Lifting the Veil off the Fourteen Root Infractions in Tantric “Buddhism” - Part 7: The insidious purpose behind the first root infraction (I)
(Reported by the True Heart News interviewing team in Taipei) After giving an overview of Tsongkhapa’s fourteen tantric root infractions in previous reports, we will go into Tsongkhapa’s explanation for them. The exegesis for each root downfall provides necessary background knowledge as well as the rules pertaining to the infractions.
Tsongkhapa writes: “The explanation of the first of these downfalls has two parts: a real [i.e., total] root downfall and a downfall in which the branches are not complete.” The total and the incomplete root down fall are similar respectively to the major precepts and the minor precepts in Buddhism. Our discussion concerns primarily the real (total) rather than partial downfalls.
A downfall is comprised of three key aspects: 1. the object relative to which the downfall is incurred; 2. the action that causes the downfall; and 3. the reason for causing the downfall. This article will delve into the first aspect: the object relative to which the downfall is incurred.
Regarding the first root infraction, Tsongkhapa writes: “Since the vajra holder said that siddhis flow from the masters, the first root downfall is said to be disparaging them.”
The Tantric Vajra Vehicle holds that the “vajra holders” can achieve various kinds of attainment all due to the instruction of the masters. Hence a disciple who has taken the tantric precepts should never under any circumstances disparage his or her master teacher. Even one condescending thought amounts to disparagement, not to mention disrespectful speech.
The Tantric Vajra Vehicle defines “fully qualified masters” as “those who have the ability to bestow a consecration.” However, the nature and essence of the “consecration” bestowed to the disciples is undefined and unspecified.
The four major sects of fake Tibetan “Buddhism” all practice the Vajrayāna. After a student has cultivated for some time, her guru would pick the right opportunity to “bestow a consecration” by “personally transmitting the supreme dharma,” which involves engaging in Couple-Practice Tantra between the master and the student. The ability for a master to “give the secret empowerment” as such is said to make him a good guru.
This standard of a “good” vajra master has no basis in the Buddha Dharma of course. In terms of Buddhist morality, a guru or master who “bestows a consecration” to a disciple by taking her to bed has broken the precept against sexual misconduct. Even if the guru has not taken any real Buddhist ordinations, due to the wrongful nature of the action, he will still have to suffer the retribution in future lifetimes as a consequence of karmic cause-and-effect.
According to the Buddha Dharma, this wrongdoing is a severe one as it has fulfilled all three conditions - “intention,” “expedient device,” and “execution” - of a major transgression. “Intention” refers to the fact that the master deliberately desires and has generated the thought to commit the act; “expedient device” means that the master has made plans to have a sexual relationship with the disciple; “execution” means that the master has carried out his plan successfully.
It is understandable that the students would gossip about tantric gurus given the nature of their sex-centered practice. But tantric gurus do not see themselves as having done anything “worthy” of “gossip.” The first root downfall plays a very critical role in suppressing disciples who have been sexually abused or seduced or coerced into sex from airing the dirty laundry. If they dare to speak out against their vajra master, their speech would be considered slanderous and irreverent and in violation of the first root downfall.
The Kalachakra Tantra that the 14th Dalai Lama practices is a form of Tantric Vajrayāna too, also known as the Highest Yoga Tantra. It is proclaimed that one can correspond to “the unsurpassed dharma” through the cultivation of the Kalachakra Tantra and consequently attain Buddhahood in a single lifetime. This so-called speedy tantric path to Buddhahood is not only groundless in the Buddha Dharma but also its transmission constitutes the most grievous transgression of deception in the three realms and results in karmic retribution in the Avici hell. This consequence applies to all the other dharma-kings, living tulkus, and rinpoches as well, since even if they do not cultivate the Kalachakra Tantra per se, their practice is nonetheless the sexual Couple-Practice under a different name.
The generations of Dalai Lamas have all been theocratic rulers, and in Tibetan “Buddhism,” their status as an honorable guru is unshakable. All previous Dalai Lamas believed that the Highest Yoga Tantra within the Tantric Vajrayāna can take one to the swift realization of Buddhahood in one lifetime. The current Dalai Lama too inherits this doctrinal heritage, which is why Tibetan "Buddhists" regard the Couple-Practice Tantra of the Highest Yoga Tantra as its core and most important cultivation.
The Couple-Practice Tantra dictates sexual intimacy between the root guru and his disciples, a relationship that not every disciple can instantly or completely accept. The first root downfall, therefore, serves as a precaution against the leakage of any disgraceful, scandalous accounts of the sexual relationship. Even a condescending thought is deemed a violation.
“… [?āntipa's] Jewel lamp Commentary on the Black Yarnari Tantra says:
Are masters only those who have bestowed consecration? [Response:] Those who have bestowed a consecration, taught you a tantra, and those from whom you have received instructions about the activity [associated with the practice of that tantra] are masters. All three of these – free from envy and wanting to help – are masters.”
