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Taking the Kalachakra Initiation

Originally published as
Berzin, Alexander. Taking the Kalachakra Initiation.
Ithaca, Snow Lion, 1997

Reprint: Introduction to the Kalachakra Initiation.
Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2010


Order this book directly from Snow Lion Publications

Part III: Vows and Closely Bonding Practices

7 Tantric Vows

Overview

At a Kalachakra empowerment, or any other anuttarayoga tantra initiation, if we are not yet ready to take tantric vows and commit ourselves to a daily tantric meditation practice, we do not need to be merely observers of the entire procedure. We may take only refuge or, in addition, formally develop the aspiring state of bodhichitta and keep the commitments from that. We may further add only taking the bodhisattva vows. Or, if we have previously taken refuge or both refuge and bodhisattva vows, we may reaffirm and strengthen them. It is not the case that we have only two alternatives: taking either all sets of vows that are offered, or none at all. To receive the empowerment, however, we need to take the full set of tantric vows.

As with bodhisattva vows, there are root and secondary tantric vows which we promise to keep until reaching enlightenment and which continue on our mind-stream into future lives. The Gelug, Kagyu and Sakya traditions confer these vows with any empowerment into one of the two higher classes of tantra – yoga or anuttarayoga – according to their fourfold classification scheme, while the Nyingma tradition confers them with any empowerment into one of the four higher tantra classes – yoga, mahayoga, anuyoga or atiyoga (dzogchen) – according to its sixfold scheme.

Most details from our previous discussion of bodhisattva vows pertain to the tantric vows as well. The root tantric vows are to refrain from fourteen actions which, if committed with four binding factors, constitute a root downfall and precipitate a loss of the tantric vows. Without these vows shaping our life, we cannot gain attainments or realizations from tantric practice. This is because our practice will lack the necessary supporting context. Except for one of the tantric root downfall actions, giving up bodhichitta – the same as with the root bodhisattva vows – a transgression of any of the other thirteen, without the four binding factors being complete, merely weakens the tantric vows. It does not eliminate them from our mind-stream. The secondary tantric vows are to refrain from eight heavy actions which hamper our practice if we commit them. The damage we inflict is proportionate to the number and strength of the binding factors that accompany them. Committing any of the eight even with all four binding factors present, however, does not rid us of our tantric vows.

In the Kalachakra Tantra, most of the fourteen root tantric vows are defined more specifically than in the other tantra systems. With Kalachakra empowerment, we promise to keep both the common and the specifically Kalachakra formulations of them. This is relevant advice for practitioners of any of the higher tantra systems. As corroboration, Ngari Panchen, a sixteenth-century master of the Nyingma tradition, has explained that the root tantric vows taken at any dzogchen empowerment are a blend of the common and Kalachakra versions delineated separately in the other three Tibetan lineages. To differentiate clearly the two versions, however, let us follow the commentaries by the Gelug authors, Tsongkhapa and Kaydrub Norzang-gyatso.

Common Root Tantric Vows

The fourteen root tantric vows taken in common at empowerments into any system of anuttarayoga tantra are to refrain from the following actions:

(1) Scorning or deriding our vajra master. The object is any teacher from whom we have received either empowerment into any class of tantra, full or partial explanation of any of their texts, or oral guidelines for any of their practices. Scorning or deriding such masters means showing them contempt, faulting or ridiculing them, being disrespectful or impolite, or thinking or saying that their teachings or advice were useless. Having formerly held them in high regard, with honor and respect, we complete this root downfall when we forsake that attitude, reject them as our teacher and regard them with haughty disdain. Such scornful action, then, is quite different from following the advice in the Kalachakra Tantra to keep a respectful distance and no longer study or associate with a tantric master whom we decide is inappropriate for us, not properly qualified or who acts in an unbefitting manner. Scorning or belittling our teachers of only topics that are not unique to tantra, such as compassion or voidness, or who confer upon us only refuge, or either pratimoksha or bodhisattva vows, does not technically constitute this first root tantric downfall. Such action, however, seriously hampers our spiritual progress.

