In Part 1 of this article, I discussed the importance of Guhyasamaja. Part 2 below presents different facets of a complex subject, what is highest yoga tantra?
The distinguishing characteristic of Vajrayana Buddhism is the promise that practitioners can attain Enlightenment in this very lifetime. In the Continuation of the Guhyasamaja Tantra, we find this explanation of highest yoga tantra:
Tantra denotes continuousness.
It is composed of three aspects:
Ground, nature, and inalienableness.
When distinguised in this way,
The nature aspect is the cause;
The ground aspect refers to the method;
And inalienableness, the result.
These three contain tantra’s meaning.
Jamgon Kungtrul, in his Systems of Buddhist Tantra (page 143) explains this passage as indicating that Tantra is the ever-present mind of awakening. All sentient beings possess beginingless mind and tantra as a path can be seen from different perspectives as being the fundamental cause for awakening, the contributory condition for awakening and the resultant continuum.
Lama Yeshe in his Introduction to Tantra explains highest yoga tantra as meditation techniques that help us reveal our most subtle vajra body – a clear, conscious body of light that is ordinarily hidden from us by our gross physical form. Our subtle mind rides on the thousands of winds that flow through energy channels in the vajra body. By channeling our subtle winds into the central channel, we experience the union of great bliss and emptiness and attain Buddhahood.
Through the Highest Yoga tantra practices, we can remove the latent dualisms of the minds of white appearance, red increase and black near-attainment. Without doing so, Enlightenment can not be achieved. The lower tantric practices do not have the power to purify these obscurations.
Khensur Rinpoche Losang Tsephel in his Path and Grounds of Guhyasamaja According to Arya Nagarjuna writes, “Unless one meditates on the meaning clear light which naturally integrates bliss and emptiness, one will never achieve the Truth Body for the simple reason that without this clear light the obstructions to omniscience cannot be abandoned completely. And for the same reason, one will not achieve the Form Body of an enlightened being as it has to arise from an illusory body purified by the meaning clear light.”
Highest Yoga Tantra is special because through its practice one realizes emptiness and also appears in the form body of the Buddha that one will become upon Enlightenment. Daniel Cozort in his book Highest Yoga Tantra writes, “This compassionate appearance of the mind that realizes emptiness, in the form of a Buddha deity, actually develops into the Form Body of a Buddha while the mind itself develops into the Truth Body of a Buddha.”