Six Yogas in Great Harmony

Dr. Yutang Lin



Causal Origination

1. Basic Theory
2. Antidotes to the Three States of Existence
3. Mutual Complements
4. Harmony in Oneness

Causal Origination

About fifty days ago in a dream I saw a light brown color transparent thick board of irregular shape, seemed like made of crystal rock, and inside it there were two flat shapes of pagoda made of silver-color metal representing respectively Guru Chen and me. Simultaneously a heavenly voice was heard, saying in Mandarin, "Ming Xing Dao Liu Cheng Jiu Fa (Wisdom Activities Path Six Methods of Accomplishment)." (This is the traditional title in Chinese for what is known to the west as The Six Yogas of Naropa or The Yoga of the Six Doctrines.) Furthermore, I knew then that it was referring to a work of mine that had been adopted by many in practice, and I said in Mandarin in the dream, "Zhe Shi Mi Cheng Chu Jie (This is "The First Steps of Vajrayana"), Yi Jing Xie Hao Le (and it is already written)."

After I woke up from this dream I reflected on it, and thought that, since the heavenly voice clearly stated "Liu Cheng Jiu Fa," its intention should be for me to expound on this subject. The Six Yogas are profound practices of Vajrayana. Even though English version and Chinese version of these teachings are available in bookstores nowadays, practitioners that are up to the point of actually practicing them should only be rare, therefore, I had never thought of expounding on this subject. Now that an inspirational dream had occurred to remind me of this, I started to review relevant teachings and organize the materials so as to present a brief account with expositions, with the intention to provide a helpful source for references and guides to practices.

The Six Yogas discussed here are: Tummo Yoga, Illusion Yoga, Dream Yoga, Clear Light Yoga, Bardo Yoga, and Powa Yoga. As to details of their actual practices, since they can be found in books available in bookstores and should be transmitted through personal teachings of Gurus, I will not delve into them here.

1. Basic Theory

Sentient beings of variegated varieties committed all sorts of deeds out of ignorance, and then are drawn by habitual forces of their karmas into cyclic existence in the six realms of transmigration. Thus they went through life and death again and again. The transition from one life to the next one may be described in terms of three stages: 1. From life to death, 2. From death to Bardo (intermediate state), and 3. From Bardo to life. Here, "life" refers to the period when a sentient being is alive in its realm, "death" refers to the process of dying and it ends as the "clear light of death" appears, and "Bardo" refers to the intermediate state that begins from the moment the clear light of death disappears and ends at the moment when the next life begins.

According to Tantric Buddhist teachings, in the case of human beings, the dying process begins with the deterioration and loss of sensations obtained through the five senses of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and feeling, and these are considered as experiences at a coarser level of consciousness, and afterwards at the finer level of consciousness one also experiences a gradual cessation. In terms of one's inner visions the whole transition may be described as consisting of the following eight stages:

1. Mirage 2. Smoke 3. Fireflies 4. Flame of a candle 
5. Radiant white appearance 6. Radiant red increase
7. Radiant black near-attainment 8. Clear light

Here we will call the transition in this sequential order as "tranquilization," while the transition in its reverse order will be called as "resurrection." Both tranquilization and resurrection consist of very subtle inner visions; therefore, it is questionable whether all dying persons or consciousnesses that are resurrecting into Bardo could be fully aware of each and every stage of the transitions. Besides, in cases of people died of tragic deaths, such as having their bodies been exploded into pieces all at once, it is also questionable whether their dying process could also go through such an orderly transition.

As to the sequences of inner visions that occurred during the transition from life to death, and then from death to Bardo, the basic theory of Tantric Buddhist teachings states that, at first it was tranquilization, and then it was resurrection.

When the clear light of death disappears the subtlest consciousness leaves the body, and owing to the habitual force of karma there arises a Bardo body that is the indifferentiable union of the subtlest consciousness and air. The arising of this Bardo body goes through the resurrection process. According to Tantric Buddhist teachings this Bardo body resembles the karmic body in the next life. However, in spiritual experiences the deceased ones usually appear in the shape of their last life. This does not in itself conflict with the Tantric teachings because a shape formed by indifferentiable union of consciousness and air will certainly change according to the state of the consciousness, and the deceased will certainly assume its old form to facilitate communication with the living.

