Vajrayana meditation is a special path or vehicle in Buddhism. Please note you need to have taken refuge as a Buddhist and received the transmission of the meditation to attend.
About Vajrayana Meditation
The Vajrayana – the indestructible vehicle – originated with the teaching of Lord Buddha. In order to practise the vajrayana it is important to understand the origin of the tantras, the meaning of the terminology used, the special characteristics and the method of entering into it.
The variety of teachings given by the Buddha reflects the needs and propensities of different students. From the point of view of the different reasons for practising Buddhism, people fall into two types in respect of what they wish to achieve. If we aspire and practice to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all beings then we have the noble aspiration of the Mahayana type of person.
Where does the Vajrayana fit in? This second category of person, the Mahayanist with noble aspiration, is also divisible into two streams. One is the ordinary Mahayana, the vehicle of the perfections, in which we gradually accumulate merit through acts of goodness and wisdom through insight. By gradually accumulating these two over many lifetimes we will eventually achieve Buddhahood for the benefit of beings. Alongside this Lord Buddha presented the extraordinary Mahayana, the secret and skilful means of the vajrayana. These teachings and practices originate in the tantras and are expressive of the extraordinary mahayana, taught as superior because it’s practices can lead the practitioner more swiftly to enlightenment than can those of the ordinary mahayana.
Another way of talking about the teachings and the path is that in the sutras and tantras taken as a whole Lord Buddha presented three types of vow which his followers could undertake, commit themselves to (a vow being a means of concentrating ones intention on a certain result). So vows are very very important in dharma. What are these three vows? First the pratimoksha – individual liberation vow. This relates to the Hinayana and is open to anyone who has taken refuge. If you take any of the pratimoksha vows it will act as a support for your attainment of your goal of individual liberation. The pratimoksha vows place upon us a commitment to avoid harm to others, and to ourselves of course.
The second category of vow is the bodhissatva vow. We join the mahayana, enter the Bodhisattva way, when we take the bodhisattva vow. This was presented by Lord Buddha and then transmitted by Manjusri and Maitreya. The commitments associated with the bodhissatva vow are strongly focussed on the maintenance and cultivation of our commitment to achieving the benefit of all beings through the cultivation of wisdom and compassion in our actions of body, speech and mind.
The third category of vow is part of the Vajrayana. In the tantras – or at least in the higher category of tantras – a third vow, the vidhyadhara (the one of knowledge) vow is taken. This is the pledge to avoid fourteen root downfalls, root actions that will entirely destroy our possibility of achieving buddhahood. There are also eight branch downfalls which will not entirely destroy but will certainly damage our practice.
The vidyadhara vow encompasses all of these there categories of vows: when we receive a high level initiation we take all of these vows. The purpose of these vows is to protect the connection with the true nature of our mind that we made at the time of taking a vajrayana initiation. It is this connection which allows us to move more swiftly toward buddhahood. At the same time if this connection is damaged or broken then we can become alienated from our true nature. Hence it is important for the vajrayana practitioner to be well educated about these vows before entering this path.
The name tantra also tells us something about the type of teachings they contain. In the Guyasmaja Tantra it says that tantra means continuum, which word is related to the Sanskrit root word that is to do with weaving. So as in weaving there is one pattern that goes throughout a particular production, so it’s said that in every being there exists a continuum that links that being with buddhahood. Instead of sentient beings being in an entirely different reality from buddhas, sentient beings and buddhas share a single continuum and that continuum is the nature of mind, being in essence is the same in sentient beings as it is in Buddhas.
So if we take three phases: the phase of the basis, where we are as ordinary sentient beings; then the path phase, the phase of those who practice the path; and then the phase of beings who are enlightened, the fruition phase. They are simply three phases throughout which our mind retains it essential nature but appears different. The practices taught in the tantras focus on the cultivation of our connection with the final phase, the phase of enlightenment and so if followed correctly can lead us more swiftly to their realisation.