding this idea see (Gray 2007).
For a translation of the relevant passage from his Śrīsaṃpuṭatantrarājaṭīkā-āmnāyamañjarī-nāma, see (Gray 2007, pp. 69–70).
See (Gray 2001, p. 144). In my initial translation of this passage I only recognized the text’s reference to one of the four consecrations.
(Sakurai 1998), 3: prathaman tāvad yogeśvareṇa caturbrahmavihāriṇā bhāvyam/; Lūipa, Cakrasaṃvarābhisamaya, fol. 186b: rnal ’byor pa’i dbang phyug gis re zhig dang por tshang pa’i gnas bzhi bsgom par bya’o.
Atiśa, Abhisamayavibhaṅga, 186a.4-7: /shes rab la gnyis te/dmigs pa dang bcas pa’i shes rab dang/dmigs pa med pa’o//shes rab gnyis kyis mthong ba dang mthun par de la blo ’jog pa dang/spyod pa’i sgo nas gnyis med zung ’jug tu bsgom pa’o//de yang sgrub byed dbang bzhi’i sgo nas te/bum pa’i dbang gis kun rdzob kyi bden pa dang/gsang ba sngon du song ba’i shes rab ye shes kyis don dam pa dang /bzhi pas gnyis med zung ’jug tur togs pa bsgrub pa’o//de yang bla ma la rag las pas de mnyes pa las thob pa’i phyir ro//de ltar bsgrubs pas sgrub pa po’i mtshan nyid du gyur pa ni/dang po snying rje’i stobs las byung//rdzogs pa’i byang chub sems brtan byas//bum pa gsang sogs dbang bskur ba//bla ma’i drin gyis yang dag thob/.
Atiśa, Abhisamayavibhaṅga, 197a.1-5: /de nas lus kyi dkyil ‘khor bsgoms te/gsang ba’i padmar phag mo/spyi gtsugs la he ru ka’o//snying gar mkha’ ’gro ma/mgrin par lā ma/lte bar khaṇḍa ro ha/dpral bar gzugs can ma/mgo bo la sogs pa gnas nyi shu rtsa bzhir rab tu gtum mo la sogs pa bsgom par bya’o//kha la khwa gdong ma/sna g.yas par ‘ug pa’i gdong can ma/bshang lam du khyi gdong ma/sna g.yon par phag gdong ma/rna g.yon par gshin rje brtan ma/g.yas par pho nya ma/mig g.yas par mche ba ma/g.yon par ’joms ma bsam par bya//de nas oṃ ka ra ka ra la sogs pa las mchod phyir thogs bsam par bya//de nas khams nyi shu rtsa bzhi’i phra rab rnams dpa’ bo nyi shu rtsa bzhir bsam par bya’o//de nas oṃ ha la sogs pa las phyag rgya drug bskyes par bya’o//rdo rje phag mo’i sngags ring las mgul rgyan bskyed par bya’o//oṃ śrī badzra he la sogs pas thod pa’i phreng ba bskyed par bya’o//yi ge bdun pas rna rgyan dang//yum gyi snying pos glang po’i pags pa dang/dpa’ mo’i go cha’i sngags kyis ska rags dang/mkha’ ’gro ma rnams so so’i sngags kyis so so’i phyag gi thod pa dang/yum gyi nye ba’i snying pos thod pa’i dbu rgyan dang /.
Atiśa, Abhisamayavibhaṅga, 197a.5-7: /de nas sku gsungs thugs byin gyis brlabs pa dang/phung po la sogs pa byin gyis brlabs pa dang/go cha’i sngags kyi go cha dang/snying ga’i ’od kyis ye shes sems dpa’ spyan drangs la mchod de bsre ba dang/oṃ yo ga śuddhaḥ sa gnyis su med pa’i nga rgyal bya’o//de nas yang sum cu rtsa bdun spyan drang la mchod de/de nas lha de dag gis kyang bka’ bsgo rnams kyis bgegs bskrad/dpa’ mo rnams kyis glu len/dbang bskur rol mo’i bde chen po//mkha’ ’gro dra ba’i bde chen po//dgyes chen stsol ba’i bde chen po//gsol mdzad bde chen po ste//a la la ho//mchog tu gyur pa bde chen po//mkha’ ’gro dra ba’i chen po//a la la ho/zhes pa’i glu dang/dpa’ bo rnams kyis bkra shis brjod pa dang /.
These are the three subtle states of consciousness that emerge from (or, in reverse order, lead to) the clear light consciousness, namely “luminance” (āloka), “radiance” (ābhāsa), and “immanence” (upalabdhaka). Regarding them, see (Wedemeyer 2007, pp. 95–96).