For a Bardo body, before it enters the next life (in case the next life is a human birth, it is the moment when it enters the womb), at the end of every seven days it will go through a small "life and death," i.e., a fast process of tranquilization followed by resurrection. In the end when a Bardo body "dies" and enters the next life the process it goes through is also tranquilization followed by resurrection. And the demarcation between Bardo and next life is also the appearance of the clear light of death.

Our usual transition from a wakeful state into sleep is also a tranquilization at a shallow level. Our dream bodies are formed from the clear light of sleep through a resurrection at a shallow level; and they again disappear via a tranquilization at a shallow level as we wake up from sleep.

2. Antidotes to the Three States of Existence

The path toward Full Enlightenment is a process of purification of karmic hindrances toward restoration of original purity. To purify karmas of body, speech and mind practices of prostration, chanting, meditation, almsgiving, observance of rules of conducts, etc., are adopted. To practitioners who had already undergone trainings in Sutrayana both in theory and in cultivation of practices Tantric teachings reveal further practices in visualization and breathing that are based on the principle of mutual correlation of body and mind and that of indifferentiable union of mind and wind (subtle inner air). These practices aim at speeding up the simultaneous purification of body and mind. Furthermore, in applying the principle of indifferentiable union of phenomena and Blank Essence and that of complementary union of Yin and Yang (female and male energies), and based on the foundation of accomplished Yidam visualization and vase-breathing accomplishment, both cooperative engagement of Yin and Yang within one body and that of two bodies are practiced. All these above-mentioned practices are antidotes to the state of living.

The Illusion Yoga among the Six Yogas, on the one hand, serves as antidote to the grasping to the karmic body as being substantial, and on the other hand, through visualization of Yidam body helps one to arrive at the realization that all sentient beings are manifestation of the Yidam. Consequently, one would comprehend that all things are illusive, and thereby thoroughly extinguish grasping to things as being substantial, in the sense that they have absolutely independent existence. The Tummo Yoga among the Six Yogas serves as antidote to the state of living through the practice of cooperative engagement of red Bodhis and white Bodhis within one's body.

At the final stage of death, the dying process, clear light appears. This clear light is basically no different from the light of original purity. However, ordinary sentient beings are incapable of recognizing, abiding in and making use of this juncture to reemerge into the originally pure limitless oneness. Instead, they could not help but instantaneously follow the pulling of habitual karmic forces to enter the resurrection into Bardo. Tantric practitioners, who had practiced meditation on Blank Essence, Mahamudra, or the Great Samadhi of Dharmadhatu, and had attained stability in boundless clear light, would be able to recognize, abide and unify the clear light of death as it appears with the clear light attained in practices during lifetime and thereby attain Dharmakaya.

Since during sleep one also goes through tranquilization at a shallow level, it is therefore possible to use the opportunity to practice clear light of sleep. The practices of clear light during wakeful hours and during sleep mentioned above constitute the main content of the Clear Light Yoga among the Six Yogas.

Dream body is similar to Bardo body because both are formed by union of mind and wind (subtle inner air). The Dream Yoga among the Six Yogas helps one to comprehend the insubstantiality of dream contents through trainings in recognizing dream state and transforming dream contents. Consequently, one develops fearlessness in dreams and becomes capable of playing in dreams at ease and at will. Based on this foundation during Bardo it will be easier for one to practice diligently meditation on Blank Essence so as to facilitate the reappearance of clear light, and then to emerge therefrom in Yidam body to attain Sambhogakaya.

When one is already in Bardo and if one could still remember to practice Dharma, then the ideal path to liberation is to attain Sambhogakaya as mentioned above. If one could not attain Sambhogakaya in Bardo, then one should regard all scenes encountered in Bardo as illusions, and maintain thoughts on Dharma and practice diligently. Thus one will have a better chance to attain rebirth in Pureland or in one of the three better realms (heavenly realm, Asura realm or human realm). This is the essence of the Bardo Yoga among the Six Yogas.

The Powa (transference of consciousness) Yoga among the Six Yogas is a practice that uses wisdom wind to send the subtlest life-sustaining bindu (wisdom drop) at the center of the heart chakra of one's Yidam body straight up the central channel and exit through the top aperture to merge into the bindu at the center of the heart chakra of the wisdom body of the Yidam. Thus one may instantaneously attain Sambhogakaya or Dharmakaya. In daily practices one also visualizes that the bindu comes down to the heart chakra, and, in addition, practices some long-life sadhana to prevent one's earlier departure from this life. When Powa is practiced near death the bindu is sent only upwards and no more visualization of its coming down to the heart chakra. Practitioners accomplished in this practice may apply it to help deceased beings to attain rebirth in Pureland.

