Buddhas such as Padmasambhava and Yeshé Tsogyel are capable of engaging with multiple partners because their tralam-mé is non-dual and therefore incapable of being disturbed. The tralam-mé of an enlightened being is compassionately chameleoid and dances with the poetic turbulences of anyone who is open. When Buddhas engage sexually with dualised beings, those beings are vastly benefited.
Those who are familiar with our commentary on the five precepts will realise that the language employed is particular to us. The details of the text however, are traditional. The way in which the precepts relate to the inner tantras is particular to the Ug-dong Khandro Nying-thig mDo (Ug mDong Kha’ ’gro sNying thig mDo – Uluka-mukha Dakini Upadesha Sutra).
’ug—or uluka in Sanskrit—means ‘owl’. Dong—or mukha—means ‘faced’. Thus: ’ug-dong Khandro Nying-thig mDo’ means ‘Heart Essence Sutra of the Owl-faced Dakini. The Owl-faced Dakini is the central yidam and Protectress of the Sutras as they are described in the language and through the view of Dzogchen. These teachings—with regard to sexuality—are detailed within ‘Entering the Heart of the Sun and Moon’ (Aro Books, 2009).
In the Ug-dong Khandro Nying-thig mDo the precept concerning sexual misconduct is linked specifically with the Khandro Pawo Nyi-da Mélong Gyüd (mKha’ ’gro dPa bo nyi zLa me long rGyud). In the Nyi-da Mélong, it is stated that ‘pawo-khandro reflection’ is obfuscated by multiple partners within the same time frame. Because of this we discourage ‘open relationship’ in our public teachings. As far as our own apprentices are concerned – open relationship and promiscuity are not deemed appropriate behaviour. It is deemed impossible to practice the Khandro Pawo Nyi-da Mélong Gyüd unless one is monogamous in one’s relationship. Serial monogamy is perfectly acceptable within these terms of reference – as long as the time frames involved do not become ‘stroboscopic’.
Monogamy is advocated because the profound nyam of ‘khandro-pawo reflection’ arises by virtue of interactions between coruscations within the tralam-mé (khra lam me – ‘poetic turbulences’, or ‘vivid fire of resonance’) of the individuals who fall in love. Tralam-mé is an energetic within the subtle atmosphere of the body. These ‘poetic turbulences’ facilitate mirroring through the ‘rhyming’ of their coruscations.
This subtle yet powerful interplay allows entry into the visionary dimension in which our inner pawo or khandro can be realised. Through this method, and through the mélong-gazing methods of the Nyi-da Mélong, we can achieve realisation with extraordinary ease. The potent characteristics of these coruscations or ‘poetic turbulences’ however, can be destroyed through ‘adulterating’ them with more than one pattern of coruscations. If these coruscations are ‘adulterated’ often enough in one’s life, one can lose the capacity to experience pawo-khandro reflection completely.
At low levels of practice one might not notice one’s sensual flatness of affect, but for anyone who has experience beyond shi-nè, the detrimental effect becomes evident. This is a serious problem for a practitioner. People who engage in multiple relationships on a continued basis throughout their lives, gradually erode their srog (life-energy). Such people become increasingly querulous, argumentative, and irritable. They become disharmonious within groups of friends and find themselves unable to accede to the wishes or ideas of others. People who have adulterous relations harm not only their own ability to experience pawo-khandro reflection, but that of their partner. So it is not merely a question of harming oneself through multiple sexual relationships – and it does not stop there, flirtatious behaviour at whatever level, if it is accompanied by sexual projections, is also damaging (although to a lesser extent).
Our entire array of senses and their respective sensory fields are in constant coitus. However, although this is true, practitioners of the inner tantras must remember that these statements do not refer to the projection of sexual phantasies onto men and women other than our partners. If we indulge in erotic phantasies about men or women other than our partners, we ‘adulterate’ our tralam-mé. The word ‘adulterate’ means ‘to water down’ – ‘to dilute’, and it is interesting to connect this word with adultery in terms of gaining a deeper understanding of the word.
Our position with regard to adultery is not a moralistic one. We are not harking back to a prim and sanctimonious style of ethical Victoriana. Neither are we saying that one cannot have a series of attempts at relationship throughout one’s life. We are simply saying that they should be serial, and that ideally they should not overlap.
One needs to approach sexuality with respect, kindness, and openness. One needs to understand that the alternative to celibacy in Buddhism is not merely selfish indulgence of one’s desire at the expense of others. One can ‘dress’ sexual misconduct in the clothing of freedom and lack of moralistic inhibitions, but it remains an obstacle to practice nonetheless.
This is an important statement in view of the high regard shown to celibate practitioners in terms of their discipline. It could be something of a shock to some to realise that non-celibacy is a more demanding path, and that its discipline is vast and subtle. It should be accurately understood, that ordination into the gö kar chang lo’i dé (gos dKar lCang lo’i sDe) is not chosen as an ‘easier option’ than celibacy. The monastic path is simpler and easier to follow. It is completely structured and designed to support the individual, whereas the structure of Vajrayana embraces endless nuances of reality as the play of precision and passion.
Buddhas such as Padmasambhava and Yeshé Tsogyel are capable of engaging with multiple partners because their tralam-mé is non-dual and therefore incapable of being disturbed. The tralam-mé of an enlightened being is compassionately chameleoid and dances with the poetic turbulences of anyone who is open. When Buddhas engage sexually with dualised beings, those beings are vastly benefited. Buddhas can benefit others through sexuality in many contexts. Unless one is fully enlightened however, ‘multiplistic sexual contact’ is harmful. Mahasiddhas of the past, including Drukpa Künlegs, DoKhyentsé Yeshé Dorje, and Trungpa Rinpoche were capable of such extraordinary activity and benefited countless beings. Present day masters such as Dung-sé Thrin-lé Norbu Rinpoche, and Kyabjé Künzang Dorje and Jomo Sam’phel are also unquestioned in their capacity. But ordinary practitioners such as ourselves are not capable of such marvellous enlightened behaviour. We have to know our condition accurately and act accordingly. It is stated in many texts that it is a grave error to imitate the extraordinary outer activity of beings whose realisation exceeds one’s own.
We are Lamas of meagre capacity, so we remain within the limits of our capacities. When teachers go beyond their capacities, it is their disciples who suffer and we feel that it is important that apprentices within the Confederate Sanghas of Aro understand this. Because we, as the Mind Lineage Lamas of the Aro gTér, do not have the realisation to be open to other sexual or romantic possibilities – we have established that our teaching disciples will also be entirely, joyously, and unreservedly monogamous.
We are delighted to be monogamous, and intend to remain so throughout our lives. Neither of us has ever chosen any other course within our lives to date. It may be useful for people to know this. It may also be useful to know that we cannot transform alcohol in the manner of the mahasiddhas, and therefore we limit our intake. Because we cannot manifest extraordinary enlightened activity, it stands to reason that those who regard us as their Lamas should not attempt to imitate it either.