Introduction to Tantra by Lama Yeshe
I have read Introduction to Tantra: The Transformation of Desire by Lama Yeshe. As the title suggests, the book is an introduction to Tantra – which is an often misunderstood path of Buddhism. The book is concise and easy to understand, which makes it a good starting point for those interested in the topic.
The Tantric Approach to Pleasure
Tantra has a different approach to pleasure than some other religious traditions. Lama Yeshe states it beautifully in the following passage:
‘Tantra’s approach is very different. 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. Because the goal is nothing less than the realization of our highest human potential, tantra seeks to transform every experience – no matter how “unreligious” it may appear – into the path of fulfillment. It is precisely because our present life is so inseparably linked with desire that we must make use of desire’s tremendous energy if we wish to transform our life into something transcendental.’Lama Yeshe – Introduction to Tantra. Page 9.
The Tantric View of Mind and Body
In the chapter Arising as a Deity, Lama Yeshe shares the following valuable insight:
‘According to tantra we cannot say that the mind is more important than the body or that the body is more important than the mind. They are of equal importance. In tantric practice the body is understood to be like a plot of ground containing untold mineral wealth. This body of ours, for all its suffering nature, contains the most valuable of natural resources: kundalini gold, kundalini oil!’Lama Yeshe – Introduction to Tantra. Page 127.
This attitude to the body makes, in my humble opinion, a spiritual teaching worth listening to. I am always very sceptical of any spiritual teaching that neglects the importance of the body.
Against the Modern View of the Human
The author shares the following profound take on the modern scientistic view of humanity:
‘Many people feel that humans are little more than monkeys and that the human mind is nothing but a series of chemical reactions and electrical impulses in the brain. Such a view reduces us to lumps of matter and dismisses any notion of a higher dimension to human existence. For people who truly believe in such a narrow view of what it means to be human, what is the purpose of remaining alive? Perhaps it is merely to experience as many sensations of pleasure as possible before we decay back to our basic nature: dust. Such a depressing outlook may account for much of the alienation in modern society.’Lama Yeshe – Introduction to Tantra. Pages 29-30.
As we know, depression and all manner of ills ail humans in the age of atheism. A good first step is to rid ourselves of said scientistic attitude. Reject atheism, embrace the metaphysics!
The Heart Chakra and Bodisattva
Although the author does not discuss the Chakras at length, he does note that the Heart Chakra (the green one) is the most important one for the Tantric path. The Heart Chakra is associated with compassion and love. The author also notes that the Heart Chakra is the home of our subtle mind: the priceless treasure of all tantric practitioners. A point that is emphasised throughout the importance of being driven by compassion and the desire to help others. In the glossary the following concepts are clarified:
Bodhichitta: the altruistic motive of a bodhisattva; the wish to attain enlightenment in order to benefit others; the fully open and dedicated heart.
Bodisattva: someone whose spiritual practice is directed toward the achievement of enlightenment; one who possesses the compassionate motive of bodhichitta.
I could, if I may be so bold, perhaps refer to myself as a Bodisattva – my great work is certainly motivated by great compassion!
Visualisation meditation exercises are presented and emphasised as an integral part of Tantra. The author notes the following in the chapter titled Inspiration and the Guru:
‘When we visualize our spiritual guide as the meditational deity we should think especially about his or her great kindness and concern for us.’Lama Yeshe – Introduction to Tantra. Page 93.
Reading this made me think of the following quote by Emperor Julian:
‘I feel awe of the gods, I love, I revere, I venerate them, and in short have precisely the same feelings towards them as one would have towards kind masters or teachers or fathers or guardians or any beings of that sort.’Emperor Julian the Blessed
At 141 pages, the book is of a good length for an introduction. Sometimes, I wish certain books would be shorter; this time, however, I wished that it had been longer. I mention this as a compliment to the book; it simply means that I found it interesting! I look forward to reading more about Buddhism and Tantra.
Onwards and upwards!