Three Roots

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The Three Roots (Tibetan: tsa sum) of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition are the lama (Sanskrit: guru ), yidam (Sanskrit: ishtadevata), and protector, which may be a khandroma (Sanskrit: dakini ) or chokyong (Sanskrit: dharmapala ). The Three Roots are the second of three Tibetan Buddhist refuge formulations, the Outer, Inner and Secret forms of the Three Jewels. The 'Outer' form is the 'Triple Gem', (Sanskrit:triratna), the 'Inner' is the Three Roots and the 'Secret' form is the 'Three Bodies' or trikaya of a Buddha. These alternative refuge formulations are employed by those undertaking Deity Yoga and other tantric practices within the Tibetan Buddhist Vajrayana tradition as a means of recognizing the universality of Buddha Nature. The Three Roots are commonly mentioned in the Nyingma and Kagyu literature of Tibetan Buddhism. Unlike most aspects of Tibetan Buddhism, which originated in India, the Three Roots may be an original Tibetan formulation from the time of Padmasambhava. [1] The functions of the Three Roots are:

Contents

In the Yangzab compilation of Dzogchen texts the 'Yangzab Three Roots' is the primary Deity Yoga practice. The Three Roots in this cycle are: Guru Rinpoche (the guru), Hayagriva (the yidam), and Vajravarahi (the dakini). This empowerment is required for the practitioner to study the Yangzab Treasure teaching cycle. The three roots are symbolized in the Gankyil.

Correspondences

Dilgo Khyentse, head of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism until his death in 1991, explained the twilight language correspondences and polyvalent meaning of the Outer, Inner and Secret aspects of the Three Jewels:

The outer three jewels are the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. The Three jewels have an inner aspect, known as the Three Roots: the Guru (or Teacher), who is the root of blessings; the Yidam, who is the root of accomplishment; and the Dakini, who is the root of enlightened activity. Although the names are different, these three do not in any way differ from the Three Jewels. The Guru is the Budha [ sic ], the Yidam is the Dharma, and the Dakinis and Protectors are the Sangha. And on the innermost level, the Dharmakaya is the Buddha, the Sambhogakaya is the Dharma, and the Nirmanakaya is the Sangha. [3]

 Tibetan Buddhist Refuge Formulations
Outer or 'Three Jewels' Buddha Dharma Sangha
Inner or 'Three Roots' Lama (Guru) Yidam (Ista-devata) Khandroma (Dakini) [4]
Secret or 'Trikaya' Dharmakaya Sambhogakaya Nirmanakaya
Three Vajras MindSpeechBody
seed syllable blue humred ahwhite om

The Three Roots formulation also fits into the framework of the Three Vajras of a Buddha where they are seen as equating to the following forms: the protector is the Body, the Yidam is the Speech and the Guru is the Mind. According to the Handbook of Tibetan Buddhist Symbols:

"The trinity of body, speech, and mind are known as the three gates, three receptacles or three vajras, and correspond to the western religious concept of righteous thought (mind), word (speech), and deed (body). The three vajras also correspond to the three kayas, with the aspect of body located at the crown (nirmanakaya), the aspect of speech at the throat (sambhogakaya), and the aspect of mind at the heart (dharmakaya)." [5]

Pabongkhapa Déchen Nyingpo also identifies the seed syllables corresponding to the Three Vajras as: a white om (enlightened body), a red ah (enlightened speech) and a blue hum (enlightened mind). [6]

Three refuge motivation levels are: 1) suffering rebirth's fear motivates with the idea of happiness, 2) knowing rebirth won’t bring freedoms motivates attaining nirvana, while 3) seeing other’s suffering motivates establishing them all in Buddhahood. [7] Happiness is temporary, lifetimes are impermanent and ultimately refuge is taken until reaching unsurpassable awakening. [8]

The individual 'roots'

Lama

In the Theravada Buddhist tradition, the teacher is a valued and honoured mentor worthy of great respect and a source of inspiration on the path to Enlightenment. [9] In the Tibetan tradition, however, the teacher is viewed as the very root of spiritual realization and the basis of the entire path. [10] Without the teacher, it is asserted, there can be no experience or insight. The guru is seen as Buddha. In Tibetan texts, emphasis is placed upon praising the virtues of the guru. Tantric teachings include generating visualisations of the guru and making offerings praising the guru. The guru becomes known as the vajra (literally "diamond") guru, the one who is the source of initiation into the tantric deity. The disciple is asked to enter into a series of vows and commitments that ensure the maintenance of the spiritual link with the understanding that to break this link is a serious downfall.[ citation needed ]

