How to choose your yidam?

For students in the West who are interested in practicing tantra, one of the most perplexing questions, is which deity practice to choose. There are so many deities and initiations are offered more often now than in the past. It’s easy to keep taking initiations hoping to find the perfect practice and then end up unable to maintain the daily practice commitments.

A student asked Gyumed Khensur Rinpoche Losang Jampa how to choose a tantric deity for his main practice. He wondered if he should ask a lama, or if he should choose one himself. Interestingly, Rinpoche advised that he make the decision himself based on the practice that he felt most comfortable with.

In my case, a college friend (one of the first Tibetan students in America in the 1980s) gave me a photo of a beautiful poster of a deity which, at the time, I knew nothing about. I hung it on the wall in my room, and then lost track of it after moving several times. Some years later, by coincidence, someone else gave me a small photo of the same deity who I still knew nothing about, but I kept it on my altar because it was fascinating. Finally, in the 90s, Ven Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche offered the initiation for that particular deity and when I saw the picture in the advertisement, I knew I just had to go. From then on, that became my main practice. To my great delight I re-discovered the original poster in my parent’s apartment more than 20 years later. It’s now framed and hanging in my prayer room.

What drew you to your deity practice? Did a lama suggest it as being the best practice for you?


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