These three criteria for a “vajra master” laid down by Ati?a’s teacher ?āntipa - “Those who have bestowed a consecration, taught you a tantra, and those from whom you have received instructions about the activity [associated with the practice of that tantra] are masters. Having all three of these, free from envy and wanting to help are masters” - are largely the same as those given by other tantric patriarchs, except that ?āntipa added “free from envy and wanting to help” into the equation. All tantric practitioners who take up the Couple-Practice would have already taken the samaya, which comes with the unwritten, implicit rule that one must not refuse a tantric practitioner’s request to practice the Couple-Practice. Because of this, ?āntipa demanded practitioners to be “willing to help” such that they would eagerly assist everyone to derive pleasure from the Couple-Practice. Insomuch that this is the goal, they should certainly refrain from jealousy when their partners are practicing tantric yoga with others, for that is the quintessential spirit of the samaya.
Gurus of Tantric “Buddhism” are all of the opinion that a disciple owes his achievement in the tantric Vajrayāna to the instruction of the root guru. For this very reason, the belittling of masters precedes all other injunctions. Moreover, a vajra master does not transmit the tantric Vajrayāna to one disciple at a time, but always to multiple students. The “bestowing of consecration” is indeed quite “demanding” on them. Therefore, a master is required to be “willing to help” to make sure they would be engaging in the Couple-Practice every day with disciples to demonstrate the attaining of dual operations of bliss and emptiness. While ?āntipa requires a guru master to be dispassionate and unenvious, is it possible and reasonable to ask their students to be equally tolerant and unaffected? It is simply inevitable that the intense competition for a master’s attention would engender animosity and inappropriate thoughts and speech toward the master. In view of this, the first root infraction is absolutely necessary to prevent and curtail potential conflicts amongst disciples.
The Tantric Vajra Vehicle is unique in that it calls for a male and a female to practice together. This creates a situation extremely vulnerable to rivalry when a guru master has to engage in polygamous sexual practice with more than one student. Even if a disciple is eager and enthusiastic about the Couple-Practice after receiving the “secret empowerment,” intense jealousy might drive a person to lose control of her tongue when her teacher has to give attention to others. Without this first root infraction, this situation alone can wreak havoc in a community that cultivates Tibetan Tantric “Buddhism,” scornful words directed against gurus would be heard all over the place.
To guard against this potentially debilitating prospect, Tsongkhapa warns: “Anyone who hears a single verse from someone and does not treat them as a guru takes birth as a dog a hundred times and then is reborn as a scorpion.”
But is this warning against disparagement really as horrendous as Tsongkhapa prophesized? That depends on whether the “single verse” is truly a teaching of the Buddha Dharma. Nevertheless, it must be pointed out that in the case of a guru who misrepresents the sex-centered Couple-Practice as Buddhist cultivation, he himself will indeed pay the heavy karmic price - perhaps by taking rebirth as dogs and scorpions for numerous lifetimes, as Tsongkhapa threatened.
In reality, to the female disciples the first root infraction is as useless and ineffective at controlling them, as would be a wicked king’s unjustifiable order that “anyone who helps others to make a good living must be executed.” In the tantric Vajrayāna, the depraved masters who seduce women into adulterous relationships and bring themselves as well as their students down to the evil paths are lauded as those who can “give the empowerments,” whereas any whistleblowers who dare to expose such heinous acts are said to be destined for uncountable lifetimes as animals.
The tantric ethics are outrageously inverted and completely contravene the law of causality of the dharma-realm. The fourteen root infractions concocted by tantric gurus are meaningless and preposterous. They are even more absurd than other non-Buddhist precepts, such as the water precept, ox precept, fire precept, meditation precept, and so on. All these proscriptions are invented by unenlightened ordinary beings out of misconceptions about True Reality.
In short, the first root downfall against disparaging the master was established as a preventive measure because tantric patriarchs foresaw the chaos and rivalry within the master’s harem of consorts. Female disciples might go through a period of confusion after her sexual initiation by the master and believe that her master was sincerely trying to advance her Buddhist cultivation. However, after prolonged sexual practice, many come to see for themselves that sexual Tantra is irrelevant to the Buddha Dharma and the realization of the three-vehicle Bodhi. But at that point it might be too late or it might be too difficult to extricate themselves from the tantric sex cult. Why? It is because they have been brainwashed by tantric ethics for years and are fearful of violating the first root downfall. Some people go broke after donating huge amount of savings to their tantric community. Worst of all, the sexual exploitation brings physical distress and tormenting psychological trauma. Many struggle with the decisions to file a lawsuit or bring their case to the media - yet, many of them eventually decided to just swallow the painful experience.
This article is an English version of the Chinese edition published on
May 22, 2014.