We get so caught up in our suffering and neurotic stuff, but there’s so much joy in the path of liberation and transformation when we unwind these patterns and feel the core of who we truly are. I feel more and more that what they say is true— Buddhism is like finding a jewel in a pile of trash on the road. This is how it really is. There is a lot of joy in seeing the emotions liberate.
We all have kleshas — challenging emotions that arise through ignorance and dualistic perception. The good news is that their essential energy is pure wisdom. There are many methods in Buddhist tantra to unwind these emotional patterns and liberate them into pure energy, but it’s not a one-time deal. We have to do it again and again.
Welcoming the emotions
In Vajrayana and Mahamudra, we welcome the emotions and work with them as part of the path. Because their essential natures are pure, they are not to be suppressed or denied but worked with using skillful means and awareness. Our habitual patterns come from ignorance and bind our energy. This is a huge point. So much of our energy is bound up in these patterns and so not available for our use. When we unwind these patterns and begin to experience the primordial purity of these energies, it’s a very exciting process, because we see that nothing is needed from the outside. Everything we need is already there internally. As we see more of our energy freed up, instead of seeing ourselves as messed up neurotic people, we experience amazing clarity, wisdom and love, which is the basis of who we really are.
In the upcoming retreat that I will teach on liberating emotions, we will work with various meditations that brings together the power of Tantra and Mahamudra to liberate the kleshas. We will use the seed syllables of the Buddha and Dakini families for the objects of concentration, visualizing a seed syllable of brilliant light in our hearts. Whatever we’ve been grappling with, like jealousy, anger or apathy, or being speedy and neurotic, we put all of that energy into the seed syllable. It is very powerful to join emotion with the seed syllable. It improves concentration and brings into relief our ability to feel the emotion unwind and liberate itself.
In Vajrayana, we seek to liberate the masculine and feminine parts of ourselves and bring them into awakening and into union. It is said that there’s a male and female buddha in union in every molecule of our body and in every molecule of the whole universe. That means awakened presence is inseparable with everything that is, and how it expresses on an individual level is unique.
Working with awakened beings to release emotional patterns
The five Buddha families form a schematic for us to understand awakened wisdom energies and samsaric conflicting emotions that need to be transformed and liberated. In this schematic, the male Buddhas are the awakened aspect of our aggregates— our experience of form, feeling, perception, thoughts and consciousness. When these are liberated, they manifest as the five male Buddhas. When indifference, apathy, anger, aggression, desire, greed, jealousy and speediness are liberated, they manifest as the wisdom of the female Buddhas, which are associated with the elements of earth, water, fire, wind and space. So the elements and aggregates of body, mind and consciousness transform into the male and female Buddhas. That they are essentially pure is the base of everything.
In addition to working with the seed syllables to liberate our emotions, we can also call on the buddhas and the dakinis. We request blessing, the removal of obstacles and transmission of awakened body, speech and mind. Connecting with them can help us open to our own awakened nature and free up our energy.
Yidams are subtle beings who are awakened, such as Tara, Chenrezig and Manjushri. They each embody a specific Buddha family and the associated wisdom. We can create a relationship with these beings by meditating on them, and when we’ve received the empowerment, we can meditate ourselves as them. This is a very powerful method of transforming and liberating those qualities within ourselves.
When asked if these yidams real, Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche said that they exist the same way as you and me. In other words, they are beings. Tenzin Palmo says they are even more real than we are because they are enlightened. And so relating to the Buddhas and dakinis as archetypes is not correct, because they are actually awakened beings. This is fantastic and very powerful.
It’s not logical to think that beings cease to exist when they awaken. They can fully manifest however they want, and their potential qualities can fully manifest. Enlightenment means full and complete freedom — freedom from death and birth. There is a formless body of awakening, but out of compassion, awakened beings manifest in form. We’re human beings and we’re manifesting in form, so as we liberate these neurotic patterns, more and more we can show up in a full way with our potentials and qualities online. Joy, satisfaction, peace, and contentment comes from this.
The power of combining Tantra and Mahamudra
Of course, you can do basic meditation practice to liberate the emotions — just sit and look at your stuff for 10 days — but using these methods brings a lot more to us. There’s something about the power of the Buddha and Dakini families that makes the process juicy and fun. Plus, the concentration gained by working with this process sets up the mind for strengthening samatha, which needs to happen for one to engage in Mahamudra meditation. The last time I taught these methods in a retreat format, I was surprised by how fast people went into concentrated states by meditating on the seed syllables. It worked for everyone.
It seems that putting the emotions into the seed syllables really clinched it for people. Often people subtly split from their emotions when they’re meditating, so consciously taking all of that energy and putting it into your practice is a powerful antidote to that tendency. It means that you are using and allowing the energy of the emotions to transform into awakened wisdom instead of simply watching them.
It is both exciting and energizing to feel things transform and liberate, to feel your energy freeing itself up. This is a very powerful method for all of us. We can powerfully transform where we’re stuck. Whenever we combine Tantra and Mahamudra, we rest in the union of form and formlessness. Form is insubstantial yet vividly present. These methods powerfully carry us on the path of liberation.
Find your Joy! Join Lama Palden for the October Retreat: Liberating Emotions into Wisdom and Love.