Vajrayana Practice & Theosophy
Nov 02, 1995 04:25 PM
Following is a description of the 14 root downfalls. Someone
undergoing the Vajrayana practice should be attempting to live up
to these committments. They are listed in order of importance
with the most important coming first. The quote is from "The Gem
Ornament of Manifold Oral Instructions" by His Eminence Kalu
Rinpoche pages 119-126. If our work with Theosophy were a
practice this would be things that we might consider as we
attempted to live it.
In the following lines I will be quoting the Rinpoche then
drawing a theosophical analogy to the practice.
> The first root downfall is to contradict our guru.
The most important committment in a spiritual practice is to our
teacher which we are expected to be dedicated to. For us as
Theosophists this may be Blavatsky or Purucker or whichever
theosophical figure -- living or dead -- that acts in that role
> Until such time as we have received empowerment and teching from
> someone as our vajra guru it is perfectly appropriate to examine
> that person and indulge in critical analysis of that person to
> determine if that teacher is an authentic teacher an a proper one
> for us.
While searching for a teacher we may be highly critical because
we need to determine that the teacher is authentic truly someone
in the theosophical dharma.
> However once we have established that connection and accepted
> that person as our Vajrayana teacher the only attitude that is
> appropriate is one of complete confidence in that teacher.
When we accept someone as our theosophical teacher we should give
that teacher our complete confidence.
> Whether that teacher is enlightened or not we shold consider
> that teacher as an enlightened Buddha. ...
Having accepted and given our complete confidence to our
theosophical teacher we should treat that teacher as a Mahatma
granting the teacher our highest respect.
> ... In Vajrayana practice then once one has established a
> connection with an authentic guru it does not matter so much
> whether that guru is in fact completely enlightened or not so
> much as whether the student considers that guru to be completely
We should not concern ourselves with worrying how high a chela or
what initiation our theosophical teacher has passed. The actual
status of our teacher if authentic is not important.
> With this confidence the student can receive the same benefits
> as though he or she were in the presence of a completely
> enlightened Buddha.
Our benefit from the utmost confidence and obedience to our
teacher will be as great as if that teacher where a Mahatma or
even higher a Buddha.
> The second root downfall ... is to contradict or refute the
> teachings of Buddha
Having given our confidence to our teacher we are now expected to
believe in and follow the teachings of the Buddha of the Masters
in both doctrine and practice in our lives.
> or the personal teachings that we receive from our guru.
And we should further give our loyalty to the teachings from our
personal theosophical teacher.
> What this implies is that we should do what our guru tells us to
> do or at least the best we can.
We don't just accept the philosophy but we endeavor to live the
life to the best of our ability.
> The third root downfall ... concerns our relationship with our
> vajra brothers and sisters all those men and women with whom we
> are connected through having received empowerments from the same
> teachers or in the same mandala.
Now that we've addressed our relationship with the theosophical
teachings and our specific teacher we've come to how we deal with
our fellow students.
> The only relationship that is appropriate within the context of
> samaya is a harmonious and mutually helpful relationship between
> ourselves and our vajra brothers and sisters.
We are expected to be harmonious and mutually helpful to our
> Quarreling spite competitiveness malevolent attitudes towards
> each other bickering and discord between ourselves and these
> people are completely out of the question from the point of view
> of samaya.
We should cut out all the negative stuff towards our fellow
> We must repsect the very important bond that we have with these
> people through our commitment to Vajrayana. ...
We share an very important bond with our fellow Theosophists with
others committed to the theosophical Path.
> The fourth root downfall is the breaking of our bodhisattva vow.
Now that we're committed to the philosophy to our teacher and in
harmony with our fellow students we begin our practice in the
world. We honor our bodhisattva vow.
> To develop an injurious or negative attitude towards any being
> no matter how insignificant; to harm to avoid protecting or to
> avoid benefitting any being if we can not only violates our
> bodhisattva vow on a very fundamental level but from the point
> of view of tantric practice violates the fourth root downfall.
We protect and benefit others and seek to avoid causing harm.
This is compassion in action.
> ... these first four precepts are the most critical ...
This makes up the critical precepts to honor the Philosophy the
Teacher the fellow students and the law of compassion.
> The fifth root downfall ... concerns the impairment of two
> forces in our bodies ... intimately connected with the sexual
> processes ... there is an emphasis on ... preservation ...
> there is a recommendation that the tantric practitioner avoid
> damaging or impairing these forces through sexual activity.
Now that we're in the practice we are discouraged from sexual
activity. We're encouraged to conserve our life energies. The
Mahatmas speak of not using phenomenal means to accomplish their
ends but conserve their energy for times when it's really needed.
And they speak of remaining cool and dispassionate rather than
exhausing their life energies in unnecessary passion. The same
principle likely applies to sexual activity as well. This is of
course quite another possible lengthy topic of discussion!
> The sixth ... it is a root downfall to denigrate or abuse any
> spiritual system regardless of whether it is Buddhist or
If we can do all of the above we're well on our way to keeping a
solid theosophical practice. The next step is to respect the
spiritual systems of others.
> ... a tantric practitioner is not only to avoid disparaging any
> tradition of Buddhadharma but also Hinduism Judaism
> Christianity Islam and other spiritual systems.
This includes every religion and spiritual system and not only
other theosophical systems.
> The seventh vow concerns the revealing of secret teachings to
> those who are not fit to receive them
And now we come to the well-know principle of keeping our lips
sealed to what we learn from the Mysteries. [Note that this is well
down the list and is considered less important than respect for
the guru compassion in action and dispassion in one's nature.]
