Tasting the Essence of Tantra: A 4-Year Meditation Training Program with Rob Preece

Introduction

Tantra or Vajrayana is one of the most extraordinary aspects of Buddhism that emerged in India and became shaped and developed in its transmission through Nepal and into Tibet. Today this tradition is accessible to Westerners as Tibetan masters come to the West to teach. Many people are attracted to tantric practice but are not always able to make a deep connection to experience. The complexity of practice that has been developed in Tibet is not easy for us as Westerners to relate to and does not always suit the Western mind. Many people try to engage with these practices but struggle with this complexity and become disappointed when they do not seem to be attaining the results they may have wished for. To gain a genuine experience of this path we need to find ways to enable the particular psychological nature of our Western mind to be touched by this profound Eastern tradition. Tantra is a creative process and just as it evolved when it became Tibetan experience, so too it must evolve as it meets the Western mind in order that it genuinely becomes our experience.

Program Objectives:

    • To guide participants through a process of meditation training that begins to awaken a taste of tantra, not just intellectual knowledge
    • To bring together tantric practice and psychological understanding as per Lama Yeshe’s aspiration.
    • To gradually open students to the experience of how tantra works. Each retreat will build upon the experience of the retreat before to gradually enable the awakening of a taste of our innate nature expressed in tantric practice.
    • To work with one’s own psychological and emotional experience. As such, care will be taken to enable practice to be tailored to individual process.
    • To deepen connection to practice as well as clear some of the difficulties that can arise when embarking on more advanced practices.
    • To develop a sound relationship to the body and emotions by integrating the practices of Kum Nye and movement.


During the course there will be a gradual introduction to the primary deity practices of Kriya tantra and to some of the foundations for the practice of Higher tantra. As the course progresses participants will be supported to establish an on-going meditation practice, learn the processes of making offerings, creating sacred space, purification and healing.  Those who are able to participate in the entire program will find this is a good basis for further practice such as the Gnon Dro or preliminary practices as well as the practices of Higher Tantra.

Rob’s style of teaching is oriented to opening a dialogue around the material that is being explored. This is to maintain a spirit of exploration and creativity in the way tantra is integrated into Western experience rather than holding to rigid prescriptions of practice. Because of this, it is helpful to bear in mind that elements of the course may change as it unfolds to take into account what emerges as things progress and what is relevant to peoples experience.

Program pre-requisites:
Tbc by Rob.

Student Expectations:

  • Commit to daily practice between retreats supported by Rob and mentors connected with the training.

 

The course will consist of the following Modules:

Module 1, (completed) 22-24 May 2015: Becoming a stable vessel: In this module we will begin to work with the awareness of sensation, feeling and emotion within the body. This creates a sound basis of practice and a resource to help stabilise our relationship to our emotional life and the body. Within this we will explore the cultivation of a sense of definite emergence (renunciation) and refuge. This retreat will be supported by the practice of Shakyamuni Buddha.

 

Module 1 Learning Objectives:

  • To learn ways of being with feeling, emotion and sensation that become a stable resource in life.
  • To restore and open a healthy relationship to the body
  • Learning to listen to the inner wisdom that comes through a deeper relationship to the body and feeling.
  • Seeing the ways of being that bind us in unconscious ignorance
  • Cultivating the intention to awaken from these unconscious ways of being
  • Cultivating the quality of refuge in the three Jewels
  • Developing a relationship to the meditation of Shakyamuni Buddha

 

Module 2, (completed) 30 October -1 November 2015: Awakening right intention: During this retreat we will begin to explore the healing of some of our wounding to our sense of self through developing compassionate presence. On the basis of compassion for ourselves we will develop the practices of Tong Len and the meditations for awakening Bodhicitta, the aspiration to serve the welfare of others, entering the Bodhisattva path. This retreat will be supported by practices associated with the deity Chenrezig.

Learning objectives:

  • Cultivating a healthy sense of self acceptance through compassionate presence
  • Beginning to open the quality of compassionate presence for the sake of others
  • Deepening the experience of compassion and loving kindness through Tong Len (Taking and giving)
  • Opening the heart of Bodhicitta as the intention at the route of Tantric practice
  • Taking the Bodhichitta Vow
  • Developing a relationship to Chenrezig through meditation.

 

Module 3, 20-22nd May 2016: Discovering the nature of mind: In this module we will bring together the insight of emptiness from Madyamika philosophy with meditation on the nature of mind in Mahamudra. We will look at the cultivation of the insight of emptiness and explore the stages for developing the practice of tranquil abiding and deepen the understanding of Buddha nature, Dharmakaya as the innate clear light nature of mind. This retreat will be supported by introducing the deity Manjushri.

Learning objectives:

  • Developing the capacity of clear present awareness resting in the nature of mind from the Mahamudra tradition
  • Establishing an understanding of the stages of tranquil abiding and the obstacles to be overcome in the process.
  • Gain a taste on a more felt level of the underlying presence of Dharmakaya as the ground of being
  • Developing a relationship to the deity Manjushri

 

 

Module 4,  28-30th October 2016: The nature of Deity practice: In this module we will look more deeply at the psychology of deity practice and the sadhana developing our relationship to the sacred through prayers, offerings, prostrations and creating sacred space. We will look at the deity as gateway to our innate Buddha nature and how visualisation and mantra bring a taste of the deities quality.We will also explore the meaning and significance devotion and the role of the deity in guru yoga. This retreat will be oriented around the practice of Green Tara.

