The Non-Dual Nature of Love in the Tantric Practice of Vajra Romance: An Interview with Mé-tsal Wangmo and Ja'gyür Dorje

- through Francois Leclercq

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Mé-tsal Wangmo and Ja'gyür Dorje in Alversund, Norway. Image reproduced with the kind permission of the author

Ngakma Mé-tsal Wangmo and Naljorpa Ja'gyür Dorje are a couple of ordained teachers within the Aro gTér lineage of the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Aro gTér is a small yogic lineage founded by the Nyingma terton Khyungchen Aro Lingma (1886–1923).

Mé-tsal Wangmo and Ja'gyür Dorje traveled to Norway March 9-13, giving a lecture on "Hidden Yoginis: Teachings and Practices from a Tradition of Enlightened Women", as well as teachings and vows of refuge . During their program, they introduced the non-monastic yogic tradition of Tibetan Buddhist practice, in which realization can be found “in the workplace or at the grocery store, rather than in a monastery.” The Tibetan yogic tradition is associated with ngakpa et ngakma (སྔགས་པ་ and སྔགས་མ་), male and female non-single Tantric practitioners or gokar changlo (གོས་དཀར་ལྕང་ལོ་སྡེ་), the community in white dresses and dreadlocks.

Buddhist News Global had the privilege of interviewing Mé-tsal Wangmo and Ja'gyür Dorje during their short visit to Norway. We discussed the non-dual nature of romantic love or tsewa (བརྩེ་བ་) in the context of the Vajrayana practice of vajra romance, based on the Khyungchen Aro Lingma Khandro Pawo Nyda Melong Gyu ( ) , Tantra of the Mirror of the Sun and the Moon, Khandro and Pawo). In the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, Khandro ou khandroma (མཁའ་འགྲོ་མ་, skt: ḍākinī) is a feminine embodiment of enlightened energy and a demonstration of the wisdom of emptiness, pawo (དཔ་བོ་, skt: ḍākaliterally "hero"), the tantric equivalent of a bodhisattva, and the male method of displaying compassion.

Mé-tsal Wangmo and Ja'gyür Dorje in Alversund, Norway. Image reproduced with the kind permission of the author

Buddhist Gate World: What are the benefits and challenges to teach the Dharma as a couple?

Me-tsal Wangmo: The most obvious advantage for students is that they have two manifestations of the teachings. It gives twice the chance to say something essential or useful to someone. The benefits as a teacher are that you continually learn from the other person, being in both the position of student and teacher. When I taught alone for many years, it was sometimes quite lonely. If you teach alone, you have no one to say if the teaching went well: did I explain it well? Can I do better? There is no one to have this conversation with. For this reason, if someone is not in a relationship as a teaching couple or if someone is teaching alone in our lineage, we sometimes suggest that they teach with someone else, not as a couple but just so they can be two people teaching together. .

The challenge is for someone who likes to direct everything, control everything, you have to let go. When Ja'gyür joined me, I suddenly had to let go of some of my ways and allow him to participate. At Aro gTér, we always want to support female teachers as well as teaching couples. Even in a teaching couple, the woman does more public teaching or public speaking, there aren't that many of us in the world.

Teachings and vows of refuge in Alversund. Image reproduced with the kind permission of the author

BDG: What is the role of love in the vajra-romance teachings?

Ja'gyur Dorje: When you fall in love naturally, people don't know what's going on. But actually, when you look at it, it's because both people are open. There is a sort of openness, of emptiness; that's why they can just say "yes" to the other person all the time in a good way. They ask, “Do you want to go skiing? You never ski but you say, "Yes, of course", because you want to do it with your partner. And usually in relationships people say I want to do my thing. So it's actually a very nice method that we use in our tradition to appreciate what your partner does, and your partner appreciates what you do. It is a method to continue to be in love and to appreciate what your partner suggests.

MW: Vajra-romance teachings are based on the fact that what happens when you fall in love is a bit of a mystery. Of course, when we fall in love, Why you fall in love with this person is mysterious. Naturally, falling in love contains a large number of reflections of achievements. When you're in love, when you're very excited, you're kind and pleasant, you're more open, you're very positive, you speak kindly to everyone, and you're in a very receptive and kind state. It happens naturally when you fall in love and is much closer to the natural state of being. There are many aspects to falling in love and being in love actually reflects the realization, ultimately it has this possibility.

Teachings and vows of refuge in Alversund. Image reproduced with the kind permission of the author

BDG: So vajra love is not just a matter of love between vajra practitioners?

