Below are a selection of references relating to tantric consort practice which we feel are of relevance to the current situation with Geshe Michael Roach.
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- His Holiness 14th Dalai Lama
- Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche
- Dr. Alex Berzin
- Lama Tsong Khapa
- Lama Atisha
From “Life as a Western Buddhist Nun Conference”, Dharamsala, India, March 4th 1996
“According to our tradition, we are monastics and are celibate, and we practice the Tantrayana simultaneously. But the way of practice is through visualization. For example, we visualize the consort, but we never touch. We never implement this in actual practice. Unless we have reached a stage where we have completely developed the power to control all our energy and have gained the correct understanding of sunya (emptiness, reality), unless we truly possess all the faculties through which those negative emotions can be transformed into positive energy, we never implement practice with an actual consort. Although we practice all the higher practices, as far as implementation is concerned, we follow Vinaya. We never follow according to Tantrayana. We can’t drink blood!! (everyone laughs). In terms of actual practice, we have to follow the stricter discipline of Vinaya. In ancient India, one of the reasons for the degeneration of the Buddhadharma was the wrong implementation of certain tantric explanations.”
His Holiness has also said:
“As far as my own understanding goes, the two claims—that you are not subject to precepts and you are free — these are the result of incorrect understanding. Even though one’s realization may be higher than the high beings one’s behavior should conform to the human way of life. Criticize openly. That’s the only way. The fact that the teacher may have done many other good things should not keep us silent.”
And in an interview in February 2005
“The best thing is, whenever exploitation, sexual abuse or money abuse happen, make them public.”
Lama Zopa Rinpoche is the Spiritual Director of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT).
In a letter to Geshe Michael Roach, following the three year retreat, Lama Zopa explains that a monk taking a consort is not generally accepted, and calls on Geshe Michael to prove his claims, something that he has not done to this day.
“This is my response to your letter. This is what I think if I can express. If your conduct will be the way you explained in the letter then it will not be normal from the monasteries point of view or according to the monasteries point of view.
Where the need is more important than what is to abandoned (gagcha le skyang gopa chewa) along with that one should be able to perform other miracle powers, show control or freedom like Milarepa or like any of those yogi’s such as Dukpa Kunleg , then in this way people can see the realizations and power and so devotion grows in them.
Even they have mistaken appearance, people see their special qualities of showing control and high realizations, in this way seeing the mistakes does not destroy peoples faith and instead they see only qualities.”
Dharmarakshita (circa 10th century AD) composed several important Buddhist texts including ‘Wheel of Sharp Weapons’ and ‘Peacock in the Poison Grove’.
From Peacock in the Poison Grove:
48. Though clad in monk’s robes, you do not observe the precepts, Your senses remain immersed in diverse acts of lustfulness, And you criticize and denigrate the noble ones— You should be expelled by the dakinis to the life beyond.
49. For the sake of material gain you assume the guise of a noble one: Like dogs and pigs you indulge in lustful acts, Deceiving all with the claim that this is tantra— You should be burned in a hearth by vajra holders.
53. When dangerous mystics who possess little learning See common visions, they acquire arrogance of attaining supreme feats. Those who lead the foolish with no graduated stages of the path Should be brought to the level of dogs by the learned ones.
Dr. Alex Berzin is an American scholar and author who spent 29 years in India, studying and practicing Tibetan Buddhism. There, he served as translator primarily for his teacher, the late Tsenzhab Serkong Rinpoche, and occasionally for His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Dr. Berzin has taught extensively in universities and Buddhist centers in more than seventy countries since the early 1980s.
The below holds relevance to Geshe Michael Roach’s instructions to his students that they have his permission to give initiation to other students as soon as they have taken initiation from him, even if they have not performed the pre requisite retreat and fire puja. give initiation to others
Three Auxiliary Thick Actions
Some texts supplement the list of eight secondary tantric vows with three auxiliary thick actions that also hamper our tantric practice. The twentieth-century Gelug master Pa ka (Pha- -kha Byams-pa bstan-‘dzin ‘phrin-las rgya-mtsho), for example, included the three in the list of secondary tantric vows when he expanded the First Panchen Lama’s Extensive Six-Session Yoga (Thun-drug rnal-‘byor rgyas-pa) with the recitation of the lists of vows.
(1) Improperly engaging in mandala-rites, such as without a retreat
We may confer empowerment on others or perform the self-initiation (bdag-‘jug) to restore our lost or weakened tantric vows only if we have completed the meditation retreat of the appropriate Buddha-figure, repeating the prescribed mantras hundreds of thousands of times, and offered the concluding fire-puja (sbyin-sreg).
‘The Lamp of the Path to Enlightenment,’ by Lama Atisha (982-1053 AD), is a major text upon which the Lam Rim is based. The text was written at a time when the teachings were in decline due to practitioners using tantra as an excuse to take part in worldly pleasures, thinking supposed tantric acts over-ride pratimoksha ethics. Atisha showed that tantra can only function if ethics and sutra were the foundation.
In the below verse, Lama Atisha states that a celibate monk taking a physical consort is a downfall of total defeat during initiation. Thus, logically, this practice would be a root downfall at any other time.
64. Those who keep a vow of celibacy should not participate In either the secret or wisdom empowerments, Because this is emphatically forbidden In the Adibuddha Mahatantra.
65. Any ascetic observing a vow of celibacy Who participates in those empowerments Will ruin their vow of ascetic practice, Through having engaged in a forbidden act.
66. The ascetic who commits Any of the expulsory transgressions Will surely fall into the lower realms And, therefore, never achieve any siddhis.