The Steps of the Gradual Path

explained by Lama Tharchin Rinpoche 1997 


The Vajrayana path has four levels of practice connected with the four initiations. The first initiation is the Vase initiation, connected with the Development stage practices: meditating on the deity of the three roots— Lama, Yidam and Dakini. The practices consist of drawing the deity to oneself accomplishing the deity by realizing the ordinary and supreme essence blessings, and then performing the four Buddha activities. The purpose of Development stage practice is to destroy belief in and grasping at ordinary appearances by realizing emptiness of appearance. The result is that one realizes Buddhahood in the Nirmanakaya Buddhafield.

The second initiation is the Secret initiation, connected with the practice of the six Yogas: Tummo, Dream, Bardo, Phowa, Illusory Body and Clear Light. The channels are freed from blockages. The practices destroy grasping and attachment to ordinary speech and energy, using breathings and physical exercises. The result is realizing Buddhahood in tube Sambhogakaya Buddhafield.

The third initiation is the Wisdom initiation, connected with the Path of skillful Means. One experiences the four stages of bliss and the realization of the union of bliss and emptiness. This method of practice trains the mind and tigle (vital essence) and destroys grasping at impure perceptions. The result is Buddhahood at the Dharmakaya level.

The fourth initiation is the Precious Word initiation. One meditates according to the two stages of Dzogchen, Trekchö and Togal. In Trekchö, the practitioner realizes the separateness of mind and awareness, and the union of emptiness and awareness. The training consists of being introduced to the view of one’s own naked awareness and Buddha mind. After understanding this, one meditates on it. Then, one is taught to develop through action. In Togal, four stages of experience spontaneously arise. The purpose of Togal is to attain the rainbow light body. At this time the subtle defilements are destroyed and in this life one attains Buddhahood in the Dharmakaya Buddhafield. This is the ultimate Dharma practice, resulting in the Swabhavakya, which is the essence of the Dharmakaya.

Each student will participate at their own level of practice connected with one of the four initiations. At the beginning of the retreat, the three Root initiations of Lama, Yidam and Dakini will be given, alone with the oral transmissions (lung) and teachings. The daily schedule will consist of four sessions. During the first session we will do Ngondro (preliminary practices), Riwo Sangha, Guru Rinpoche, Yeshe Tsogyal and Red Tara. During the second session I will give individual instruction. The third session will consist of teaching and practice in accordance with the individual student’s level. In the fourth session we will do sitting meditation, Vajrakilaya and Dharmapalas practices.”