(2) Transgressing the words of an enlightened one. The objects of this action are specifically the contents of an enlightened being's teachings concerning pratimoksha, bodhisattva or tantric vows – whether that person be the Buddha himself or a later great master. Committing this downfall is not simply to transgress a particular vow from one of these sets, having taken it, but to do so with two additional factors present. These are fully acknowledging that the vow derives from someone who has removed all mental obscuration, and trivializing it by thinking or saying that violating it brings no negative consequences. Trivializing and transgressing either injunctions we know an enlightened being has imparted other than those in any of the three sets of vows we have taken, or advice we do not realize an enlightened being has offered, does not constitute a root tantric downfall. It creates obstacles, however, in our spiritual path.

(3) Because of anger, faulting our vajra brothers or sisters. Vajra brothers and sisters are those who hold tantric vows and have received an empowerment into any Buddha-figure system of any class of tantra from the same tantric master. The empowerments do not need to be received at the same time, nor do they need to be into the same system or class of tantra. This downfall occurs when, knowing full well that certain persons are our vajra brothers or sisters, we taunt or verbally abuse them to their face about faults, shortcomings, failings, mistakes, transgressions and so on that they may or may not possess or have committed, and they understand what we say. The motivation must be either hostility, anger or hatred. Pointing out the weaknesses of such persons in a kind manner, with the wish to help them overcome them, is not a fault.

(4) Giving up love for sentient beings. Love is the wish for others to be happy and to have the causes for happiness. The downfall is wishing the opposite for any being, even the worst serial murderer – namely for someone to be divested of happiness and its causes. The causes for happiness are fully understanding reality and the karmic laws of behavioral cause and effect. We would at least wish a murderer to gain sufficient realization of these points so that he never repeats his atrocities in future lives, and so eventually experiences happiness. Although it is not a root tantric downfall to ignore someone whom we are capable of helping, it is a downfall to think how wonderful it would be if a particular being were never happy.

(5) Giving up bodhichitta. This is the same as the eighteenth bodhisattva root downfall, and amounts to giving up the aspiring state of bodhichitta by thinking we are incapable of attaining Buddhahood for the sake of all beings. Even without the four binding factors present, such a thought voids us of both bodhisattva and tantric vows.

(6) Deriding our own or others' tenets. This is the same as the sixth bodhisattva root downfall, forsaking the holy Dharma, and refers to proclaiming that any of the Buddhist textual teachings are not Buddha's words. "Others' tenets" refer to the sutras of the shravaka, pratyekabuddha or mahayana vehicles, while "our own" are the tantras, also within the mahayana fold.

(7) Disclosing confidential teachings to those who are unripe. Confidential teachings concern actual specific generation or complete stage practices for realizing voidness that are not shared in common with less advanced levels of practice. They include details of specific sadhanas and of methods for actualizing a greatly blissful deep awareness of voidness with clear light mind. Those unripe for them are people who have not received the appropriate level of empowerment, whether or not they would have faith in these practices if they knew them. Explaining any of these unshared, confidential procedures in sufficient detail to someone whom we know fully well is unripe so that he or she has enough information to attempt the practice, and this person understands the instructions, constitutes the root downfall. The only exception is when there is a great need for explicit explanation, for example to help dispel misinformation and distorted, antagonistic views about tantra. Explaining general tantra theory in a scholarly manner, not sufficient for practice, is likewise not a root downfall. Nevertheless, it weakens the effectiveness of our tantric practice. There is no fault, however, in disclosing confidential teachings to interested observers during a tantric empowerment.

(8) Reviling or abusing our aggregates. Five aggregates, or aggregate factors, constitute each moment of our experience. These five are: forms of physical phenomena such as sights or sounds, feelings of happiness or unhappiness, distinguishing one thing from another, other mental factors such as love or hatred, and types of consciousness such as visual or mental. In brief, our aggregates include our body, mind and emotions. Normally, these aggregate factors are associated with confusion – usually translated as their being "contaminated." With anuttarayoga tantra practice, we remove that confusion about reality and thus totally transform our aggregates. Instead of each moment of experience comprising five factors associated with confusion, each moment eventually becomes a composite of five types of deep awareness dissociated from confusion and which are the underlying natures of the five aggregates. These are the deep awareness that is like a mirror, of the equality of things, of individuality, of how to accomplish purposes and of the sphere of reality. Each of the five is represented by a Buddha-figure, Vairochana and so on. We shall discuss this further in Chapter Eleven.

An anuttarayoga empowerment plants the seeds to accomplish this transformation. During generation stage practice, we cultivate these seeds by imagining our aggregates to be already in their purified form through visualizing them as their corresponding Buddha-figures. During complete stage practice, we bring these seeds to maturity by engaging our aggregates in special yogic methods to manifest clear light mind with which to realize the five types of deep awareness.

