“Introduction to Tantra: The Transformation of Desire” by Lama Yeshe is a profound exploration of the esoteric world of Tibetan Buddhism, specifically the Vajrayana tradition of Tantra. Lama Yeshe, a highly respected Tibetan Buddhist teacher, takes readers on a journey into the complex and mystical realm of Tantra, providing a clear and accessible introduction to this ancient spiritual practice.
According to Buddhism, the ultimate goal of the human experience is full enlightenment. This occurs when all delusions such as greed, hatred and ignorance have been overcome in the mind.
There are many different paths to enlightenment, but most of these fall within two different types of vehicles, or yanas.
The most common of these is known as sutrayana. Here, the path to enlightenment is seen as a gradual process in which one removes all negative patterns of thought and replaces them with positive qualities like love and wisdom. It is considered to be a long process in which, if we work hard, we may one day arrive at fulfillment.
The second is tantrayana, and is often referred to as the “lightning” or “diamond” vehicle. This is because it is considered the fastest road to liberation. In the tantric perspective, we already have all the qualities of an enlightened soul within us now. They simply need to be cultivated and brought out into their full expression.
“Everything that we need in order to be complete is within us right at this very moment. It is simply a matter of being able to recognize it. This is the tantric approach.”
One of the key strengths of “Introduction to Tantra” is its ability to convey the essence of Tantra as a path to spiritual transformation. Lama Yeshe emphasizes that Tantra is not about indulging in sensual pleasures, as some may believe, but rather a profound method for reaching spiritual enlightenment.
As a Buddhist tradition, Tantra advocates following the middle path, in which desire is neither rejected completely or overly indulged in. It is instead believed that we must cultivate the right attitude toward desire and pleasure, neither clinging to our experience of them or avoiding them altogether.
“Instead of viewing pleasure and desire as something to be avoided at all costs, tantra recognizes the powerful energy aroused by our desires to be an indispensable resource for the spiritual path,” writes Lama Yeshe.
“Contrary to what some people might believe, there is nothing wrong with having pleasures and enjoyments. What is wrong is the confused way we grasp on to these pleasures, turning them from a source of happiness into a source of pain and dissatisfaction. It is such grasping and attachment that is the problem, not the pleasures themselves.”
If we ever wish to attain the supreme bliss of enlightenment, then we must begin now by cultivating the right attitude towards the everyday desires and enjoyments which present themselves to us in the course of our regular life.
“Thus the logic of tantra is really very simple: our experience of ordinary pleasure can be used as the resource for attaining the supremely pleasurable experience of totality, or enlightenment.”
The heart of the book delves into the various aspects of Tantra, where Lama Yeshe explains how Tantra utilizes visualizations and rituals to connect with the divine, enabling practitioners to transcend the ordinary and access higher states of consciousness. His teachings are grounded in the idea that the divine resides within each of us and that Tantra is a path to reveal that inner divinity.
One of the most valuable aspects of “Introduction to Tantra” is the emphasis on practical guidance. Lama Yeshe provides step-by-step instructions for meditation and visualization practices, making this book a valuable resource for both beginners and experienced practitioners. He emphasizes the importance of having a qualified teacher, but acknowledges that the book can serve as a supplement to one’s spiritual journey.
The book also highlights the importance of ethics and compassion in Tantra practice. Lama Yeshe underscores that Tantra is not a means to power or personal gain but a path to selfless service and spiritual awakening. He encourages readers to cultivate love and compassion, both for themselves and for all sentient beings, as an integral part of their practice.
“As long as we remain obsessively concerned with our own happiness alone, we will never experience the supreme happiness of a fully enlightened mind… If we wish to reach the highest possible destination we must cultivate the highest possible motivation for following the spiritual path.”
According to Lama Yeshe, if we are to progress at all on the path of Tantra toward enlightenment, we must be motivated not only by selfish desires but by the desires to benefit those around us, as well.
“In Buddhist terminology this supreme motivation is known as bodhicitta. It is the impulse to achieve full enlightenment (bodhi, or buddhahood) in order to be of the most benefit to others. Only through dedicating ourselves to working for the happiness of all beings – in other words only by cultivating the open heart of bodhicitta – can we ever experience supreme happiness ourselves.”
Lama Yeshe’s “Introduction to Tantra” is not merely an intellectual exploration; it’s an invitation to embark on a profound spiritual journey. The author’s deep wisdom and profound insights shine through in every chapter. He makes complex concepts accessible, providing practical advice for readers to engage with Tantra in a meaningful way.
In conclusion, “Introduction to Tantra” is a valuable resource for anyone interested in exploring the world of Tibetan Buddhism and the transformative power of Tantra. Lama Yeshe’s accessible writing style and his commitment to demystifying Tantra make this book a must-read for those seeking spiritual growth and enlightenment.
With its practical guidance, ethical framework, and deep insights, this book serves as a great introduction to Tantra and Vajrayana Buddhism for those on the path to self-discovery and spiritual awakening, and it is a valuable addition to the library of anyone interested in Eastern spirituality and philosophy.