Fourteen Root Tantric Vows

Fourteen Root Tantric Vows

(Excerpt from Living Buddha Lian-sheng’s Book 48: The Realization of The Guru — The Simple Annotation of Vajrayana’s Fourteen Root Tantric Vows)

1. Show disrespect for the guru in body, speech, and mind.
Explanation: The guru is transmitting the Dharma on behalf of the Buddha. He is the embodiment of the Triple Jewels. In Vajrayana, the first refuge is in the guru. The guru should be treated as a Buddha at all times. Therefore, before taking refuge, the disciple must seek to truly understand the guru. Otherwise, if he later regrets taking refuge, the disciple is disrespectful to the guru in body, speech, and mind. Once refuge is taken, one should respect and treasure one’s guru. By doing this, one can accumulate merit and gain achievement in the practice. If one slanders the guru, then one breaks the first of the Fourteen Root Tantric Vows and will descend to the Vajra Hell. If, after taking refuge, one discovers that the guru is really a fake without any achievement in practicing the Dharma, then one should leave the guru and take refuge in another genuine guru. However, as a Vajrayana practitioner, one should not criticize nor slander the former guru.

2. Have no regard for the rules laid down by the Buddha.
Explanation: There are many precepts in Sutrayana and Vajrayana Buddhism. These precepts are meant to prevent Buddhists from doing evil (for example: Five Precepts, Ten Virtuous Deeds, and Two Hundred Fifty Precepts). Vajrayana practitioners should observe all the precepts of Sutrayana and Vajrayana. By doing so, practitioners derive “discipline power”.

3. Accuse fellow vajra brothers and sisters.
Explanation: Vajrayana practitioners of the same school or different schools should never raise the thought of hatred or of accusation toward fellow practitioners. That is why True Buddha School has the following precept: “Respect fellow practitioners and pay homage to the Root Lineage Guru.” This is especially important.

4. Abandon compassion for sentient beings and be jealous of others.
Explanation: Vajrayana practitioners must not be jealous of others. Instead, they should develop loving kindness and compassion for other beings.

5. Relinquish bodhicitta due to difficulties.
Explanation: One should deliver sentient beings with compassion regardless of how evil the beings are. One should not retreat due to fear of difficulties. Since all sentient beings have the Buddha-nature, one should try to influence them without been afraid of difficulties, thus losing the right view of bodhicitta. Aspiring to deliver all sentient beings is the same as aspiring bodhicitta.

6. Slander the Sutrayana and Vajrayana scriptures by saying that they did not originate from Buddha Shakyamuni.
Explanation: Currently, in our society, there are many people who slander the sutras, saying that this sutra or that sutra is forged. It is better not to make any improper comment before one acquires a true understanding. Making improper comments is slander which breaks one’s vows.

7. Transmit Vajrayana teachings without obtaining the proper empowerment and credentials.
Explanation: Vajrayana teachings must be transmitted by someone who has the qualification of an acharya (master). The qualification can be validated either by one’s Root Lineage Guru or by the practitioner’s personal deity when he or she merged into the Ocean of Vairocana. Without the validation of the Root Lineage Guru or personal deity, one who engages in the teachings of Vajrayana and regards oneself as an acharya, is doing so without the proper empowerment and credentials. In other words, without the empowerment, there are no credentials, and one does not have the status of an acharya. Consequently, such a person cannot transmit any Vajrayana teachings.

8. Abuse and attach to the five skandhas.
Explanation: A guru in Vajrayana is like a Buddha, and practitioners of the Vajrayana are children of Buddha–dharma princes. Injuring others, abusing oneself and possessing a mind full of the five skandhas are incompatible with the vows of the Buddha.

9. Have skepticism or doubt about Emptiness or Existence.
Explanation: Emptiness and Existence should be treated as equally important. The “Emptiness of Mind” is the “Void of Mind”, which is an important Dharma to be realized, not one to be ignored.

10. Be friends with those who slander the Buddha, Dharma and harm other sentient beings.
Explanation: Although this appears to be in conflict with the fifth vow, it is not. We should try to deliver those who slander the Buddha, Dharma and harm other sentient beings. However, we should not be on the same side as those who engage in these behaviors, attempting to be their best friends and entertaining them.

11. Indulge in one’s own accomplishments and forget the purpose of practicing the Vajrayana.
Explanation: It is wrong if one often emphasizes one’s achievements, flaunts one’s superiority in dharma power, or forgets the original purpose of practicing the Vajrayana, which is to become a Buddha, help other sentient beings, and aspire bodhicitta.

12. Fail to transmit the authentic Dharma and obstruct others’ virtuous roots.
Explanation: A genuine guru must teach the authentic Dharma. By not doing so, he breaks his vow by not trying to deliver all sentient beings. Such behavior will obstruct their virtuous roots and is considered breaking his own vow.

13. Practice without a complete set of implements and materials.
Explanation: When cultivating or transmitting a Vajrayana practice, one must prepare a complete set of the required implements and materials. Otherwise, one is breaking the vow.

14. Despise women.
Explanation: We should not belittle the wisdom of women. This is the principle of equanimity.

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