In this Zen Koan a monk asks Chao-Chou, "Does a dog have Buddha nature?"
and Chao Chao replied "Mu"
Which means no, nothing or emptiness.
Can Tantric Buddhism really be considered Buddhism? The Buddha taught that life is suffering stemmed from desire (although further defined that anxiety is the seed of desire) and that to alleviate suffering one must cease desire by non-attraction, aversion and even ignorance. This is called the sutra path and one of two paths that the Buddha taught. The other path is called the Tantra, Mantra, or the Vajrayana path which is homeopathic to desire in that the antidote to a snakes poison is snake’s venom, a thorn can be removed by a thorn, a burn can be healed by a burn and ordinary desire can be transformed into sublime desire. Both paths which appear to be radically opposed to each other reach the same wisdom through different means of rejection to the existing societal structures.
The sutra path is exoteric and thus the primary Buddhism practiced by the laity consensus. This path is otherwise known as the perfection of wisdom. This wisdom is obtained by a lengthy and gradual training in generosity, morality, forbearance, perseverance, and meditative concentration. The practitioner of the sutra path can thus renounce desire and the world through the Buddhist ideal and concept of emptiness.
The Tantric path is geared for those whom have greater difficulty to renounce the world yet possess great compassion and sharp facultiesto not be deluded by attachment to samsara. Tantra most commonly purifies the mind in stages so that the practitioner can experience and understand their consciousness. The Vajrayana path utilizes magical ritualistic meditating techniques which greatly accelerates the practice and develops the same virtues and knowledge of the sutra path. The mantra path pinnacles in the instantaneous practice otherwise known as the “great seal” or Mahamudra. The initial stages of the great seal consists in dissolving ordinary perception into the perception of emptiness whereas the “completion stage” or “great seal”, cognizes the ultimate nature of mind itself and ceases perception of the ideation so that the luminosity of mind appears and the mind can be aware of its own emptiness. Tantra is thus much more than ritualistic techniques, but in fact acts as a meditative discharge of insights developed within the Mahayana philosophical tradition.
Both paths lead to the same wisdom. This is the middle course between the conventional and ultimate truths. That is the middle way between everything consisting of an inherent existence and the nihilism which denies phenomenon’s causal relations. Thus we find an emptiness of inherent existence which makes dependent origination possible. The conventional truth of appearances and the ultimate truth of emptiness can then be simultaneously comprehended. With no difference in the profundity of the highest wisdom between Sutra and Tantra, the superiority of the Tantric vehicle resides in the method.
The Tantric path reaches realization through yogic discipline of the mind. The Vajrayana yokes the creative powers of the mind by stimulating and then harnessing desire to use in focusing the five senses and aggregates (form, conception, volition, perception, and consciousness) with the mandala of the Buddha-mind. Man as the Mandala, is a microcosm of the macrocosm. Man and the world become fundamentally identical and thus sexuality, as ones of the world’s main driving forces, is reintegrated. This mastery of mind, emotions, sexual energy, mental and physical bodies, all act as an inner yoga to bliss. The spiritual body turns passions and lust into a divine love. The completion process finds that man’s essential nature is of bliss and not of conceptual thought but a basic state in which winds traverse the nadis channels and are sealed by mind-body with the consort.
Human beings experience their bodies and their sexuality in many different ways which can be a vivid abuse of desire or a sensual religious experience. Desire can act as an offering to enlightenment where the blissful mind sees the true nature of things and can offer and receive without attachment. Integrating the two truths, the yin and the yang, the womb and diamond, can be expressed as a sexual union of the god or Buddha with his female consort representing his energy. Sakti, or Kundalini energy, is a feminine serpentine energy which is coiled around the base of the spine. Usually sleeping, this energy can be awakened to traverse the nadis channels and rise up the spinal column to the Ajna Cakra behind the center of the eyebrows and even fly beyond the body for the heavens. The energy is pumped up into the sky by winds produced with Tantric rites such as pounding Mantras (chants) with repeated utterances and breathing techniques which often involve the five normally forbidden ritual substances of liquor, meat, fish, seminal fluids and the self. The Yaksini or practitioner gives the body as a sacrifice of food for the Goddess and liberated of a suffering existence the bonds are broken and the soul joins in union with the Sakti to fly.
Sexuality has a great capacity to offend however through boldly defying the social norms there is salvation to be found. Tantra is not a degeneration of Buddhism influenced by persuasion of a corrupting culture but rather a highly philosophical and ritual synthesis geared to realize the notion of the two truths and alleviate suffering by transforming desire through the most efficient expedient means possible. By placing desire in the service of liberation rather than sacrificing the world for liberations sake, desire is reinstated with the perspective of salvation which implies a certain disposition of the Tantric practitioners relationship with the cosmos as integrated within an all-embracing system of micro-macro cosmic correlations. Tantric Buddhism is thus really Buddhism and not a completely autonomous system that replaces and surpasses all that has come before but truly acts as a supplement to the traditional path of Buddhism.
Newman, John, Vajrayoga in Kalacakra Tantra
Faure, Bernard Japanese Tantra, the Tachikawa-ryu and Ryobu Shinto
Lopez, Donald S. Jr. Meditation on Emptiness
White, David Gordon. Kiss of the Yogini
White, David Gordon. Tantra in Practice