The Three Vehicles of Buddhism

Tantrayana is one of the three main paths, or vehicles (yana), of Buddhism. On the Tantrayana path we use the body to work with the mind.

What are the three paths? One path is renunciation, which is Theravada Buddhism. Theravada Buddhism focuses on the teaching of the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold path, as well as meditation instruction. It is known for its vows and cultivating discipline. This path teaches how to not harm others.

Another path is recognition or realization, which is Mahayana Buddhism. Mahayana is known for its higher understanding of emptiness and compassion. This path teaches how to help others; then you automatically don’t harm others.

The third path is transformation, which is Tantrayana. This path teaches us how to be happy ourselves; then we automatically help others. Tantrayana is also called Vajrayana, the Diamond Vehicle. The reason is that through its practices we transform our body, speech and mind to be like a diamond—strong, clear and indestructible.

Not to Renounce—Transform

On this path we do not renounce anything because everything around us and everything within us can be used as a tool of transformation. For example, Tantrayana practitioners don’t reject problems. Instead, we see problems as our best teachers. Life is full of problems; we can never escape problems! Why try to push them away? We should thank our problems and the people that cause us problems, as this is the best way to learn about ourselves. It is the best opportunity to develop. The same is true for our own negative emotions. Rather than rejecting or renouncing our negative emotions, we can use them. We can use a greater anger to come out of anger. In this way, we transform negative emotions into wisdom.

Tantrayana teaches us that we need to expand our desire. Desire is a powerful tool on the path to enlightenment. We do not renounce desire. We need to expand it to include all things, including problems, negative emotions and difficult people. This is the way to become happier and healthier, to reduce stress and fighting, and to eventually come out of desire.

Interconnected Body and Mind

Tantrayana has a deep understanding of the different dimensions of the body and mind. Because of their interconnectedness, we can use the body as a vehicle to work with the mind and develop on the spiritual path. For example, when there are blockages in the subtle body channels, this causes our mind to also become stuck and tight. Then our mind does not flow and our ignorance obscures our true nature. Therefore, by doing practices that release blockages in the subtle body channels and harmonize the flow of vital winds and essences within the channels, our mind will also become more pure and more balanced. We will be better able to access our innate wisdom and will come closer to our true nature, which is clearness, openness and light. So Tantrayana includes very special techniques that empower us to experience our Buddha-nature in a very direct way.

Three Things We Need

Tantrayana is indeed a very direct path. One needs to be brave to be on this path. Faith makes us brave. We need three things when we practice Tantrayana: faith in the teaching, faith in the teacher and faith in ourselves. If we don’t have faith in the teaching and that it works, then we will have no motivation to continue if our practice becomes challenging. We need to have faith that if we do the practice correctly, we will achieve results.

Next we need faith in the teacher. Whenever you practice Tantrayana, it is very important that you have a master, a guru. Why do you need a master? The master is a representation of Buddha. Our minds are so deluded that we have no chance to receive Buddha’s direct teachings. We are in a different dimension. It is the master that allows us to receive all the blessings of the past. To practice with a master means that not only you receive teachings, but that you connect. This means you also practice devotion. Devotion is the way to reduce your ego-pride. If you practice the teachings with ego-pride, then the teachings can become poison. They will go the complete wrong way. Therefore, we need to cultivate devotion. This enables us to receive the teachings in the right way. For this reason we say that Guru Yoga is the spine of Tantrayana. (See Guru Yoga for more information.)

Finally, we need faith in ourselves. We need to know and accept that we are pure Buddha-nature and that we all have the potential to reach there. It is our own motivation, discipline and energy that will take us there. For sure, the teachings function. If you have a good teacher, then you are already very fortunate. Then, it is only up to you to achieve the result.

Nature, Not Culture

In conclusion, Tantrayana is nature, not culture. Tantrayana is beyond the conceptual mind, beyond thought. Tantrayana is methods that work with the fundamental nature of our body and mind. We all have this nature, no matter where we are from. This is pure nature.

Tulku Lobsang teaches accessible methods to use the principles of Tantrayana for our own development. He teaches us how to release our blockages and open ourselves on an increasingly subtle level. As the subtle body changes, we completely change ourselves, and in this way, we change all.