Questioner: I have heard the path of Tantra described as dangerous. Why is it dangerous?
Ngakma Nor’dzin: Tantra is dangerous because the Lama engages with our neuroses to transform them into enlightened view and activity. If we maintain our vows and commitments with the Lama, that is wonderful – because we begin to experience the enlightened play within our neuroses. We begin to become more transparent to ourselves. However, if we do not maintain our vows and commitments with the Lama, we spiral back at high velocity into the neuroses from which we have experienced incomplete release. If we lose our trust in the Lama all we have left to fall back on is our trust in our own neurotic state. This spiral back into neurosis becomes hellish.
Q: So can Sutrayana be dangerous too?
NN: Yes and no. Sutra is not dangerous in the way that Tantra is dangerous, because one does not have the Lama. Commitment to the Lama is a high voltage experience. But Sutra is not potent in that particular way, so there is not the high voltage hazard. With Sutra I do not have the opportunity that the Lama provides – of allowing me to short-circuit my neuroses. With Sutra I have the safe method of working through my neuroses slowly and systematically in order to see them as empty. The Vajrayana Lama on the other hand enables the short-circuit process of facilitating experience of the wisdom aspects of neurosis.
This method frees me from the need to dismantle my neuroses one by one. The danger with Vajrayana lies in the necessity of utter trust and utter reliance on the Lama. It’s like riding the tiger. If I dismount I will be eaten alive by my own neuroses.
The danger with Sutrayana is simply the danger of error – of mistaking renunciation as ‘truth’ rather than seeing it as ‘method’. If I mistake renunciation as truth I fall into the erroneous view that form is fundamentally flawed. Then I become puritanically austere in my interaction with others. The process of continually letting go of desire and aversion becomes constricting. I may develop a police-state mind in which I always condemn form to the confines of samsara prison. Determined ‘mindfulness’ can become a joyless lack of spontaneity, and the view that ‘everything is empty’ can become nihilistic – I could forget that emptiness is form.
NN: Believing that the view of lack of inherent identity denies the view of identity existing in the moment. In everyday terms this can manifest as coldness and severity because nothing in the phenomenal world is seen as having value.
Q: And could there be an error of view with Vajrayana…?
NN: I could be open to the error of eternalism. Because I recognise that Vajrayana is incredibly rich in meaning, I could become laissez-faire with regard to form – regarding my entire neurotic state as a playground of transformation in which I am free to indulge, outside the guidance of my Lama. The Vajrayana view can be distorted and interpreted as ‘it is fine to be however I want to be’. Since all manifestations are viewed as having the potential for enlightenment, I could misinterpret this as permission to be and act without regard for others.
I could excuse my inappropriate behaviour as ‘crazy wisdom’ when in fact it is inconsiderate lack of awareness. My ground of kindness and awareness could become mislaid in the plethora of symbolism.