The Union of Desire and Compassion
Highlights of the Vajrayogini Shift
Tibetan Buddhism presents hundreds of classifications, divisions, categories and sub-categories, to the point were I, for one, wonder if all this deadpan list-making is not an Archontic indulgence—or dare I say, deviation? Whatever the case, some reference to classification may be helpful in defining the role and style of Vajrayogini.
The Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Tantra specifies six types of practice in a kind of ascending order: the three Outer Tantras, consisting of Kriyayoga, Caryayoga, and Yogatantra, and the three Inner Tantras or Highest Yoga Tantras, consisting of Mahayoga, Anuyoga, and Atiyoga. These six in their totality comprise the theory and practice of Vajrayana. Vajrayogini is the dakini most intimately associated with the Highest Yoga Tantras; hence she oversees and directs, if you will, the supreme level of Tantric empowerment, short of Atiyoga.
Dzogchen, the other term for Atiyoga, means "great perfection." Dzogchen does not offer any way to attain the perfect state of pure attention (rigpa): rather, it advises how to maintain that state once it is spontaneously recognized. To experience the world just as it is before you right now but devoid of a conceiving subject or any conceivable object is, needless to say, pretty darn wild. Dzogchen teachings assert that the mind continually self-liberates into the witness-less state of nonconceptual lucidity. No technique or visualization can get you to it. Likewise, no distraction or ignorance can take you out of it. Due to the mind being perfectly free to mistake its own nature, we falsely think we are not in this awakened state all the time, but we really are. This is called non-attainment teaching. Dzogchen is very close to Ch'an and Zen which teach non-attainment in radical language, with special emphasis on the self-liberating action of the enlightened mind. The only mind there is, by the way.
So much for Dzogchen. The two other stages of the Highest Yoga Tantra, Mahayoga and Anuyoga, do involve elaborate visualizations and techniques of attainment. This is where Vajrayogini assumes a huge role, acting as the supreme yidam or tutelary deity of these stages. I would venture to say that there is nothing you cannot know from her instruction concerning the most advanced and sophisticated techniques of Vajrayana. And you do not have to be a qualified lama to receive this instruction. Quite a claim, that one. But what does it have to do with Planetary Tantra? What am I doing here, peddling my homespun version of Vajrayana and calling it Planetary Tantra? Well, gosh and gee whiz, sort of... Allow me to explain myself by reference to yet another categorization from Buddhism's tiresome catalogue of lists.
In a comprehensive overview, Buddhism is often divided into three paths or vehicles or yanas: Hinayana the lesser vehicle, Mahayana the greater vehicle, Vajrayana the diamond vehicle. The metaphor often given to contrast these approaches is: the Hinayanist avoids a poisonous plant, the Mahayanist finds an antidote for its noxious effect, and the Vajrayanist consumes it and turns it into healing medicine, even into an elixir of delicious nectar. Following this analogy, we can infer that Vajrayana involves some kind of fabulous transformational magic. The third vehicle is characterized by the art of turning everything that binds you to samsara (cyclic rebirth, due to the mind mistaking itself) into an opportunity for liberation. To put it bluntly, ignorance and addiction can actually be tools for enlightenment. But how is this Tantric "turnaround" to be done?
The two Highest Yoga Tantras short of Atiyoga use extensive "visuals." Mahayoga involves complex and detailed visualizations of mandalas that interpenetrate the perceived world like spectral, free-floating holograms. Anuyoga involves imaginary identification with a male Buddha figure in sacred intercourse with his consort. The practice of visualization or self-induced virtual reality trance is called "generation." This act is followed by the intentional dissolving of the visualization into a void point or bindu, and deep immersion in subtle bodily currents, especially the ecstatic rush of carnal luminosity (full-body kundalini). This practice is called "completion."
The Highest Yoga Tantras afford the attainment of occult powers, siddhis, and those who acquire such powers are called siddhas. Vajrayogini is the supreme initiatrix of Tantric siddhas, adepts of sexual magic and supernatural beauty. Among these attainments is first-hand access to dakini instruction delivered in sandhya-bhasa, "twilight language." Although it is downplayed for the sake of Buddhistic political correctness, Vajrayana also prescribes liberation through desire rather than from desire—an approach notoriously known as "the left-handed path," with the implication of "transgressive" behavior, including extreme license to indulge in sensual and sexual pleasures (so it would seem!).