The eighth root downfall is either to despise our aggregates, thinking them unfit to undergo this transformation, or purposely to damage them because of hatred or contempt. Practicing tantra does not call for a denial or rejection of the sutra view that regarding the body as clean and in the nature of happiness is a form of incorrect consideration. It is quite clear that our body naturally gets dirty and brings us suffering such as sickness and physical pain. Nevertheless, we recognize in tantra that the human body also has a deeper nature, rendering it fit to be used on many levels along the spiritual path to benefit others more fully. When we are unaware of or do not acknowledge that deeper nature, we hate our body, think our mind is no good and consider our emotions as evil. When we hold such attitudes of low self-esteem or, in addition, abuse our body or mind with masochistic behavior, unnecessarily dangerous or punishing life styles, or by polluting them with recreational or narcotic drugs, we commit this tantric root downfall.

(9) Rejecting voidness. Voidness here refers either to the general teaching of the Prajnaparamita sutras that all phenomena, not only persons, are devoid of fantasized and impossible modes of existence, or to the specifically mahayana teachings of the chittamatra or any of the madhyamaka schools concerning phenomena being devoid of a particular fantasized way of existing. To reject such teachings means to doubt, disbelieve or spurn them. No matter which mahayana tenet system we hold while practicing tantra, we need total confidence in its teachings on voidness. Otherwise, if we reject voidness during the course of our practice, or attempt any procedure outside of its context, we may believe, for example, that our visualizations are concretely real. Such misconceptions only perpetuate the sufferings of samsara and may even lead to a mental imbalance. It may be necessary, along the way, to upgrade our tenet system from chittamatra to madhyamaka – or, within madhyamaka, from svatantrika to prasangika – and, in the process, refute the voidness teachings of our former tenet system. Discarding a less sophisticated explanation, however, does not mean leaving ourselves without a correct view of the voidness of all phenomena that is appropriate to our level of understanding.

(10) Being loving toward malevolent people. Malevolent people are those who despise either our personal teacher, spiritual masters in general or the Buddhas, Dharma or the Sangha, or who, in addition, cause harm or damage to any of them. Although it is inappropriate to forsake the wish for such persons to be happy and have the causes for happiness, we commit a root downfall by acting or speaking lovingly toward them. Such action includes being friendly with them, supporting them by buying goods they produce, books that they write, and so on. If we are motivated purely by love and compassion, and possess the means to stop their destructive behavior and transfer them to a more positive state, we would certainly try to do so, even if it means resorting to forceful methods. If we lack these qualifications, however, we incur no fault in simply boycotting such persons.

(11) Not meditating on voidness continually. As with the ninth tantric root downfall, voidness can be understood according to either the chittamatra or madhyamaka systems. Once we gain an understanding of such a view, it is a root downfall to let more than a day and night pass without meditating on it. The usual custom is to meditate on voidness at least three times during the course of each day and three times each night. We need to continue such practice until we have rid ourselves of all obstacles preventing omniscience – at which point we remain directly mindful of voidness at all times. If we place a limit and think we have meditated enough on voidness before reaching this goal, we can never attain it.

(12) Deterring those with faith. This refers to purposely discouraging people from a particular tantric practice in which they have faith and for which they are fit vessels, with proper empowerment and so forth. If we cause their wish to engage in this practice to end, this root downfall is complete. If they are not yet ready for such practice, however, there is no fault in outlining in a realistic manner what they must master first, even if it might seem daunting. Engaging others like this, taking them and their interests seriously rather than belittling them as incapable, actually boosts their self-confidence to forge ahead.

(13) Not relying properly on the substances that bond us closely to tantric practice. The practice of anuttarayoga tantra includes participating in periodic offering ceremonies known as tsog pujas. They involve tasting specially consecrated alcohol and meat. These substances symbolize the aggregates, bodily elements and, in Kalachakra, the energy-winds – ordinarily disturbing factors that have a nature of being able to confer deep awareness when dissociated from confusion and used for the path. The root downfall is to consider such substances nauseating, to refuse them on the grounds of being a teetotaler or a vegetarian, or alternatively, to take them in large quantities with gusto and attachment.

