The Practice of Deity Yoga by Shangpa Rinpoche
The most common method of Vajrayana is the practice of Deity Yoga. It involves prayers to develop oneself according to the visualisation in the text. There are two stages: the Development Stage and Accomplishment Stage. The procedure or cycle of practice is just like in real life, i.e. birth, adult, old age, death and the bardo stage.
The Development Stage is like from the birth of a child until it develops into adulthood. The Accomplishment Stage is like from a fully matured person to his death and bardo. When one is already in the midst of the Accomplishment Stage, he remains there in the Ultimate Nature. From this cycle of practice, oneself develops the qualities of the Deity. These we call Karim and Zogrim. Karim means development and Zogrim means accomplishment. Anything created by our own conceptual thoughts is Karim. When we create the deities in front of us or as oneself, that involves a concept. Zogrim is anything which does not involve concepts, having finally understood the nature of the deity and oneself - and so remain in that nature. That is the total non-duality between deity and oneself. That is the Ultimate Stage in the Development Stage, which involves concepts, we look at each part of the deity, develop and understand each quality one by one. We need to do karim because we are tied up with concepts due to our karma and habitual tendencies. We have no choice, but to refine our present concept to develop the non-conceptual by means of practising the Development Stage. When we create the deities and understand the qualities and symbols of each and every aspect, our concepts become more refined. These will purify the ordinary concepts and upgrade them to extraordinary concepts. From there, we develop the Ultimate State, to see the nature of that concept. Once you understand the nature of the concept, remain still in the unfabricated mind. That will accomplish the Ultimate Stage. During practice, we must involve the two stages. First, the Development Stage - visualisation of the deity to purify negative thoughts during that time so that one's thoughts become purer within the concept. Second, the Final Stage (Accomplishment Stage), after completing the visualisation of deity, when the deity and oneself becomes inseparable and we realise that the non-duality like space, cannot be explained or differentiated, ie the State of Ultimate Nature or the Dharmakaya. The Buddha Nature of the Deity and that of your own mind have no difference in size or any other aspects. So you can accomplish the Ultimate State, which is produced through the Development of the Deity.
The Development Stage is the practice of method, and the Accomplishment Stage is the practice of wisdom. in order to attain Buddhahood, we have to combine the two stages together, to realise the Relative Truth and the Ultimate Truth, and to produce the Perfect Enlightenment. Realisation of Relative Truth is the ability to manifest the Nirmanakaya and Sambogakaya. Realisation of the Ultimate Truth is manifested as the Dharmakaya. To attain Enlightenment, one has to attain the two Truths.
To become Buddha, one must have the three Bodies in order to accomplish the purpose of self and others. For the purpose of self, one attains the Dharmakaya. For the purpose of others, one manifests into the Sambogakaya or Nirmanakaya so as to create all the benefits just like sun and moon - effortlessly, spontaneously and unintentionally.
Accordingly from our daily spiritual development, we need to involve skillful means, or method and wisdom, even in our day to day life. All kinds of actions in the world can be developed as practice, as spiritual development. To be skillful means to be always mindful, knowing whether it is right or wrong to do before actual act, eg in speech. Whatever we do in our daily life, we must also try to understand that all appearances, sound, thoughts ultimately do not exist, just like dreams, illusions. That is the realisation of ultimate truth. Do these wherever you are and whatever you are doing. If you can do that, that means your spiritual development is in progress, not just during your recitation or meditation time. If you can do these in your whole life, it will be very good.
Copyright ©Shangpa Rinpoche. With permission of Shangpa Rinpoche