Tummo is an ancient Buddhist yoga form that produces internal heat within the body that is caused by a combination of specific exercises and meditation processes. It is sometimes referred to as the yoga of “inner heat”, “psychic heat” or “mystic heat”. It is an essential skill for Vajrayana Buddhist practitioners who are seeking to perfect the “completion stage” of Vajrayana practice. Vajrayana tantric practice, generally speaking, involves a “creation stage” wherein the practitioner develops a vision of a deity, or “yidam” and a “completion stage” wherein the visualization of the deity is disassembled to the naked emptiness of natural mind. This seems simple, but it is actually quite challenging and most Vajrayana practitioners practice their entire lives to develop this skill.
By visualizing the yidam (a word that means “tight mind” in Tibetan), the qualities of the deity take shape in increasing detail as a real living being albeit existent in mind only. Over time the created being becomes an avatar or a mental form that can be inhabited by real Buddha mind thereby creating a link between Buddha mind and the human mind. This takes considerable practice and skill to achieve. It takes considerable refinement of one’s inner awareness to develop the subtle insight necessary to distinguish the minute layers of concept and consciousness that mask the empty yet luminous true mind. For example, when most people attempt to experience the emptiness of mind, the do not actually reach the empty state, but rather, create a mental construct of emptiness that looks so much like the real thing that they begin to relate to the dream of emptiness instead of looking for the real thing.
The Introduction to Tummo Workshop
This ancient practice uses specific bodily exercises combined with breath and concentration to open the energy centers or chakras. The results of this yogic practice are loosening of the knots in our chakras. The physical exercises combined with breath control and meditation concentrate the mind on flaming the inner heat (tummo). Inner heat melts the obscuration within our central channel. Mind and breath flow together. The mind that rides the breath (prana) is our subtle mind. When we concentrate the subtle mind and breath in our energy centers this purifies and releases the karmic winds and ultimately awakens our primordial wisdom. The benefits of this practice are the transformation of negative emotions into their pristine forms of wisdom. On a more temporal level, we have less illness caused from obscurations and disease.
This workshop is designed to introduce participants to the yogic practice of Tummo and will also offer Tibetan Medicine Buddha healing sounds.
Complicating matters, in the Vajrayana world, consciousness itself is a construct that arises out of mind. We can even confuse consciousness for mind and frequently do. The Buddhist notions of consciousness and natural mind are two different phenomena. When the Vajrayana practitioner creates a visualization of a yidam, she is establishing a conscious thought like a cup that can carry certain contents just like words carry meaning. The yidam as a vessel can become a manifestation of real Buddha mind. It is a psychological trick of sorts. Because the human mind needs a language in which to understand its experience be it literal, graphical, mathematical or even musical, we can create a “language”, in this case a graphical image, if you will, to facilitate understanding. The vessel, though contrived can become a bridge of sorts to true Buddha nature. This creates a short cut to what Buddhists call Dharmadatu, the luminous emptiness that neither exists nor does not exist. “There is no Buddha, there is no not Buddha” is the famous Heart Sutra description of the true nature of mind. Hence, we say that true natural mind is “empty”.
“Completion stage” is the second part of the tantric method whereby the visualized deity is then dissolved, or more correctly “deconstructed” in the mind. During this deconstruction process, the practitioner can see the conscious process that both creates and deconstructs ordinary reality. You could say that Completion Stage is a forensic tool of sorts showing us how reality gets constructed while exposing the delusional nature of what we call reality. The delusional or constructed nature of consciousness becomes clear. The point of the completion stage is to become aware of the layers of delusion that make up consciousness until it is stripped bare thereby allowing us to see the natural empty state of true mind that Buddhists call “sunyata” (pronounced, Śūnyatā). Emptiness, is a poor English translation of “sunyata” and can confuse what sunyata really means. Sunyata can also be translated as “selflessness”, “voidness” or “empty of meaning”, but none of these translations are entirely accurate. Sunyata is a state of awareness wherein one can experience the true nature of mind in its uncontrived state before it manifests anything that can be confused for a dream, thought or reality. It has no inherent existence and yet is possessed of great luminosity meaning that any thought or concept that takes form in this emptiness radiates as if to take on some perceivable form so that we can see it and relate to it. If you clear your mind and imagine complete emptiness (this is not real sunyata, but it is close enough for our purposes) and then imagine an apple, you can actually see the apple as if it were real. If your powers of concentration are strong enough, you can visualize considerable detail around this “mind apple”. Is the apple real? No, but yet it has some tangible reality in your consciousness to the point that you can relate to it. You can turn it in your mind. You can imagine taking a bite of it and even imagine how it tastes. It does not exist and yet it does not not exist either. This is the nature of all reality even among the apples that we can touch and eat. While an apple that we can eat has a more convincing manifestation, it does not inherently exist.