(14) Deriding women. The aim of anuttarayoga tantra is to access and harness clear light mind to apprehend voidness so as to overcome as quickly as possible confusion and its instincts – the principal factors preventing liberation and the full ability to benefit others. A blissful state of awareness is extremely conducive for reaching clear light mind since it draws us into ever deeper, more intense and refined levels of consciousness and energy. Moreover, when blissful awareness reaches the clear light level and focuses on voidness with full understanding, it becomes the most powerful tool for clearing away the instincts of confusion.

During the process of gaining absorbed concentration, we experience increasingly blissful awareness as a result of ridding our mind of dullness and agitation. The same thing happens as we gain ever deeper understanding and realization of voidness, as a result of ridding our mind of disturbing emotions and attitudes. Combining the two, we experience increasingly intense and refined levels of bliss as we gain ever stronger concentration on ever deeper understandings of voidness. In anuttarayoga tantra, men enhance the bliss of their concentrated awareness of voidness even further by relying on women. This practice involves relying on either actual women visualized as female Buddha-figures so as to avoid confusion, or, for those of more refined faculties, merely visualized ones alone. Women enhance their bliss through men in a similar fashion by relying on the fact of their being a woman. Therefore it is a tantric root downfall to belittle, deride, ridicule or consider as inferior a specific woman, women in general or a female Buddha-figure. When we voice low opinion and contempt directly to a woman, with the intention to deride womanhood, and she understands what we say, we complete this root downfall. Although it is improper to deride men, doing so is not a tantric root downfall.

Kalachakra Root Tantric Vows

The tantric vows conferred at a Kalachakra empowerment include the following more specific formulations of the fourteen root downfalls.

(1) Disturbing the mind of our vajra master. Rather than scorning or deriding our tantric master, here the downfall is to cause a specific insult. Because of a disturbing emotion or attitude, and not for any altruistic purpose, we act or speak in a destructive manner and do not even think to refrain from doing so at any point during our act. When our teacher learns of our conduct and shows displeasure in order to help tame us, this root downfall is complete.

(2) Transgressing our teacher's orders. This is more specific than trivializing and transgressing a vow taught by an enlightened being. Here the downfall is to commit in a hidden fashion one of the ten destructive actions or break one of our vows, after our vajra master has specifically said not to do so. The motivation must be a disturbing emotion or attitude, not some altruistic aim. As with the prior root downfall, we need to recognize our tantric master as a holy being, know fully well that such behavior displeases him or her, and think nothing of engaging in it anyway. Here it is not required that our teacher learns of our misdeed or shows displeasure.

(3) Because of anger, faulting vajra brothers or sisters. This is the same as in the list of common tantric root downfalls.

(4) Giving up love for sentient beings. This is also the same as the corresponding common downfall. The commentary adds the stipulation that the downfall is only committed when love for a specific being, once lost, does not return for a day and a night. Becoming exasperated and losing love for someone only for a shorter period is not a root downfall.

(5) Giving up bodhichitta. Corresponding to the common tantric root downfall of discarding the wish to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all, here we discard the subtle creative drops that allow us, through Kalachakra complete stage practice, to actualize that enlightenment through an unchanging blissful awareness. Such awareness is reached only upon manifesting clear light mind and generating it as a blissful awareness of voidness. After this most powerful tool is gained, an ever more stable basis for it is built within the central energy-channel by stacking there, through yogic methods, 21,600 subtle drops – corresponding to the number of Kalachakra hours in a year and breaths in a day. Once stacked, these invisible drops remain fixed in place until attaining enlightenment – which is why the supremely blissful awareness based on them is called "unchanging." Such awareness empowers the understanding of voidness with clear light mind to dispel, in stages, all instincts of confusion and winds of karma in the most efficient manner possible. These drops only disappear upon becoming a Buddha, since at that stage we no longer have the type of physical body that has subtle drops or a central channel.

Whether male or female, whenever we experience the release of energy that accompanies sexual orgasm – regardless of the emission of gross fluids – we lose subtle creative drops, called "bodhichitta" or "jasmine flower drops." These drops form the basis for achieving unchanging blissful awareness. Since such release discards the most efficient means for achieving enlightenment, it is called "giving up bodhichitta." For this root downfall to be complete, however, we need to understand the nature of unchanging blissful awareness, yet release these subtle drops anyway – when there is no special need to do so – through any means, with the wish to attain enlightenment through the bliss of ordinary orgasmic emission. The four binding factors need not accompany this action.

