The Yidam Heat Shield

In “Wearing the Body of Visions” (pgs 94-95), Ngakpa Chögyam uses the challenges of space travel as an analogy to the  obstacles of meditation.  Space is likened to “emptiness” and Earth is likened to “form”.  He calls meditative skills “personal technology”  and in this analogy likens those skill to rocketship technology.
The first basic meditative objective is to cultivate emptiness — to reach outer space.  For this, the meditator can us the silent sitting of shi-né  [1] which uses the ability to not paying attention to arising thoughts so as to learn to cultivate emptiness and thus leaving  behind form/earth.  But since form inevitably arises from emptiness, and we must return to earth (uncross our legs and carry on our daily life), we forget to benefit of emptiness as soon as we stand up from our sitting.   Ngakpa Chögyam tells us that Tantra offers a personal technology from their vast toolkit to assist the mind to stop habitually grasping at reference points (Earth) when emerging from emptiness (Space).  He likens this technology to the heat shield on a rocketship that re-enters the atmosphere which is needed to stop the destruction of the vehicle.  That heat shield is the Yidam [2] — and the practice of Wearing the Body of Visions.

Notes:

  • The yidam heatshield displayed in my rocketship illustration is Seng-gé Dradog .
  • HT to the artist Nathan Scheck who gave me permission to use his sketch of the turtle riding into space for my illustration.

Tibetan Terms:

  1. shi-né :Tibetan: ཞི་གནས་  (rigpa wiki) (wiki)
    transliteration = zhi gnas (Wylie)
    transcription = shyné, shi-né, zhiné(THL)
    translations: calm abiding (Hopkins), śamatha (Sanskrit), calming down, quietude; appeasing; serenityzhi (shi) = pacify; calm down;
    gnas (né) = abide, dwell, rest
  2. yidam:  Tibetan. ཡི་དམ་ (rigpa wiki)
    Transliteration: yidam
    Transcription: yi dam (wylie)
    Translations: (THL)  Skt. iṣṭa devatā (wiki): cherished + godhead
    (1) (difficult to translate) high patron deity (Beyer), personal deity (Hopkins), tutelary deity
    (2) promise, vow, oathyi : [genetive particle] of; ‘;dam :  (1) promise, vow, oath,  (2) strict, firm, stable
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