Tantrayana is one of the three major paths, or yanas, in Tibetan Buddhism. It is the path of the transformation of the self. What do we transform into? We transform into a diamond! (This path is also called Vajrayana, vajra meaning diamond in Sanskrit.) In body, speech and mind we become indestructible, strong, clear and pure. And we need to be strong to practice these direct methods.
Anything can be used as a tool for transformation, which is why nothing is rejected in Tantrayana, including negative emotions. Rather than push them away, we learn how to use these emotions, to transform them in to wisdom. Problems are our best teachers, which is why we should always respect those that cause us problems in life.
It is said that Tantrayana is the most direct route to enlightenment (the dissolution of ignorance and realization of our true, pure nature). This is because Tantrayana has great methods that enable us to directly experience the end result. We learn to experience what it feels like to have a pure body filled with energy and bliss, and a pure mind filled with wisdom and compassion. Once we have a taste, our motivation sky-rockets!
BODY AS VEHICLE
What is unique about Tantrayana is our use of the body as the vehicle of the mind. Rather than training our minds directly, as many meditation practices do, we can use our bodies to affect the mind. This is particularly powerful for us Western people as our thoughts seem particularly difficult to subdue, perhaps because of our fast-paced world, or the psychological influences of toxins in our environment. However, when we use the body in healthy ways, our minds naturally focus and become calm.
This works because of the deep interconnectedness between the body and mind. We can better understand this when we understand more about our subtle bodies. In the famous Kalachakra Tantra, Buddha taught about the external cycles of the universe, the internal cycles of the body and practices to harmonize the two. The subtle body was explained in great detail. It is composed of the channels, the vital winds that flow in the channels, and the essences. When the channels are clear and open, our energies flow harmoniously. This results not only in physical and energetic health, but also mental. This is because our consciousness also flows in the channels. When unobstructed, deep levels of awareness and our innate wisdom are accessible to us. Contrarily, when the channels are blocked (as happens naturally as we age and is accelerated by improper lifestyle choices), the mind gets stuck. We find ourselves in repeated negative patterns, with blocked emotions, unable to move forward or make progress in our health or happiness. Love is not felt.
Here is where Tantrayana becomes particularly powerful. With amazing methods and practices specifically for releasing blockages and opening more and more subtle channels, we can make leaps and bounds in all dimensions of our being: physical, emotional, energetic and spiritual.
Another very important aspect of Tantrayana is devotion to a master. Cultivating deep devotion benefits us by lessening the most major obstacle on the path—our concepts of our ego-self. Ego and the perspective of “me, me, me” prevents us from receiving the teachings properly and can even make them go in a bad way. Through devotion to a guru we dissolve our ego and receive many blessings for our development.
Traditionally, Tantrayana practices were always passed on directly from teacher to student. This unadulterated transmission and the guidance of the teacher ensured that the practices were passed on safely and correctly, preserving the lineage. It is because of this that we are able to receive these powerful, precious practices today. Of course, modern times call for some flexibility and modification, but we should always keep our devotion to the lineage of teachers strongly in our hearts and have the utmost respect for them.