Atiśa, Abhisamayavibhaṅga, 197a.7-b.4: yum bzhi phag mo dang lngas nam mkha’ nas ye shes kyi bdud rtsis gang ba’i bum pa blangs nas/lag pas dbang bskur par bsam mo//de nas yum bzhi phag mo la thims ste/dpal he ru ka snyoms par zhugs pa’i byang chub kyi sems kyis gsang ba’i dbang bskur bar bya’o//de nas he ru kas phag mo mu dra gnang ste snyoms par zhugs pas rlung thim/de la brten nas lhan cig skyes pa myong bar bsam mo//de nas dpal he ru kas rigs kyi bu khyed kyis mu dra dang gnyis sprod pa la brten nas myong ba snang ba thob pa’i shes rab de ’od gsal bar sgoms shig /de ni rnam par shes pa gsum rnam par dag pa shes rab kyi pha rol tu phyin pa’i ngo bo nyid lus dang ngag dang sems med pa las dang/skye ba las grol ba/zla ba dang/nyi ma dang/me dang/nor bu ltar shin tu gsal ba rtag tu snang ba’i mtshan nyid can don dam pa’i bden pa de ni mthong ba gzhan gyi g.yul las ’das pa ste/shes rab dang ye shes kyi mig gis ltos shig /de ltar gang gi yang rang bzhin du ma mthong ba de ’od gsal ba mthong ba yin no//de ltar ’od gsal ba de’i don rgyu ’bras gang yang med mod kyi/’on kyang kun rdzob tu rlung dang sems tsam las lha sum cu rtsa bdun me long gi gzugs brnyan ltar gsal la rdzogs pa/’ja’ tshon ltar kha dog dang bcas pa/chu zla ltar sgro skur dang bral bar ltos shig /de ni rgyu rkyen la ltos nas skyes pas kun rdzob bo//de ltar bden pa gnyis mi byed pa zung du ’jug pa ni byang chub kyi sems chen po ste bzhi pa’o/.
Atiśa, Abhisamayavibhaṅga, 197b.4-198a.1: /de nas dbang bskur ba’i lha rnams bdag la zhugs par bsams la so sor rgyas gdab ste/snga ma ltar mchod bya mchod byed mchod pa rnams skye med du shes par byas la mchod pa bya’o//de nas bdud rtsi myang ste/yaṃ raṃ las me rlung a las thod pa de’i nang du/go ku da ha na rnams las sha lnga dang/bi mu shu ma ra rnams las bdud rtsi lnga’o//de rnams kyi steng du hūṃ oṃ tram hrī a ste rigs lnga’o//a las byung ba’i zla ba’i dkyil ’khor gyis kha dgab par bya’o//de’i steng du oṃ āḥ hūṃ gsum ste rigs gsum mo//de’i steng du zla ba la gnas pa’i rdo rje rtse dgu pa hūṃ ’od kyi phreng ba can gyis mtshan pa ni gsang ba chen po drug pa’o//de nas yi ge bzhi las ’od ’phros pas de bzhin gshegs pa thams cad kyi sku gsum thugs ye she kyi bdud rtsi bkug pa pa so so la ’thim par bsam mo/.
For more detailed descriptions of these consecrations see (Gray 2007, pp. 103–31).
Here, I refer to his 1996 work, Indo Mikkyō Girei Kenkyū: Kōki Indo Mikkyō no Kanjō Shidai, which I have unfortunately not been able to access or consult, although I understand that he discusses in this work the connection between Vāgīśvarakīrti’s and Abhayākaragupta’s comments on the second and third initiations. I am indebted to one of my peer reviewers for bringing Vāgīśvarakīrti’s work to my attention.
See (Lo Bue 1997, pp. 643–52).
See (Davidson 2005, pp. 163–73).
See (DeCleer 1997, pp. 159–62). We do not know, to my knowledge, how long Atiśa lived at Vikramaśīla, nor when Vāgīśvarakīrti departed the monastery or passed away; it is possible that he was there at the same time as Vāgīśvarakīrti, who would have been a senior contemporary.
Regarding this, see (Gray 2009, pp. 14–16), which translates a passage in Atiśa’s biography relating to his pride about his extensive knowledge of the tantras, and the way in which the ḍākinīs humbled him.
Vāgīśvarakīrti, Saṃkṣiptābhiṣekavidhi, 189a.1-4: ’on kyang dge slong ’ga’ zhig gcig tu nges par grags pa’i dka’ thub can nyan thos kyi theg pa lta ba gcig pa ste/de la ni sngags dang phyag rgya la sogs pa’i dbang bskur ba dbang med pa nyid do//yang gang zhig nyan thos kyi sdom pa dang theg pa chen por sems bskyed pa dang ldan pa ste/de la sngags dang phyag rgya la sogs pa la dbang yod de/de yang gsang ba’i dbang bskur ba la sogs pa med do//yang gang zhig nyan thos kyi sdom pa dang sngags kyi tshul la yang sems bskyed pa dang ldan pa ste/de la ni thams cad du dbang bskur ba la sogs pa’i dbang yod pa ste de nyid ni rdo rje ’dzin pas bdud la bsdigs pa la sogs pa bya’o//’o na de ltar na yang ji ltar na dge slong gi sdom pa mi nyams par ’gyur ram zhe na/mi ’gyur te/’di ltar dge slong gi sdom pa ma btang bar/phyi nang gsang ba’i theg pa gsum//sdom pa so sor gzung bar bgyi/. I understand that the Sanskrit for this text is edited in (Sakurai 1996), although unfortunately I have not been able to secure a copy of this work.
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Gray, D.B. The Visualization of the Secret: Atiśa’s Contribution to the Internalization of Tantric Sexual Practices. Religions 2020, 11, 136. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11030136
Gray DB. The Visualization of the Secret: Atiśa’s Contribution to the Internalization of Tantric Sexual Practices. Religions. 2020; 11(3):136. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11030136Chicago/Turabian Style
Gray, David B. 2020. "The Visualization of the Secret: Atiśa’s Contribution to the Internalization of Tantric Sexual Practices" Religions 11, no. 3: 136. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11030136