So, the highest Yoga Tantras comprise quite a prize package! Of course, anyone can easily deny that this high-handed magic is really possible. You would have to try it out to find out, right? Planetary Tantra is a path of experimental magic with Gaia that closely parallels Vajrayana in theory and practice. In a bold stroke, it may be regarded as a para-Vajrayanist path with comparable responsibilities and attainments, processes that parallel generation and completion, access to dakini instruction, and emphasis on the transgressive or taboo-charged method of liberation through desire. Everything in the Highest Yoga Tantras has its counterpart in Planetary Tantra. Yet Planetary Tantra stands totally independent of hierarchy, guru-worship, rites and costumes, secret initiations. and lineage authentification.
Tantra goes planetary when it is performed in unison with the animating spirit of the earth, Gaia Awakening. Nothing in Tibetan Tantra requires interactive practice with the planet we inhabit. Tantra means "continuity, continuum." In the planetary sense, there is total experiential continuity from Gaia to Sophia to Vidya, divine wisdom. That is the Tantric conversion that I proposed when inaugurating this new dimension of metahistory.org.
How is all this relevent to Vajrayogini, devata of the current shift (June 23 - Jul;y 22, 2009)? Well, under her shift comes one after another mighty blast of vidya, magical and empowering wisdom. In the Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, she is the paramount vidyadhara, wisdom holder, often pictured with her consort, Chakrasamvara. The delivery of this devata is staggering. She is the flashdancer of Tantric magic, disclosing the highest technical secrets, but she is also a consummate revealer of the compassionate heart of enlightenment. Her primary teaching to everyone receptive to her frequency is the union of desire and compassion. Beyond that, she will tell you anything you want to know about sacred empowerment and transformational magic. Vajrayogini withholds nothing.
I know I am making extravagant claims here, and perhaps it would be better not to set up such expectations. Tibetan masters, when they initiate a neophyte into a technique, do not tell them what to expect from it. That way, they leave the process open to discovery and minimize the risk of preconceptions that would impede success in practice. This is wise and correct, considering the material they handle and the way they choose to manage it.
My responsibility in teaching the Shakti Cluster requires another approach. I describe what you can expect to get in dakini instruction, the way a weathercaster would describe the meteological conditions of a storm front in which he navigates, and into which you are heading. I describe these effects based on my firsthand experience, and I prescribe how you can have such experience on your own. Just follow the lunar cycle day by day and observe what arises in your mindstream. In describing the style and content of a particular transmission, either from a Mahavidya like Bagalarita or a Diamond Sky Dakini like Kurukulla, I am merely cueing others on what to observe. I have no technique to impart: all you have to do is pay attention. At the very most, the technique required here is to learn the character of these devatas and gear your attention to the phases of the lunar cycle: observe, attune, define, reflect and select, refine, complete.
Want to receive dakini instruction from the Shakti Cluster? Recognize their traits, receive their frequencies. It's as simple as that. And the handful of people who are now starting to do this process along with me, month by month, affirm that this is so.
Ongoing Observations (Day 6: attune, pick up frequency)
As I attune to the lilt of Vajrayogini's "twilight language" in the mindstream—mine, yours, whosever— I find that her coupling is extremely "tight." By this I mean that she merges and integrates her instruction so closely into my mental syntax that it becomes almost indistinguishable from the most lucid thinking I can sustain. It seems that her delivery is a selfless rendering, so that you will hardly detect how she is thinking your thoughts, but she is. In the correlations of the pentad of Diamond Sky Dakinis I am developing, Vajrayogini has these marks, attributes, or properties:
Just scan these attributes and regard them as fluid, free-floating cues. Some experiences that occur during this lunar cycle will be geared here and there to these attributes, consistent with the style of this devata. Remember:
You might experience, for instance, a dissipation of anger or release of aggressive and hostile tensions in your mind and body, and the welcoming ease of spontaneity and non-resistence in the face of a situation, problem, conflict, or difficult person. These features would be read to indicate the diffusion of Vajrayogini's subliminal frequency into the channel of your mindstream, your ordinary inner radio. Paying close attention, you would find spontaneously arising language and distinctive syntax compatible with the sense of release and dissipation of anger, and other recognizable marks of this devata. The sense of inner hearing may beome acute at moments. Impressions and insights conspire toward the lovely shock of Blissful Freedom.