In Vajrayana (tantric Buddhism) the guru is perceived as the way itself. The guru is not an individual who initiates a person, but the person's own Buddha-nature reflected in the personality of the guru. In return, disciples are expected to show great devotion to the guru, whom they regard as a Bodhisattva. A guru is one who has not only mastered the words of the tradition, but who has an intense personal relationship with the student; thus, devotion is the proper attitude toward the guru. [11]

The Dalai Lama, speaking of the importance of the guru, said: "Rely on the teachings to evaluate a guru: Do not have blind faith, but also no blind criticism." He also observed that the term 'living Buddha' is a translation of the Chinese words huo fuo. [12]

The guru, who in Tibetan Buddhism is generally the lama, is considered to be the most important of the 'Three Roots' since the guru embodies enlightened mind and without their personal guidance, the student cannot progress. "The living teacher proclaims to the student through his or her very existence that awakening is not only possible but immediate for every living being". [13] Through Guru yoga practices, the Vajrayana student becomes familiar with the refuge tree and lineage within which the guru is teaching. The 'root guru', or tsawe lama, with whom the student has a personal relationship, is visualised at the root of the tree, channeling the blessings of all the branches of the refuge tree to the student. The blessings are accessed through the practitioner's devotion.

Yidam

The second root is the meditational deity or yidam. The iconography of the yidam may be 'peaceful', 'wrathful' (Tibetan tro wa) or 'neither peaceful or wrathful'(Tibetan: shi ma tro), depending on the practitioner's own nature. [14] The yidam represents awakening, so its appearance reflects whatever is required by the practitioner to awaken. The guru guides the student to the yidam appropriate for them, then gives them initiation into the mandala of the yidam. In essence, the mind of the guru and the yidam are one. The yidam is considered to be the root of success in the practice.

Protector

The third root is the protector, the root of action or the enlightened activity of realized beings. In the case of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism the protector is the dakini. In the other 'Sarma' schools, the protector may be a dakini, a dharmapala, or other Buddhist enlightened beings. In the Nyingma, the dakini is guardian of the secret oral or 'whispered ear' tradition and so always serves as the third root. In the other Tibetan Buddhist schools, the 'Sarma' schools, there are many different forms of protector. The protector in these schools may be a dakini or any of a variety of oath-bound spirits, subdued by tantric yogi or yogini.

Judith Simmer-Brown points out that:

The dakini, in various guises, serves as each of the Three Roots, and may be a human guru, a vajra master who transmits the Vajrayana teachings to her disciples and joins them in samaya commitments. The wisdom dakini may be a yidam, a meditational deity; female deity yogas such as Vajrayogini are common in Tibetan Buddhism. Or, the dakini may be a protector; the wisdom dakinis have special power and responsibility to protect the integrity of oral transmissions [15]

Related Research Articles

Tibetan Buddhism is the form of Buddhism practiced in Tibet where it is the dominant religion. It is also found in the regions surrounding the Himalayas, much of Chinese Central Asia, the Southern Siberian regions such as Tuva, as well as Mongolia.

Padmasambhava 8th-century Buddhist Lama

Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rinpoche, was an 8th-century Buddhist master from the Indian subcontinent. Although there was a historical Padmasambhava, little is known of him apart from helping the construction of the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet at Samye, at the behest of Trisong Detsen, and shortly thereafter leaving Tibet due to court intrigues.

The Kālachakra is a term used in Vajrayana Buddhism that means "wheel(s) of time".

Fierce deities Enlightened beings in Mahayana Buddhism

In Buddhism, fierce deities or wrathful deities are the fierce, wrathful or forceful forms of enlightened Buddhas, Bodhisattvas or Devas. Because of their power to destroy the obstacles to enlightenment, they are also termed krodha-vighnantaka, "fierce destroyers of obstacles". Fierce deities are a notable feature of the iconography of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism. These types of deities first appeared in India during the late 6th century with its main source being the Yaksha imagery and became a central feature of Indian Tantric Buddhism by the late 10th or early 11th century.