> which means discussing very profound and secret concepts of
> Vajrayana practice with those who are not prepared to accept
We avoid talking about the deeper theosophical teachings with
those not prepared to accept them. This is easy to judge in a
discussion group when you can sound out the other people in
person but does not work well in an open email list where people
of all backgrounds are participants.
> who openly reject them
We also watch what we say when around people that reject the
> or who are not prepared to involve themselves with the tantric
> process in any way.
And even with people that are willing to listen and don't reject
the theosophical philosophy we must take care in what we say with
people not ready to *live* the theosophical life.
> The eighth root downfall is to regard our physical bodies or the
> skandhas or aggergates of our psycho-physical makeup as impure
> and base.
We respect other religious systems and respect the limitations of
others that we'd discuss the deep secrets with and now come to
respecting our physical bodies and our psycho-physical makeup as
> ... Vajrayana sees everything as sacred. All appearance is a
> form of divinity all sound is the sound of mantra and all
> thought and awareness is the divine play of transcending
> awareness the Mahamudra experience.
Even our physical body and the external world is sacred and we
are seeking to see the divine everywhere even in the most
material and physical things.
> The ninth root downfall ... is to entertain doubts or
> hesitations about our own involvement in tantric practice.
First we have a practice and live compassion. Then we are
respectful to everything about us. And now we're dealing with an
unwavering consciousness a stable firm dynamic practice that
does not harbor doubts or hesitate for a heartbeat!
> We should have complete confidence ideally in what we are doing
> in tantra and not think "Well perhaps this is beneficial but
> then again I'm not sure. ... This ambivalent attitude toward
> our practice is a basic contradiction to the path.
An ambivalent attitude to our theosophical practice is
contradictory to the Path.
> The tenth root downfall ... [concerns] certain situations if
> there are beings who are behaving in extremely evil ways and
> committing extremely negative karma which inevitable will send
> them to a lower state of rebirth and cause infinite harm to other
> beings it is possible for an advanced tantric practitioner in a
> state of supreme compassion to terminate that being's existence
> and liberate them from their state of very negative existence.
Here we have the notion of intervention in the life of another.
Someone is out of control and destructive to themselves and others
and we must in extreme cases intervene for the good of all.
> It must be done totally selflessly from absolute compassion
> understanding and control of the situation; hence it would not
> seem to apply in our case.
Something extreme like killing another being does not apply except
in extremely rare exceptional cases. We might for instance kill
someone with his finger on the launch button to a nuclear missle
but we wouldn't kill someone for cutting us off in traffic!
> However from the point of view of tantric practice if one has
> the ability to take this action and refuses to bring a halt to
> terrible harm when one could alter it in a very beneficial way
> then one is committing the tenth root downfall.
We *must* intervene in a situation if the circumstances warrant
> The eleventh root downfall ... concerns extremes in our outlook
> or view. There are two extremes to avoid.
Next comes the vow to maintain balance in our lives to live the
> We can either be a naive realist and assume that everything that
> we experience is absolutely real with no possiblility of any
> other ultimate reality;
One extreme of outlook is to take our personal experiences of the
senses as absolute reality and accept nothing else as possibly
real. This can be our physical plane experiences or those we have
> or we can take the description of shunyata to be a negation of
> everything and believe that nothing exists nothing is true and
> karma is completely false.
The other extreme is to take everything as emptiness and discount
our experiences of life denying karma and the external world.
> To fall into either of these extremes naive realism or naive
> nihilism is not following the correct view for tantric practice
> and therefore constitutes the eleventh root downfall.
The middle way is found between a realization of the emptiness of
external experiences and the respect for their valuable nature.
The divine is both found *within* the experiences and *beyond*
them. We need to see it in *both* places.
> The twelfth root downfall is to refuse to teach a sincere and
> interested individual who comes to us in the context of receiving
> teaching with faith. If we are able to teach that person and if
> we renege and do not teach we are committing this twelfth root
Note that we're nearing the bottom of the list and only here do
we first hear about teaching those that are eager to learn. This
is something important to do; it is part of our theosophical
practice. Teaching the philosophy though comes *after* we have
an established practice proper respect for others and a balanced
experience of life.
> The thirteenth root downfall concerns our attitude and approach
> to tantric practice and tantric ritual. If we are participating
> in a ... feast where the ritual use of meat and alcohol is
> made and we abstain ... on the grounds that it is impure or
> that it is contrary to our convictions and principles then we
> have failed to appreciate the view of tantra
Our theosophical practice is not based upon the pious observation
of predefined rules. We have our convictions and principles and
they guide us in life. But we think through and perceive the right
action freshly with each situation and don't act a specific way
according to a rigid formula. The importance of this practice is
to overcome the rigidity of mind and heart that holds us to a
specific pattern of action -- be that action good or not -- and to
always be responsive to what is right in the specific situation
> which attempts to transcend purity and impurity attempts to
> transcend dualistic thinking and we have failed to appreciate
> and take part in the spirit of that tantric transformation
The notion of purity comes from a form of dualistic thinking. This
does not mean that purity does not exist. When we take our
personal experiences as absolute reality we might find eating
meat even in a ritual setting as impure and objectionable. When
we take our personal experiences as mayavic and find solace in
emptiness we perceive the meat as insignificant and the ritual
proceeds without inner conflict.
There's really a balancing act inside us a balancing act between
our standards of living arising out of the experience of the
external world as real and based upon karma that binds us and our
experience of the essential nature of life.
> The fourteenth root downfall is to disparage women either by a
> mental attitude of considering women to be lower than men or by
> verbalizing these opinions.
Need I say anything about this one?
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