One of the greatest hurdles to experience sunyata during completion stage is to get the mind to sit still enough to notice the layers of thought and consciousness for the delusions that they are and to observe how they conspire to create a reality. Because consciousness consists of thoughts and thoughts are generated by a type of energy passing through our bodies and especially our brain, (think electricity flowing through the microprocessor of your computer) this energy has the potential to create random mental phenomena if it is allowed to wander through the body willy-nilly. This random mental phenomena captures our attention and distracts us making it nearly impossible to experience the stillness that lies at the heart of our true mind. Tibetans call this effervescent flow of energy “energy winds” or prana. In order to get the mind to quiet itself, one must control the energy winds and get them to flow in an orderly fashion. When explained to beginners this process is often called “taming the wild horse” or “calm abiding”. Without the skill of calm abiding, there is no way to experience the stillness of the true nature of mind.
It should be noted that the chaotic flow of energy winds can cause more than mental turbulence. Energy that pools and builds in the wrong places in the body can cause disease and mental problems that can ultimately manifest as very real disease. For this reason much of Tibetan medicine is based on the management of energy winds in ways not unlike Pranic Healing and some forms of Ayurvedic medicine.
Tummo is an ancient yoga that helps the practitioner learn how control the energy flowing through the body. In this particular technique, the practitioner learns to generate inner heat in the body by using breath and the manipulation of energy inside the network of subtle conduits referred to as chakras. Tummo has the additional advantage of demonstrating for the practitioner the intricate relationship between mind and body. The heat generated by Tummo is not imaginary. It can melt snow. In fact, the ancient way to test whether or not a practitioner had mastered Tummo was to douse the practitioner’s clothing with water and have them sit outside in the snow until their clothes were dry. Tummo is that effective at generating inner heat.
Dr. Pasang Yonten Arya has described Tummo in the context of Vajrayana practice:
The psychic heat Drod is produced by the space particles and the heat manifested from the friction of the wind element. This is another fundamental element as it supports and gives power to the consciousness, like the power of the fire that can launch rockets to space. The power is called medrod or 'digestion fire' in medicine and Tummo in yoga tantra. The heat (fire) sustains life and protects the body/mind. The psychic fire increases the wisdom, burns the ignorant mind of the brain and gives realization and liberation from the darkness of unawareness. That is why yoga describes Tummo as the aggressive fire which ignites from below navel, pierces the chakras one by one and reaches the sky of the crown chakra. The tummo burning arrow married with the celestial bride leads to enjoy the life of transformation of samsara. They give birth to the son of awareness from the blissful garden of Vajrayogini.
Naropa entered the famous Buddhist University at Nalanda where he studied both Sutra and Tantra. He gained the reputation of a great scholar and faultless debater.
Naropa’s yogic practice was unsurpassed. He eventually created a practice guide for yogis that has become known as the Six Yogas of Naropa. These yogas are standard training for Tibetan lamas of the Nyingma and Kagyu lineages. The purpose of the Six Yogas of Naropa is to take the practitioner to the deepest understanding of tantric practice.
Because Tummo is considered a relatively high tantric practice, it has been generally only taught to advanced practitioners. In recent decades, however, some Tibetan teachers have been making two of the Naropan yogas available to lay practitioners: Tummo and Powa. Powa is the yoga of ejecting ones consciousness through the crown chakra at the moment of death.
Tummo requires transmission to students by a qualified teacher. One should never attempt to learn this practice from books or unqualified teachers. Lama Lobsang Palden has these qualifications.
About Lama Lobsang Palden
Lama Lobsang was discovered as a tulku as a young boy, when Jungan Rinpoche recognized him as the reincarnation of the Nyingma guru yoga master Rinzen Karma Dorje. He studied all aspects of Tibetan Buddhist philosophy and practice at Amdo Tashi Kyil and Kaja To Monasteries in Eastern Tibet. Lama is a gifted energy healer who has received His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s blessing to practice healing work. He learned Tibetan Yantra Yoga and Tibetan Healing Massage from Rinzen Geshe Nyima, a Tibetan doctor who was a healing lama, and he learned much from his grandfather, who was himself a healing lama and yogi.
Lama’s teachers in Tibet also included Geshe Dawa, Khedrub Gyamtso, Tse Lobsang Palden, and Khandrolma, a respected Khandro who is also his aunt. He left Chinese-occupied Tibet at age 18, escaping across the Himalayas on foot. He lived at Tashi Kyil Monastery in Dehra Dun, India, for 10 years. He has received many teachings from H.H. the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan masters, including the 10th Panchen Lama, H.H. the Sakya Trizin, and Mindrolling Trichen Rinpoche. He is both a Rime and a Ngakpa lama who teaches all four schools of Tibetan Buddhism. He is known and beloved for his deep, abiding respect for the Three Jewels. He has and continues to travel the world sharing and teaching the precious Buddhist Dharma.
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