Classic and Contemporary Buddhist Works

The Bliss of Inner Fire - Preface

Heart Practice of the Six Yogas of Naropa

Editors’ Preface

The Bliss of Inner Fire combines the last two major teachings given by Lama Thubten Yeshe (1935–84), both commentaries on Lama Je Tsongkhapa’s text Having the Three Convictions, itself a commentary on the Six Yogas of Naropa, a completion stage practice of Highest Yoga Tantra. Lama Yeshe’s first teaching on the Six Yogas was given to 150 students at Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa, his center near Pomaia in Italy, during a three-week retreat-style course that began in mid-December 1982. In June 1983, Lama taught on the Six Yogas for two weeks to 100 students in another retreat-style course, this time at Vajrapani Institute, his center in northern California.

Lama Yeshe’s main emphasis during both courses was on the practice of inner fire (Tib. tummo), the first of the Six Yogas. Lama said that covering all of the subjects in Lama Tsongkhapa’s text was not his goal, and in fact he taught in detail only about a third of it. Before both courses, Lama gave a Heruka Chakrasamvara initiation, and he subsequently explained the inner fire techniques in relation to this deity.

During both courses, Lama gave an oral transmission of the text in Tibetan, interspersed with translations, experiential commentary, guided meditations, personal anecdotes, practical advice, jokes, pantomime, and much laughter. More than anything else, Lama wanted everybody to “taste” the practice of inner fire. He expected everybody to work hard and maintain a retreat regime. Between the discourses students meditated intensively on the techniques that had been explained, maintained periods of silence, and practiced the physical exercises associated with the practice. Again and again Lama stressed that he wanted everyone to act, to gain actual experience of inner fire, and not be content with mere intellectual understanding. He spent little time on the historical and philosophical background but was painstaking in his descriptions of the inner fire meditation techniques and the various preliminary practices.

Following the Introduction we have included a prayer traditionally used to invoke the blessings of the lineage lamas of the Six Yogas of Naropa.

In Part One, “The Six Yogas of Naropa,” Lama inspires us to practice tantra, especially inner fire, the foundation stone of the entire tantric path. After giving brief but inspiring biographies of the mahasiddhas Naropa and Lama Tsongkhapa, Lama emphasizes the need to practice rather than intellectualize.

Part Two, “Preliminary Practices,” deals briefly with the preliminaries to tantric practice: the common Mahayana preliminaries (the meditations of the graduated path to enlightenment) and the uncommon preliminaries (the general practices of receiving tantric initiation and observing vows and the specific tantric preliminaries of Vajrasattva practice and guru yoga).

Part Three, “Going Beyond Appearances,” introduces the generation stage of Highest Yoga Tantra, which involves developing the divine pride and clear appearance of a meditational deity through training to transform the ordinary experiences of death, intermediate state, and rebirth into the pure experiences of a Buddha. In this section, Lama Yeshe also explains the characteristics of body and mind according to tantra, with special emphasis on understanding the absolute nature, or emptiness, of the mind.

Part Four, “Awakening the Vajra Body,” discusses the actual preparatory practices for inner fire: the physical exercises that make the body serviceable; meditations on the channels, chakras, and syllables; and vase breathing meditation.

Part Five, “Discovering Totality,” contains Lama’s experiential teachings on the process of generating the inner fire; the culmination of the practice, the development of simultaneously born great blissful wisdom; and, with a brief discussion of the other five yogas, the completion of the tantric path to enlightenment.

Finally, in Part Six, “Living with Inner Fire,” Lama Yeshe offers practical advice on how to bring the practice of inner fire into daily life.

We have chosen to accurately transliterate all mantras and syllables, and a Sanskrit pronunciation guide (p. 187) has been included to aid readers. However, the essential advice is to pronounce mantras in the same way as the lama who gives you the oral transmission of the mantra. For other Sanskrit words, we have used a spelling that approximates their pronunciation. Interested readers can consult the table of foreign word transliterations (p. 188) for the actual transliteration of these words.
 

We offer our heartfelt thanks to Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche, His Holiness Sakya Trizin, Kirti Tsenshab Rinpoche, Khen Jampa Tegchog, Geshe Lama Könchog, Khijo Rinpoche, Geshe Tashi Tsering, Geshe Norbu Dorje, and Khenpo Tsultrim Gyatso for their patience and kindness in clarifying various technical aspects of the practices.

We also thank His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the transcript of whose teaching on Lama Tsongkhapa’s Having the Three Convictions in Dharamsala in 1990 was invaluable, as were Daniel Cozort’s Highest Yoga Tantra and Glenn Mullin’s Tsongkhapa’s Six Yogas of Naropa; Glenn Mullin for his innumerable editorial suggestions; Ven. Sarah Thresher and Alfred Leyens for transcribing material contained in the foreword; Ven. Helmut Holm for transcribing the Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa teachings; Paula Chichester and Roger Munro for transcribing the Vajrapani Institute teachings; Karon Kehoe for her earlier editing of these teachings; David Molk, Geshe Lobsang Donyo, and Samten Chhosphel for their translation of the lineage lamas prayers and Khensur Lobsang Tharchin for his kind assistance in locating the text; Ven. George Churinoff, Ven. Thubten Samphel, Ven. Ngawang Jigdol, Ven. Connie Miller, Tubten Pende, Sonam Rigzin, Jon Landaw, Merry Colony, Robert Beer, Martin Brauen, and Jampa Gendun for their suggestions and help; Timothy McNeill and David Kittelstrom of Wisdom Publications; and Peter and Nicole Kedge, whose material support and encouragement helped us to realize the project.

May everyone who reads The Bliss of Inner Fire be inspired to seek a tantric master, enter the supreme tantric path, and quickly achieve enlightenment for the sake of all living beings. May Lama Tenzin Osel Rinpoche, the reincarnation of Lama Yeshe, preserve the peerless teachings of Lama Tsongkhapa and complete the commentary on the Six Yogas of Naropa that Lama Yeshe began. As Lama said at the very end of the Vajrapani Institute course, nine months before he passed away, “If I am alive and you are alive, perhaps we will see each other again. The next time we will discuss in detail the illusory body, the dream experience, the clear light experience, transference of consciousness, and consciousness going into another body. These subjects are more profound and sophisticated. You should work now on what we have already covered, and we will pray that at some time we will do the rest of the Six Yogas of Naropa. If we cannot do them next year, we can do them next life.”

 

How to cite this document:
© Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche, The Bliss of Inner Fire (Wisdom Publications, 1998)

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