Buddhist Meditation and Tantras
I've pondered about the marriage of psychotherapy and buddhist meditation lately. It is common for zen and theravada buddhists to think that it is necessary or at least highly beneficial to combine the two. I do not deny the benefits of psychotherapy and certainly encourage those so inclined to get down and dirty with it. However, my message to all those sutrayana practitioners who hold such views, is to look into tantric practices. Based on bhumi analysis, there's a lot sutrayana is not tapping or the common pedagogy is not tapping. So, my statement is that although it is said that there are three ways to liberation: sutra, tantra and dzogchen; there doesn't seem to exist a sutra group that'd really make progress in their practice, which leads them to falsely think that there'd be something lacking in emptiness meditation, which I don't think is the case at all.
My personal experience is that traumas and shadow work is part of the practice. This becomes evident after most of the mind is seen empty because we still keep having thoughts and emotions, that no longer offer material for emptiness meditation. At this point, one has much stability and it is rather easy to see how the hurtful or traumatic patterns still continue. Healing comes with togetherness and acceptance of these patterns, just like insight comes from emptiness meditation (lhaktong). I see no difference between the two, although many do. For this reason, I think it is not the buddhist paradigm but the particular schools that are lacking. I could present a more detailed criticism of zen and theravada that are nowadays often married with Western psychology but will save it for other time.
In the same vein, I've thought of all those bad boys and girls of vajrayana who willingly or being blinded by their confusion hurt and abused others. I used to put the blame on lack of ethics, lack of practice and lack of realisation. Bhumi analysis has well revealed the unfinishedness of their practice and I think that erratic behaviour of vajrayanis is much affected by these factors. But then, I began to think if there is something else to it, as well, perhaps something lacking in vajrayana buddhist training.
What separates tantric buddhism from tantric hinduism?
There is an obvious difference of views between hinduism and buddhism. In practice, in my limited understanding and experience, it seems that long time ago, probably to make more progress in practice, buddhism started to emphasize dharmakaya, transparent-nonsubstantial-selfless-nonlocal and non-dimensional buddhanature, very strongly and de-emphasized the energetical, colourful, lively and expressive part of it (sambhogakaya). If you look at buddhist teachings, they are mostly about vipashyana, emptiness, returning self-charges into the colourless basic space (dharmakaya), with the help of compassionate motivation (bodhicitta).
It is my observation of myself and other buddhists that the over emphasis of dharmakaya makes people emotionally flat, even spiritual bypassers. Spiritual bypassing means that one's mental and emotional habits are bypassed, and not adressed and used for practice, due to too much emphasis on onepointed concentration and calmness (shamatha). Back in my zen days, I was mostly instructed shamatha with the result that after 4 years of full time training I was emotionally pretty much as lost and hurt as I was before. That's why I left zen. As a teacher myself, I would never teach anyone like that, especially those who wish to wake up!
More recently, I witnessed a proper out of proportions tantrum of a senior vajrayana monastic with more than 50 years of practice under the belt. It wasn't the first time I witnessed senior buddhist meditators go haywire but nevertheless from such a heavy weight, it was rather unexpected. In this persons case, this indicates spiritual bypassing, not lack of practice. Anyway.
Most buddhist schools put a lot of emphasis on shamatha which I think is contributing to this problem, giving buddhism and buddhists their distinctive tone (of emotional flatness). I think, this is because buddhism puts so much emphasis on dharmakaya, transparent nature and awareness of all phenomena and all the energetic play is given a secondary place. Compared to hinduism, buddhism is way more succesful in yoga because of the clarification and emphasis of seflessness/emptiness (anatta/sunyata) and its meditative applications in sutra and tantra. One the other hand, this very emphasis has produced many buddhas and bodhisattvas in the history of buddhism but nevertheless it seems to me that no existing system is problem free, i.e. is complete as a system.
Hindus, on the other hand, never made the forced (and artificial) split between clearness of awareness (shiva) and energetics of awareness (shakti). These two always go hand in hand. For this reason they, myself included in my days of hindu tantra, get caught up trances, bliss and exalted states of meditation. For this reason, their recognition of the natural state is entirely false and misleading, at least from the point of view of buddhism. Because hindu yogas do not point out emptiness, is the exact reason for their little success in yoga.
But then, hindu tantric practices of different deities, have a very different tone compared to those of tantric buddhism. I would say that hindu deities are emotionally more mature and elaborate, in other words, for one who has the view of emptiness, hindu deities can tap deeper and faster to the ultimate attainment of full buddhahood, full rainbow body, because they tap the energetic body (sambhogakaya) more efficiently.
There are some sources that say that at one point in time, during the so called mahasiddha era, before buddhist tantra grew out of hindu tantra, yoginis and yogis didn't make such a great distinction between the two, as is common nowadays. Maybe that's why there were so many mahasiddhas, fully realized female and male masters during that era.