Learning Objectives:

  • To experience a sense of the sacred in deity practice as we create the environment in which the deity is invoked.
  • Learning the essential heart of the practice of sadhana or method of awakening the deity.
  • Learning the rituals of offering and exploring a personal creative relationship to prayer in relationship to the deity
  • Learning to create sacred space and the sustaining of a deity practice in the context of retreat
  • Developing the relationship to the deity Tara

 

Module 5, (upcoming) 19th- 21st May 2017: Awakening the energy body: In this retreat we will shift attention to developing awareness of the energy body, introducing the processes of healing and purification and the significance of working with exercises such as Kum Nye. We will explore the nature of the Chakras and their function and the relationship the elements of nature. We will look at the kind of energy problems that can arise in the body because of our emotional life or through meditation, and how they can be healed. We will explore the roll of an alchemical vessel in the process of transformation and healing. The practice of Vajrasattva will be introduced as a basis for healing.

Learning Objectives:

  • To increase sensitivity and awareness of the nature of the energy-wind body and how it moves within us
  • To learn ways of being with energetic processes that emerge in meditation
  • To gain a deeper experience of the processes of healing and purification and how they can be applied in practice
  • Integrating the relationship between the deity and the energy body as a felt experience
  • Developing the beginning of the relationship to the deity Vajrasattva
  • Gaining more immediate connection to the innate nature of mind through the practice of Vajrasattva

 

 

Module 6, (upcoming) 27th- 29th October 2017: Working with the shadow: During this retreat we will begin to look at the transformation and purification of the shadow. We will go deeper into ways of working with the energy of our emotions and psychological patterns looking at their purification and transformation through symbolic ritual. We will explore the relationship between peaceful and wrathful deities, introducing the principle of transformation used in higher tantra practice. This retreat we will introduce the deity Vajrapani and the fire practice of Dorjekhadro.

Learning Objectives:

  • Learning to recognise aspects of our nature that need to heal and transform
  • Learning ways to purify and transform emotional and psychological patterns
  • Deepening the understanding of the archetypal nature of deities in the transformation process
  • Understanding the meaning of the alchemical vessel in the process of transformation
  • Learning to work with channels of transformation in life
  • Learning the practice of Vajrapani.
  • Learning the fire ritual practice of Dorjekhadro as a means of purification.

 

Module 7: The Masculine and Feminine: In this module we will begin to look at the inner and outer relationships between the masculine and feminine expressed in the nature of tantric daka/dakini and Jung’s anima/animus. We will begin to explore the significance of our search for union on psychological and energetic level. We will look at the meaning behind the divisions of mother and father tantra. This process will be supported by deepening the practice of Heruka Vajrasattva looking towards the practices of Higher tantra.

Learning Objectives:

  • Opening up our relationship to our male and female sides and how they live within us
  • Recognising the meaning of the daka/dakini as profound aspects of our nature
  • Understanding and experiencing a taste of our innate unified male and female nature in the aspect of the deity Vajrasattva/Varjaprabhavati
  • Understanding the outer inner and secret aspects of our male/female nature and their awakening
  • Understanding the psychological significance of the journey of Mother tantra.

 

Module 8: The Mandala and Visions of wholeness: In this final retreat we will begin to draw together elements of practice that have gone before into a more cohesive whole. This will emphasise the relationship between form and emptiness and its expression in the mandala as a symbol of the homeostatic nature of the psyche. We will explore the 5 Buddha families and 5 elements and their contribution to the psychological nature of wholeness. During this week will also begin to look at the way forward in terms of individual practice and further personal retreat.

Learning objectives:

  • Gaining an experience of the nature and meaning of the mandala as a vision of totality
  • Recognising the non-dual relationship between form and emptiness
  • Bringing the relationship to the process of the retreats to a sense of completion both individually and as a group working together
  • Looking at ways to carry practice out into the work or life
  • Learning how to bring together the conditions for personal retreat
  • Exploring where personal practice may need to go from here.
  • Any other business!


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These retreats will be at approximately 6 month intervals and participants will be asked to maintain daily meditation practice between retreats, following the practices that have been taught. There will be mentoring support to help address individual difficulties that may emerge in this process. Participants are encouraged to look at their own personal experience in this journey and take part in discussion around this as it helps practice to become more relevant to individual needs.


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If you would like to attend it will be necessary for us to have a clear idea of your experience and background particularly in relation to the Tibetan tradition, as well as your meditation and retreat experience. We will also need to know of any mental health issues that you have had as well as any particular physical disabilities that might be relevant to this process. While it is preferable for the sake of continuity for participants to attend the entire program it will be possible to attend some of these retreats individually. This will depend upon the availability of space and the experience and background of those concerned.

 

 

Recommended Reading:

The Wisdom of Imperfection, The Psychology of Buddhist Tantra, The Courage to Feel, Preparing for Tantra, by Rob; Introduction to Tantra, by Lama Yeshe; The Three Principle Aspects of the Path, by Geshe Sonam Rinchen; An Ocean of Ultimate Meaning, by Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche; Awakening the Heart, by John Welwood.