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Tantra techniques in Vajrayana Buddhism

By Devik Balami at
displaying tantra techniques


Generally, Tantra is defined as an inner realization that functions to prevent ordinary appearances and conceptions and to accomplish the four complete purities of the Buddha (environment, body, enjoyments, and deeds). Therefore, in order to attain or accomplish the four complete purities, the follower of Vajrayana Buddhism relies on certain techniques which usually termed as the tantric techniques. These tantric techniques are rooted in scriptures such as tantras and various tantric commentaries and treatises.

Tantra techniques in Vajrayana Buddhism

In general, the Tantra technique includes following practices but above that, the guru-disciple relationship has an important value because of the student practice a particular tantra only when he obtains permission from a duly empowered guru of appropriate lineage during ritual empowerments. These sacred tantras are transmitted orally by the tantric master to the student only when the teachers believe that the student is now capable to practice the new tantra. This is because such transmissions require certain aspects of mind and it may be dangerous to one's health if the preparation of the student is not thorough.

Gathering a group of women

As mentioned in the Caryamelapakapradipa, the tantric Aryadeva, one should build a three-storey house to practice the tantra and on the third storey, one should reside together with the yoginis. The person should enjoy the food, drink and sexual relations with these yoginis.

By following this procedure, the person gratifies the body vajra since he enjoys all kinds of food, drinks, and the touch. He also observes the retinue of goddesses such as the companions, and so on.

Guru Yoga

Guru Yoga is a practice that has many variations, but it can be understood as a tantric devotional process where the practitioner unites their mind with the mind of the Guru. The process of guru yoga generally involves visualization of a refuge tree as an invocation of the lineage, with the root guru channeling the blessings of the refuge tree to the practitioner. The guru yoga may also involve a mantra like a prayer in Seven Lines, an evocation, and invocation of Padmasambhava.

Deity Yoga

Deity yoga is the fundamental Vajrayana practice that involves sadhana or meditation practice. The practitioner visualizes himself or herself as the meditation Buddha or Yidam of the Sadhana during the process.

Luminosity Yoga

In Vajrayana and Tibetan Buddhism, luminosity or clear light refers to the nature of mind experienced in deep sleep and death. Patrul Rinpoche defines ground luminosity as "that occurs during deep sleep, union and death". In this practice, the practitioner trains himself or herself to enter the deep sleep state consciously. If one has the ability to remain conscious during deep sleep, one will be able to recognize the luminosity of death and then after gain Buddhahood. In Buddhism, this is called the meeting of mother and child luminosities.

Sexual Yoga

Sexual Yoga, often called Karmamudra, is sexual practice with a physical or visualized consort. This yoga cannot be practiced without the basis of the inner heat yoga of which Karmamudra is an extension. This yoga is the part of the Six Yogas of Naropa, Lamdre, Kalachakra, and Anuyoga. This practice is also mentioned in Yab-yum imagery.

The traditions agree that qualified lay practitioners can use physical consorts as the Vajrayana founders did in order to attain Buddhahood. For example, Atisa mentioned that the consecrations on which the householder may rely include everything taught in the tantras. But there are different stances on whether current monks can engage themselves in the practice or not. The Buddhist scholar Tripitakamala felt that the overall goal of Buddhahood overrides the concerns for monastic vows.