The purpose of this essay is to instruct Vajrayana masters about the stages of empowerment bestowed on practitioners.In Vajrayana there are four levels of empowerment from preliminary to advanced:
- First-level empowerment (vase empowerment) - empowerment for refuge, preliminary practice, and personal deity.
- Second-level empowerment (red and white flowers) - inner fire, light drops, and non-leakage.
- Third-level empowerment (touch empowerment) - empowerment for practice of Highest Yoga Tantra.
- Fourth-level empowerment (intangible) - empowerment for the Great Perfection.
As for the first-level empowerment, as long as True Buddha School (TBS) masters have a thorough and comprehensive knowledge of the sadhanas and have attained spiritual union with the deity, they may bestow first-level empowerment for any deity on practitioners. (when presiding over a Dharma ceremony for “X” deity, they may bestow empowerment for “X” deity; when presiding over a Dharma ceremony for “Y” deity, they may bestow empowerment for “Y” deity.)
I believe there shouldn’t be much problem with bestowing first-level empowerments. As long as the empowerment is for outer practice sadhanas, without involving in any inner practices, masters are allowed to bestow empowerment for the deities of buddhas, bodhisattvas, and dharma protectors.
It’s important to note that for the second-level empowerment (red and white flowers), only masters who have received the empowerment of red and white flowers are authorized to bestow this empowerment on practitioners. Therefore, when bestowing second-level empowerment and above, masters must be cautious and pay special attention. I will now discuss the scope of inner practice in the second-level empowerment.
- Inner fire (red flowers) - igniting the inner fire in the dantien below the navel chakra; warmth, heat, light.
- Light drops (white flowers) - white bodhi descending from the 1,000-petaled lotus (melting bodhicitta moon fluid into drops).
- Non-leakage practice - Operation by descending, lifting, holding, dispersing. In male practitioners, this results in total non-leakage of white bodhi. In female practitioners, this results in total non-leakage of red bodhi.
In principle, the scope of inner practice of the second-level empowerment is cultivation of qi, channels, and light drops. Inner fire, light drops, and non-leakage are actually a unity, but this unity is divided into three separate elements.
When one has success in the second-level empowerment, one is qualified to proceed to the third-level empowerment (Highest Yoga Tantra). To commence the practices of Highest Yoga Tantra, one must have two qualifications:
- Non-leakage. (Body)
- Emptiness. (Mind)
The root guru will bestow the third empowerment on a practitioner who has achieved “non-leakage of body” and “emptiness of the mind”. The practitioners should know themselves whether they are leaking or not. The joyfulness of non-leakage is infinite bliss, whereas leakage always causes suffering. Worldly people cannot understand this and typically go the opposite way. They believe that leakage brings them joy. They do not know that the bliss of non-leakage is, in fact, the “light of bliss”.
In terms of the emptiness of the mind, it is the recognition of wisdom, the nature of emptiness, emptiness of mind, emptiness of body, and emptiness of dharmas. These namely are the four verses of the Diamond Sutra. One who realizes these four principles has attained ultimate purity. At the Kalachakra Ceremony, I repeatedly discoursed “ultimate purity”. The main idea is “emptiness” (neither pure nor impure). A practitioner without “non-leakage” and “emptiness” who receives the third empowerment and proceeds to cultivate anyway, will not benefit from such cultivation.
In my view, the difference between Vajrayana cultivation and Sutrayana cultivation lies in the cultivation of inner practice (qi, channels, and light drops). In Sutrayana, there is no such thing as cultivation of qi, channels, and light drops.
In Buddhist circles, Vajrayana’s cultivation of inner practice is considered legitimate Buddhist practice by some and not legitimate by others; it is praised in some circles and slandered in others.
It is the same with Highest Yoga Tantra. Supporters praise inner practice as “ultimate purity” whereas disbelievers slander inner practice as “defilement”.
As for myself, I have accomplished all levels of empowerment from initial empowerment to the second, third, and fourth empowerments.
‘Non-leakage” is known between buddhas, but not known by worldly people.
“Emptiness” is known between buddhas, but again, not known by worldly people.
Do worldly people comprehend this passage in the Heart Sutra: “All dharmas are empty, without origination or extinction, neither pure nor impure”?
Worldly people are worldly people. How can they comprehend the truth of the principles of Buddhadharma? On the contrary, they insult and slander it. How sad!
In this essay, I have instructed TBS masters how to know what level they are on and whether they have received spiritual union with their principal deity. With regards to bestowing empowerment, one must self-examine as to whether one is really qualified to bestow the “second-level empowerment” or above on a practitioner.
Translated by the TBTTs
Translator: Henry Wolf
Editor: DJ Chang