Buddhist deities

Buddhism includes a wide array of divine beings that are venerated in various ritual and popular contexts. Initially they included mainly Indian deities such as devas and yakshas, but later came to include other Asian spirits and local gods. They range from enlightened Buddhas to regional spirits adopted by Buddhists or practiced on the margins of the religion.

Tara (Buddhism) Female Bodhisattva

Tara, Ārya Tārā, or Shayama Tara, also known as Jetsun Dölma in Tibetan Buddhism, is an important figure in Buddhism. She appears as a female bodhisattva in Mahayana Buddhism, and as a female Buddha in Vajrayana Buddhism. She is known as the "mother of liberation", and represents the virtues of success in work and achievements. She is known as Tara Bosatsu (多羅菩薩) in Japan, and occasionally as Duōluó Púsà (多羅菩薩) in Chinese Buddhism.

Yidam is a type of deity associated with tantric or Vajrayana Buddhism said to be manifestations of Buddhahood or enlightened mind. During personal meditation (sādhana) practice, the yogi identifies their own form, attributes and mind with those of a yidam for the purpose of transformation. Yidam is sometimes translated by the terms "meditational deity" or "tutelary deity". Examples of yidams include the meditation deities Chakrasamvara, Kalachakra, Hevajra, Yamantaka, and Vajrayogini, all of whom have a distinctive iconography, mandala, mantra, rites of invocation and practice.

Dakini Type of sacred female spirit in Vajrayana Buddhism

A ḍākinī is a type of sacred female spirit in Vajrayana Buddhism. The term can also be applied to human women with a certain amount of spiritual development. The Sanskrit term is likely related to the term for drumming, while the Tibetan term means "skygoer" and may have originated in the Sanskrit khecara, a term from the Cakrasaṃvara Tantra. Dakinis are often represented as consorts in Yab-Yum representations. The masculine form of the word is ḍāka, which is usually translated into Tibetan as pawo "hero".

Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism

The Nyingma tradition is the oldest of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. "Nyingma" literally means "ancient," and is often referred to as Ngangyur because it is founded on the first translations of Buddhist scriptures from Sanskrit into Old Tibetan in the eighth century. The Tibetan alphabet and grammar was created for this endeavour.

The Tibetan term Ngöndro refers to the preliminary, preparatory or foundational practices or disciplines common to all four schools of Tibetan Buddhism and also to Bon. They precede the Generation stage and Completion stage.

Vajradhara primordial Buddha

Vajradhara Tibetan: རྡོ་རྗེ་འཆང། rdo rje 'chang ; Chinese: 金剛總持; Javanese: Kabajradharan; Japanese: 執金剛; English: Diamond-holder; Vietnamese: Kim Cang Tổng Trì) is the ultimate primordial Buddha, or Adi Buddha, according to the Sakya, Gelug and Kagyu schools of Tibetan Buddhism.

Longchen Nyingthig

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Anuttarayoga Tantra, often translated as Unexcelled Yoga Tantra or Highest Yoga Tantra, is a term used in Tibetan Buddhism in the categorization of esoteric tantric Indian Buddhist texts that constitute part of the Kangyur, or the 'translated words of the Buddha' in the Tibetan Buddhist canon.

Ekajati One of the three principal protectors of the Nyingma school of Buddhism

Ekajaṭī or Ekajaṭā,, also known as Māhacīnatārā, is one of the 21 Taras. Ekajati is, along with Palden Lhamo deity, one of the most powerful and fierce goddesses of Vajrayana Buddhist mythology. According to Tibetan legends, her right eye was pierced by the tantric master Padmasambhava so that she could much more effectively help him subjugate Tibetan demons.

Tantra techniques in Vajrayana Buddhism are techniques used to attain Buddhahood.

Lama title for a teacher of the Dharma in Tibetan Buddhism

Lama is a title for a teacher of the Dharma in Tibetan Buddhism. The name is similar to the Sanskrit term guru and in use it is similar, but not identical to the western monastic rank of abbot.

The Outer Tantras are the second three divisions in the ninefold division of practice according to the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism. This system divides the whole of the Buddhist path into three divisions of three and is in contrast to the division of the Sarma, or New Translation schools which use a fourfold division. The three divisions of the Outer Tantra correspond to the lower three category of tantras of the New Translation (Sarma) schools.