In general, the Six Yogas are basically practices and applications of the followings: meditation on Blank Essence, visualization on Illusion, visualization on Yidam, winds and channels, bindus, and clear light. Hence, they are very advanced practices in Tantra. In order to adopt these Yogas in a substantial manner a practitioner should be well equipped with the following qualifications in Dharma practice: having profound appreciation of impermanence, renounced worldly engagements to devote oneself completely to Dharma practice and service, abiding around and attending a Guru, having received Tantric initiations, having completed the foundational practices, thoroughly mastered basic theories of Dharma, having attainment in Dhyana meditation, having experiences in Yidam visualization and wind practices. Without whole-hearted devotion and long-lasting engagement in Dharma practices, even if one had learned about these advanced practices and attempted to practice them, it would be unlikely that attainments will be achieved. This is because on the Dharma path the transformation process of purification of the whole being could not be faked or bypassed.

3. Mutual Complements

During wakeful hours one practices Illusion Yoga and Tummo Yoga. During sleep one practices Clear Light Yoga. In dreams one practices Dream Yoga. During lifetime one practices Illusion Yoga, Powa Yoga and Clear Light Yoga, and applies them during the dying process. If one entered Bardo, then one practices Bardo Yoga to attain Sambhogakaya or Dharmakaya, or adopts other Dharma practices to attain rebirth in Pureland or better realms. Thus, there is no period when one is not using it for Dharma practice, and hence no time when it is not an opportunity for accomplishment toward enlightenment. This is the mutual complement of the Six Yogas in terms of time.

One practices meditation on Blank Essence and Clear Light Yoga to purify clear light of sleep and clear light of death so as to attain Dharmakaya. One practices Illusion Yoga, Tummo Yoga and Dream Yoga to attain Rupakaya of Buddha during lifetime or Bardo. One practices Powa Yoga and Bardo Yoga so as to attain liberation in time even during the dying process or in Bardo. This is the mutual complement of the Six Yogas in terms of ultimate attainment of liberation.

When one is well versed in Illusion Yoga then one's visualization in Tummo Yoga, Dream Yoga and Bardo Yoga will be effective. When one is well versed in Tummo Yoga winds and channels are fully developed, and then attainment in Powa Yoga and Clear Light Yoga are easier to secure. When one is well versed in Dream Yoga then practices in Bardo Yoga would readily be effective. The existence of common elements in the Six Yogas renders them mutual complements.

4. Harmony in Oneness

All myriads of Dharma practices are none other than practices for liberation toward enlightenment. What the Dharma path revealed and leads to ultimately is the realization that all things are originally in limitless oneness. In the great harmony of this limitless oneness the division into Six Yogas is also merely a temporary pedagogical device. All are in limitless oneness, and hence there is no substantiality in the absolutely independent existence of individual entities. Therefore, all phenomena appear as an illusion. Buddhas as well as sentient beings are right there and then illusions, without the need to first visualize them as illusive. Wakeful states, sleeps and dreams are all natural transformations of this limitless oneness. Therefore, there is no fear, no expectation and no unease. As the limitless oneness returns to tranquility only clear light appears. As the limitless oneness moves into action all phenomena appear. Life, death and Bardo are just transitions of the limitless oneness, and at any instant there is no separation from the limitless oneness. One only need to cease creating delusive distinctions for all to harmonize naturally into oneness, and original purity resumes.

The Six Yogas are antidotes to the habitual tendency to grasp things as being substantial and thereby making deluded distinctions. To the limitless oneness the Six Yogas are adding nothing and eliminating nothing. To the grasping that holds karmic body as being substantial there is the need to practice meditation on Blank Essence, Illusion Yoga, winds and channels, bindus, Tummo Yoga, etc., in order to purify it. If it is comprehended that the karmic body is only a bubble of foam in the ocean of limitless oneness of all things, and that it will disappear in a flash, then it will naturally and gradually approach original purity and original insubstantiality. Be it here or there, the consciousness remains none other than being originally pure. Since consciousness has never been separated from limitless oneness, what does it matter whether it had been transferred or not to other realms?

The views above belong to Great Perfection or Great Harmony, and are easier to state but very difficult to attain. For those who cannot attain such views it is only solid approach to begin one's practices with taking refuge in the Three Gems and developing Bodhicitta.

Written in Chinese on May 23, 2006
Translation completed on July 10, 2006
El Cerrito, California

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