Let me emphasize again that dakini instruction is always a rush, delivered in rapid and concise mentation. Subliminal thinking has a clean, preconceptual edge. It is not prolix, you do not ponder and muse and work it out. You just get it. You undergo sudden, dazzling flashes of insight. A single phrase or flicker of subliminal language, the twilight talk of the dakinis, can jolt you into a state of awakening that may last for several seconds, or minutes. Then you will lapse back into ordinary mentation, routine inner chatter. With practice, you can sustain and prolong the moments of insight. Get up to just fifteen minutes and you will find that the lucidity is almost unbearable. But so vivid, so clear and empty of mental dross, intoxicating like a lungful of ozone quaffed right out of a passing thunderstorm.
The Shakti Cluster delivers. And how. This far, just into the morning of the day 6, I got the entire system of Kalika sexual magic in three shakes of a lamb's tail. Downloaded in less than a minute. Intact, complete, zip-filed. You might expect that such instruction would come under the shift of Kurukulla, Diamond Sky Dakini of sexual enchantment. But Kurukulla is a specialist in spells for particular occasions and targets, while Vajrayogini teaches the sexual magic that arises with the union of desire and compassion, welling up from the open-sky heart of enlightenment—what we feel irresistably in the deep dark surrender of sexual fusion.
"Fusion is stronger than force," is a dakini instruction of Vajrayogini. It's a great clue to fabulous sex, Tantric or not.
I won't say more here on instruction in sexual magic by Vajrayogini, because that topic belongs properly to Kala Tantra and goes beyond the limits of Planetary Tantra fit for the general public, as presented on this site. But take note, please, that the rampant and outrageous sexuality of this devata is not my embellishment. It tallies with Buddhist scholarship, especially coming from female practitioners such as Elizabeth English. In her book, Vajrayogini: Her Visualizations, Rituals, and Forms, English discusses an extremely arcane form of Vajrayogini called Guhyavajravilasini. The visualization of this yidam is prescribed for use in explicit rites of sexual magic:
Sahaja is Sanskrit for "bliss immersion," the orgasmic melting sensation of the fusion fuck. So the sexual element with Vajrayogini is as explicit as it gets. And if anyone out there thinks that all this sexual imagery is purely allegorical, think again. Part of the great scandal of Tibetan Buddhism is the concealment and control of the literal sexual activity conducted in the withheld practices of the Highest Yoga Tantras. Tantra on those levels is a kind of pornographic mysticism, in the respect that acts performed in porn in a crude and ugly way, by force, and for sensational gratification of partners who are not emotionally connected, are done in Tantra as exquisite expressions of fusion and beauty, radiance and rapture.
Miranda Shaw says that Vajrayogini liberates the mind from self-referentiality. I prefer the more emotively toned term self-involvement. This is the primary fixation of narcissism, the terminal psychic disease that goes pandemic at the end of Kali Yuga. Self-involvement is exclusive and excessive preoccupation with what affects a person, with little or no regard for what affects others. Meaning, no regard for how the self-involved person affects others, or even how the other person is affected by anything at all. Many behaviors blatantly demonstrate this type of callous self-involvement. Normally, we call such behavior selfish, self-centered.
For instance, a supposed friend shows no concern for the death of your cat. Trivial example, which could be multiplied into the thousands. Then there are non-trivial examples: someone you know and love shows no concern for your highest aspiration, what you seek to achieve in life, or what you have achieved. The self-involved person is never impressed. Such people are only interested in how you affect them. Self-involvement is the basis of using and abusing, controlling and manipulating others so that they only affect us as we would wish them to. It is a crass and sickening behavior, desolating to witness.