Refuge tree

The imagery of the Refuge Tree, also referred to as Refuge Assembly, Refuge Field, Merit Field, Field of Merit or Field of Accumulation is a key part of a visualization and foundational meditation practice common to Tantric Buddhism. Based on descriptions in the liturgical texts of various traditions, Refuge Trees are often depicted in thangkas employed as objects of veneration, mnemonic devices and as a precursor to the contents being fully visualized by the Buddhist practitioner during the Refuge Formula or evocation.

The Three Vajras, namely "body, speech and mind", are a formulation within Vajrayana Buddhism and Bon that hold the full experience of the śūnyatā "emptiness" of Buddha-nature, void of all qualities and marks and establish a sound experiential key upon the continuum of the path to enlightenment. The Three Vajras correspond to the trikaya and therefore also have correspondences to the Three Roots and other refuge formulas of Tibetan Buddhism. The Three Vajras are viewed in twilight language as a form of the Three Jewels, which imply purity of action, speech and thought.

Charnel ground above-ground site for putrefaction of human flesh

A charnel ground, in concrete terms, is an above-ground site for the putrefaction of bodies, generally human, where formerly living tissue is left to decompose uncovered. Although it may have demarcated locations within it functionally identified as burial grounds, cemeteries and crematoria, it is distinct from these as well as from crypts or burial vaults.

References

  1. Simmer-Brown, Judith (2002). Dakini's Warm Breath:The Feminine Principle in Tibetan Buddhism. Shambhala Publications Inc. p. 327 n.51. ISBN   978-1-57062-920-4.
  2. Rinpoche, Kalu (1995). Secret Buddhism:Vajrayana Practices. Clear Point Press. ISBN   0-9630371-6-1.
  3. Ray, Reginald A. (Ed.)(2004). In the Presence of Masters: Wisdom from 30 Contemporary Tibetan Buddhist Teachers. Boston, Massachusetts, USA: Shambala. ISBN   1-57062-849-1 (pbk.: alk. paper) p.60.
  4. In Sarma traditions, this root is the Chokyong (Skt: dharmapāla, Wylie: chos-kyong)
  5. Beer, Robert (2003). p.186 The Handbook of Tibetan Buddhist Symbols. Serindia Publications. ISBN   1-932476-03-2 Source: (accessed: December 7, 2007)
  6. Rinpoche, Pabongka (1997). Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand: A Concise Discourse on the Path to Enlightenment. Wisdom Books. p. 196.
  7. Rinpoche, Patrul. Words of My Perfect Teacher: A Complete Translation of a Classic Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism (Sacred Literature) (2011 ed.). Yale University Press. pp.  176-177. ISBN   0300165323.
  8. Dorje, Choying Tobden; Zangpo, Ngawang (June 2, 2015). The Complete Nyingma Tradition from Sutra to Tantra, Books 1 to 10: Foundations of the Buddhist Path (First ed.). Snow Lion. pp. 224–227. ISBN   1559394358.
  9. Thurman, Robert A. F.; Huntington, John; Dina Bangdel (2003). Beginning the process: The Great Masters and Selecting a Teacher - The Guru-Disciple relationship; in: The Circle of Bliss: Buddhist Meditational Art. London: Serindia Publications. ISBN   1-932476-01-6.
  10. Dreyfus, Georges B. J. (2003). The sound of two hands clapping: the education of a Tibetan Buddhist monk. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 61–3. ISBN   0-520-23260-7.
  11. Gross, Rita M. (1998). Soaring and settling: Buddhist perspectives on contemporary social and religious issues . London: Continuum. pp.  184. ISBN   0-8264-1113-4.
  12. "The Teacher - The Guru". Archived from the original on 2008-05-14.
  13. Simmer-Brown, Judith (2002). Dakini's Warm Breath:The Feminine Principle in Tibetan Buddhism. Shambhala Publications Inc. p. 139. ISBN   978-1-57062-920-4.
  14. Palmo, Tenzin (2002). Reflections on a Mountain Lake:Teachings on Practical Buddhism. Snow Lion Publications. pp. 229–231. ISBN   1-55939-175-8.
  15. Simmer-Brown, Judith (2002). Dakini's Warm Breath:The Feminine Principle in Tibetan Buddhism. Shambhala Publications Inc. pp. 139–40. ISBN   978-1-57062-920-4.