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Obtaining an Inner Buddhist Spiritual Guide

The Bodhi-Tree practice is an advanced practice not only because it requires deep insight into past lives and the fundamental nature of awareness, but also because it requires communication with an inner Vajrayana Buddhist guide or Yidam.

The Bodhi-Tree meditations presented here come from such an inner guide, a bhairava, and this bhairava provides the basic framework and content of the practice. This guide and his origin will be described in greater detail in the First Watch of the Night (or Jivamala) practice. Our focus here is how to obtain an inner guide.

The Bhairava describes the role of Vajrayana Buddhist lineages in granting Yidams, and also how to contact and obtain a Yidam without being part of a lineage or having a formal initiation:

Most Yidams are given through initiation. If we have a lineage that selflessly seeks the happiness of the world, all reasonable and serious seekers are given Yidams and connected to guides. If we have lineages vain of power and tradition, relatively few are given guides. When we have egotistical lineages that hide teachings, then it is rare to find followers with Yidams, and they must wait many years for the lama [or teacher] to decide that they are worthy. This is the lowest type of lineage.

It is not up to the lama or acharya to decide the worthiness of a candidate - it is up to the dakini or bhairava. If these guides do not like the person, they will not come. But they decide the worthiness, not the lama. For the lama to claim that role is to exceed his authority. It is like the butler deciding if the master's guest is worthy to enter the house.

If the Vajrayana lineages give out Yidams, then they are doing their jobs. They are Yidam distribution centers. But some do not do their job, and force novices to depend on lamas for everything. In such cases, novices may be treated like servants with bhairavas and dakinis only doled out to those most subservient. It is a violation of the Dharma.

As a general rule, if an obedient novice of good moral character cannot receive a guide within a year, then the lineage is claiming undue power, and the novice must look elsewhere. Very little transcendent insight comes from external teaching - all true transformational knowledge comes inwardly, and should be guided by a dakini or bhairava.

If the lineages clutch their Yidams like buried treasure, then the novice must go elsewhere. He or she usually has three choices. One is to go on pilgrimage to sacred sites where monks and saints have done meditation. Sometimes a link is maintained at such sites to the deities involved. Prolonged meditation in such places may rekindle the spark, and the past visionary atmosphere may return [so the seeker may contact a Yidam there].

The second choice is meditation, which creates a link. Bodhisattvas and other Yidams are busy beings, rushing through the worlds in hundred of thousands of emanations. They are like shooting stars that barely have time to breathe. However, extended meditation and concentration on finding a Yidam can slowly create a brilliant meditative flame around a person, and sooner or later, the sheer intensity of desire and concentration will capture the attention of the bodhisattva, bhairava, or dakini. It is the sheer desire for a guide which will draw one down if the person shines with the light of effort.

The third method to contact a Yidam is through dream yoga. There are some bhairavas who prefer to work with people who are fully conscious. However, there are also guides who are willing to work with the inner bodies while the person is asleep. These are specialists and may be called down in different ways.

One technique is to visualize the inside of the physical body as perfectly empty and still. It should appear as dark with perhaps only a few stars. The only winds are those of peace. Drops of nectar should be visualized as falling on invisible waters which respond with concentric circles of blue light. In the center of one of the circles is the bija [or seed] mantra HUM, lit up in neon blue light. This cleanses the inner body which then sparkles with subtle blue light. As the novice rests, he or she should chant the mantra OM BHAIRAVA HUM. By doing this each night, the mind is cleansed and a pathway is developed for the entrance of the guide.

It is important to note that guides come at the beginning of a journey, not at the end. To put off a guide until years of philosophical training are over kills the spiritual development of the novice. The guide is most vital at the beginning, to untangle universal truth from lineage jargon.

If you seek a Yidam, seek a beautiful one. One's path should begin in a positive way. Yidams can always take on their wrathful forms but it is no way to begin. Destruction emerges when it is necessary, but stepping onto the path is a creative choice. Visualize the light that reflects your inner being best, and surround yourself with it like a great flame. Call upon a specific deity, or any bodhisattva who harmonizes with your light [or personality]. You must see with your heart that you do not have a ghost or demon that responds to your call but a true guide. Ask his or her name, visualize the name and see if the being stays. If it stays true and bright, ask if it will guide you on the path. [If he or she says yes, then] this is your Yidam.

Gaining and communicating with a Yidam is certainly an esoteric practice, and one on which some seekers spend a great deal of time and effort. Though the above mentioned difficulties associated with certain spiritual lineages are sometimes the reason that students are not given Yidams, there is also another reason why seekers are not assigned Yidams:
To gain a Yidam, people in lineages should request one. Then the teacher must gauge if assigning one will do any good, as the major Yidam problem is that people cannot see them. Even if they have one assigned, it does no good if there is a wall of ignorance within the seeker making it impossible to communicate with the Yidam. The Yidam could be there but the person cannot see or hear him.

However, the Bhairava also shows how some basic abilities make the process easier:
So the person must develop the spiritual senses, especially the sense of presence. This is how you know if another person is in the room, even if they make no noise [and they are hidden from view]. It is how you know that a pet wants to go outside or wants food, even at a distance. The sense of presence is like the quality of intuition, and it is important as a means of perceiving a Yidam if you have one.

Yidams can protect the seeker from distractions and demons, motivate and guide him or her, and explain the paths of spiritual development. People have forgotten how useful they are.

Some practitioners may be unable to communicate directly with a Yidam but the Yidam given during initiation or contacted by other means may still aid the person on the spiritual path. The Bhairava describes the importance of having a Yidam apart from doing the Wisdom-tree practice:
Many people can relate to Yidams indirectly. Perhaps 50 to 75% of initiates are able to sense the presence of a Yidam in dreams or meditation. However it is not always recognized as the Yidam. The Yidam may be perceived as an inner light, a sense of presence, an impulse to meditate or do good works in the world, or a sense of appreciation for one's life experience. It is rare that this is attributed to the Yidam. Instead such experience is understood as spontaneous spiritual feelings.

Even if communication is indirect, contacting a Yidam can help with spiritual growth. Yidams can help in subtle ways for people who do not have inner vision. The most important is guidance and protection in meditation. But these advantages also appear at death, when the whirlwind comes, and the elements [of the body] are scattered in all directions. The bodily chaos is often reflected in the mind and its separation from the brain is so chaotic that meditation is difficult or impossible. The Yidam then appears as a calming influence, a sense of peace amid destruction and violence, and shows the road out of the darkness. Where the road leads depends on the person's karma but the Yidam eases the way, makes straight the path, and lessens fear and distress.

We now return to the Bodhi-Tree practice which generally requires those who are more capable of direct communication with a Yidam. Once a Yidam is contacted and agrees to be a guide, the Bodhi-Tree practice can begin.

We will now go on to examine the practice associated with the First Watch of the Night.

To continue with the Bodhi-Tree practice, click on the [ NEXT ] link below:

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Introduction | The Symbol of the Bodhi-Tree | The Yidam or Spiritual Guide | The First Watch of the Night | The Second Watch of the Night | The Third Watch of the Night | The Fourth Watch of the Night | Conclusion


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