I like the term self-involvement because it indicates that a selfish person is involved or enmeshed in something that prevents them from other kinds of involvement, reaching toward the world and other beings, or toward nature, Gaia. In a healthy state of affairs, human beings get involved with each other. They may handle it badly and make mistakes, or get over-involved, but the basic willingness to reach out and be involved is sane and rewarding to both sides. Love is involvement with the life of another. Over-involvement is called codependency, and this is also rampant in our time. But over-involved codependency always stems from an initial self-involvement that is not seen or admitted. People are codependent, appearing to base their reality on others, because they selfishly think that this tactic will pay off, it will serve their self-involvement and egocentric neediness in one way or another. The codependent gives away self in order to extort something for self—a rotten bargain for all concerned. So the two behaviors are intricately related, and routinely enforce each other.
Some individuals can resist codependency: their self-involvement is so deep and intricate that they can't engage enough with another person to develop or express codependent attitudes. Extreme self-involvement produces behavior that isolates the self-involved person and desolates others who care to reach that person. Isolation is the greatest social and emotional plague of our time. It is a blatant symptom of the global virus of narcissism, which I define as excessive self-concern based on the lack of a genuine sense of self. Without a genuine sense of self, you cannot relate honestly and openly to others and you sink into a black hole of self-concern. Such is the gruesome paradox of narcissism.
So how does Vajrayogini come into all this? I would guess that she is the devata who intervenes most deeply in the territory of self-involvement. Mirroring BY the other and TO the other and the realization of voidness are "co-emergent" in the enlightened state. Blissful Freedom involves recognition of the Other. Direct realization of shunyata, Void, comes in the awareness that no single thing or being stands alone. You and I exist only in relation, involved with and reflected to each other. I relate, therefore I am. When I care and relate, I realize my own existence and simultaneously surpass it.
When I reach out to another, I do not merely connect with another part of me, myself, and I, theoretically over there— although what I encounter IN the other is a real transposed mirroring of me. Because something exists that really is other, union can happen. Even fusion. In the liberating voidness of enlightened awareness, you only exist in the immanent flux of relationship. Voidness is not emptiness, but absolute contingency, total interdependence. It is impossible to mirror anything if you are overly self-involved. Self-involvement is mental and emotional obtusity, desolated and desolating.
Tibetan Buddhism abounds with high-sounding claims about the experience of certain unions, such as the union of emptiness and bliss, the union of compassion and bliss, the union of compassion and emptiness, and so on. Direct experience of these unions is something extremely precise. I am absolutely convinced that something more than Archontic list-making applies here.
In the Ronda moment, I experienced, first, the union of bliss and emptiness, then the union of bliss and wisdom, and then the union of wisdom and emptiness, in an exquisite, total-body rush, soft, thrilling. There was a felt gradation that moved through what I beheld, gazing toward the nectarine flanks of the Sierra de Libar, like the sweep of lucency across a vast sheet of glazed light. In Tantric fusion with my Shakti, I experienced numerous times the union of desire and emptiness in a way that was objectively evident to both of us, equally and simultaneously. In our encounter with the Diamond Light, we experienced the union of clarity and emptiness in speechless wonderment, totally devoided of conceptual thought for an indeterminate period of time. Gazing at the sunrise together, we underwent the union of bliss and appearance in such shuddering intensity that we could barely stand on our legs. We hung on each other like a pair of drunken sailors thrown into an immense surf of unspeakable beauty.
I have plotted a total of twenty-one unions, but this figure is idiosyncratic, peculiar to me, because as a Kalika I include desire in the factors that generate the pairs; but traditional Tibetan Tantra excludes desire in the enumeration of unions. With desire left out, there would be only fifteen unions instead of twenty-one. Transcendent unity is richer for the inclusion of desire.
The six unions of desire are:
Each of the Diamond Sky Dakinis in the pentad (Vajra Jewel) around VV teaches and emanates one of these unions, while VV herself informs and imparts the union of desire and appearance. The devata of the current lunar shift teaches the union of desire and compassion. A good way to come toward her teaching is to assert compassion for yourself by owning the honest and heartfelt desire to get over yourself. The devatas of the Shakti Cluster hold you to your highest desire and entrain you with that desire toward liberation here and now.
Such is my instruction.
jll: 28 June 2009 Andalucia
Material by John Lash and Lydia Dzumardjin: Copyright 2002 - 2017 by John Lash.