Release of orgasmic energy or fluids in ordinary sexual acts does not constitute a tantric root downfall so long as it is not regarded as something spiritual – specifically, as a means for attaining liberation or enlightenment. However, any experience of orgasmic release, regardless of how we view it, weakens the form we are trying to give to our life with Kalachakra root tantric vows. It counters the purpose of trying to achieve enlightenment as quickly as possible through the Kalachakra method of unchanging blissful awareness.

It is important to be realistic, not melodramatic about this matter. Taking this vow does not mean having to remain childless or never to have another baby. Nor does it condemn us to stop enjoying ordinary sex or to feel guilty about it. It does mean, however, seeing the bliss of orgasmic emission in the perspective of unchanging blissful awareness, and committing ourselves to revising our values. In short, when we have no control over our orgasmic energies, we stress, with this vow, never to regard the bliss of orgasmic release from ordinary sexual acts as a spiritual experience, as a way to solve all problems, or as a path to enlightenment.

(6) Holding the view of reality in sutra to be inferior to that in tantra. This is more specific than deriding our own or others' tenets by proclaiming that any teaching from the sutra or tantra vehicles does not derive from Buddha's words. Here the downfall is to disparage specifically the voidness explanations found in the Prajnaparamita sutras as inferior to those found in the tantras, although still accepting both as authentic teachings of the Buddha. The motivation must be anger, such as due to sectarian views, and not simply ignorance.

(7) Disclosing confidential teachings to those who are unripe. This is similar to the common downfall except that it refers specifically to teachings on greatly blissful awareness – the most intense of four gradations of joy experienced within the central channel.

(8) Abusing our aggregates. Whereas the common root downfall is either simply reviling or, in addition, abusing our aggregates, here the reference is specifically to the latter. We recognize our aggregates to be in the nature of Buddha-figures and deep awareness, and realize that if we harm them we destroy our blissful awareness and impair our ability to generate more. Yet we still wish to inflict damage or pain on them, and not for the sake of benefiting someone else. This downfall is complete when we actually commit a self-punishing act and experience, as a result, a diminution of whatever level of physical and mental blissful awareness we have attained.

(9) Not having faith in the purity of phenomena. The common tantric root downfall that corresponds to this is rejecting voidness as taught in the chittamatra or any of the madhyamaka schools of tenets. Here the downfall is not only to reject voidness, but to adopt in its stead a fabricated view of reality of our own or someone else's contriving. This does not include doing this for the sake of others, as when simplifying the voidness teachings to provide beginners with an initial idea.

(10) Having deceitful love. While the common tantric root downfall is being loving toward malevolent people, the Kalachakra downfall is to speak loving words to others while harboring thoughts of malice toward them in our heart. By extension, we commit this downfall by being hypocritical in keeping close bonds with the tantric practices, for example by reciting a daily sadhana text or attending pujas without faith, pretending to be devout, yet hiddenly acting in destructive ways contrary to our pledges.

(11) Conceptualizing about the blissful awareness that is beyond words. The corresponding common tantric root downfall is not meditating on voidness continually. Here, more specifically, we do not accept unchanging blissful awareness when experiencing it in complete stage practice. When this awareness arises, it is a downfall to waver indecisively and not direct it toward continual meditation on voidness.

(12) Faulting pure beings. The common downfall corresponding to this is to destroy people's faith in a particular tantric practice so that they turn from wishing to engage in it. Here, the downfall is to direct discouraging words specifically at meditators accomplished in some tantric practice, faulting and deriding them to their face out of jealousy. This downfall is complete when they understand these words and, as a result, become depressed.

(13) Rejecting the substances that bond us closely to tantric practice, and (14) deriding women. These two are the same as in the list of common tantric root downfalls. The emphasis in the latter, however, is on disparaging women in general.

Selected Points from the Secondary Tantric Vows

The common root tantric vows and those specific to Kalachakra both entail a promise to refrain from eight heavy actions that weaken meditation practice and hamper progress along the anuttarayoga tantra path. As with the forty-six secondary bodhisattva vows, committing any of these eight heavy actions, even with all four binding factors present, does not result in a loss of the tantric vows. Although we can study these secondary tantric vows in detail later, let us discuss a few of their points that often perplex people considering taking the Kalachakra initiation.

One of the secondary tantric vows is not to rely on an unqualified sexual partner. By relying on the bliss and joy that come from union with a woman, without orgasmic release, a male can enhance his blissful discriminating awareness of voidness. A female can accomplish the same while in union with a man, also without orgasmic release, by relying on the fact of her being a woman. Even if we are not at the stage of having some level of blissful awareness of voidness, and even if we lack the ability, gained through mastery of our energy-winds through yogic methods, to avoid orgasm when in union, nevertheless, as a person having tantric vows, we would naturally admire and sincerely wish to reach these stages. We need to regard our sexual life within this perspective.

For this resolve not to weaken, it is important that our sexual partner share our attitude toward sex. An unqualified partner is someone who does not view sex from a tantric perspective. More specifically, our partner needs to have received empowerment, uphold tantric vows and keep close bonds with the practices. Most important, she or he needs to safeguard purely the fifth Kalachakra root vow and not regard ordinary sex and the bliss of orgasmic release as something spiritual, or as a path to liberation or enlightenment. Furthermore, a potential partner must not have been coerced to enter sexual union – either by force or subtle psychological pressure. An example of the latter is flattering the person as being spiritually advanced, saying that she or he is helping us, as great tantric bodhisattvas, advance on the path and help others more.

When we view sex from a tantric perspective and our sexual partner simply wishes to share love and comfort, we do not need to feel that our two attitudes are mutually exclusive. Enhancing a blissful awareness of voidness through union with a partner is built on a foundation of sharing love and support. However, if our partner is merely obsessed with greed and attachment for carnal pleasure, or views achieving a healthy orgasm as the cure for all psychological disorder, we can easily fall prey to such emotions or ideas, and lose our perspective.

If we already have a sexual partner and become involved with tantra, while she or he is not similarly involved, we certainly would not forsake that partner or pursue extramarital relations with someone holding tantric vows. Nor do we need to convert our partner to Buddhism, or to pressure her or him to take initiation. On the other hand, it is unfair to exploit this person for our spiritual practice or to be dishonest with our feelings and begrudgingly have sex as our duty. The situation calls for kindness, patience and understanding and, above all, a complete lack of pretention about our level of realization and practice. If our partner is receptive, we may gently encourage her or him to overcome shortcomings and realize potentials through effective methods, not ordinary sex. In such ways as this we try to make our two attitudes towards sex, if not the same, at least more compatible.

Another secondary tantric vow is not to be in union without the three recognitions, which are to distinguish and regard our mind, speech and body as being dissociated from confusion. Without such an attitude, the bliss of union enhances only our desires and attachment, rather than our blissful awareness of voidness. Firstly, our state of mind while in union is a blissful awareness of voidness, on whatever level we can maintain it. We do not harbor ordinary thoughts or worries, for instance about how our sexual performance ranks with other people's. Secondly, our speech labels phenomena as what they conventionally are, not when apprehended by a confused mind, but by one that is a blissful awareness of voidness. With confusion and its attendant attachment, we label sexual organs as desirable objects for gaining the fleeting bliss of orgasmic release. Free of confusion, we label them in a purer manner, as objects that help to enhance a blissful discriminating awareness of voidness. And thirdly, the bodies of ourselves and our partner appear in the form of Buddha-figures which our mind gives rise to while simultaneously maintaining, on a deeper level, a blissful awareness of voidness. Since the mind that generates this appearance is not one of longing desire, this visualization is not at all the same as fantasizing ourselves and our partner as sexy movie stars.

Again it is important to remember that even if we maintain this pure way of regarding our mind, speech and body while in sexual union, if we consider the bliss of orgasmic release experienced within this context as something spiritual, or as a means for achieving liberation or enlightenment, we incur a root tantric downfall. This occurs whether we purposely cause that orgasmic release or experience it unintentionally. Furthermore, even when we visualize our own and our partner's body in a pure form as a Buddha-figure, it is essential not to lose sight of our conventional existence as a person, or that of our partner. We need to remain always sensitive to our own and our partner's feelings and needs. This is pertinent whether our partner shares our attitude and visualization, or is not involved in tantric practice.

The other secondary tantric vow that causes much confusion is not to stay more than seven days among shravakas. In this context, a shravaka is anyone who trivializes or makes fun of tantra. Staying for a long time among such persons discourages us from our path, especially if they are actively hostile toward our meditation practice. There is no fault, however, if we have no choice about whom we live with. It is therefore crucial in such situations – and when living in any nonsupportive and unsympathetic environment – to keep our tantric practices and beliefs totally private.