MW: No. But it does mean having a romance and a relationship that is informed by the principles of vajrayana and supported by practice, because if both people are practicing, you can't drift too far apart; you can't sulk for a week without talking to your partner because he didn't put the cap back on the toothpaste properly. If you're annoyed with your partner, go sit down, meditate, and let those feelings go. That's what practice is. And then you can come back again. So it supports the relationship because you both practice.

BDG: Do you have any difficulties with vajra love?

MW: There are misunderstandings and confusion about khandro pawo relationship because a lot of the teachings come from a cultural background, and if you look at Tibetan or Bhutanese culture, then we're talking about patriarchy. So most of the teachings were given by men from a man's point of view. They will only talk about Khandro principle, but in fact it is the Khandro-pawo principle. If you are a woman, this is the pawo principle. You hear a lot of people talk about the Khandro principle; you don't hear a lot of people talk about the pawo principle, but they are the same because women's experience of being in the world is informed by pawo qualities.

Lecture by Mé-tsal Wangmo and Ja'gyür Dorje in Bergen. Image reproduced with the kind permission of the author

BDG: Can we associate the khandro pawo relationship with absolute union?

MW: We speak more in terms of non-duality. Spacious passion and passionate space, male-female, female-male principle. This is mirroring. If you're talking about men and women having masculine and feminine aspects of reality, we're talking about the indivisibility of that. You can't have one without the other. That doesn't mean you can't have a man without a woman, you can't have a void without a form. And it is more about the non-dual manifestation which is about the manifestation of cosmic love. We are talking about manifesting a non-dual nature.

JD: These two principles actually go back to The Heart Sutra— form is emptiness and emptiness is form, or spacious passion and passionate space.

Lecture by Mé-tsal Wangmo and Ja'gyür Dorje in Bergen. Image reproduced with the kind permission of the author

BDG: How are vajra-romance teachings implemented in a relationship?

MW: The vajra-romance teachings of the Aro gTér are called Khandro Pawo Nyda Melong and it's khandro pawo et ny da is Sun and Moon; melong is the mirror there. It is in fact the mirror which reflects the Sun and the Moon of Khandro et pawo. The practice is to recognize the reflection of khandro pawo. For me it is to recognize the reflection of my interior pawo qualities in the outer manifestation of Ja'gyür, and do the same with me. Everything you see is a display of wisdom and method, in my view, reality having this pawo quality of the method display.

JD: We are above all Buddhist practitioners and this encourages a few basic principles. We take refuge, we also take the bodhisattva vows in the sense that this is the core of the sangha principles. Everything must be based on the five precepts.* Especially if you are a teacher of Aro gTér; our teachers are totally monogamous. For our tradition, it is important to have only one partner. All Aro gTér teachers must follow this principle. If you are a single teacher, it does not mean that you teach and take consorts from every place you go to teach. We don't do that. It can happen, but it shouldn't happen.

MW: In fact, within the khandro pawo In education, monogamy is the only truly functional path because it has practices in terms of day-to-day navigation and living with someone who manifests it. For us, the main practice is to regard your partner as a Buddha. If your practice is to always look at your partner as the realized being (like Guru Rinpoche and Yeshe Tsogyal) that they really are, that is what you are looking for and then something happens that is unlike what the Buddha would, which is just considered a moment away from that. What we always relate to is the Buddha. If both people do that, then you can have something magical because you are always looking for that reflection in each other. All you have to do is drop the "me" project. As soon as you do this, the relationship becomes a wonderful support, reflecting the wonderful qualities of the other. All of this is in the void.

There are aspects of khandro pawo practice that can be implemented in a relationship, such as continuing to say “yes” like you did when you were first together and making a conscious decision to continue doing so. The real possibility and the magic of khandro pawo the practice comes from the practice of meditation when both are able to let go. Of course, it's difficult for people if they're in a relationship where they're a practitioner and are trying to approach the relationship from that perspective when the other person isn't. Then you end up with much more difficulty.

Mé-tsal Wangmo, Ja'gyür Dorje and the author in Bergen. Image reproduced with the kind permission of the author

BDG: Can you summarize the essence of your Dharma path?

JD: Be nice and say "yes" to your partner.

MW: Be kind and allow your partner to reflect the way you are. Allow the mirror, so that you have a reflection of your splendid inner qualities, but you are also ready to see yourself manifesting a little more kindness. In terms of having taken bodhisattva vows, wanting to be useful, efficient and compassionate in the world. We really need people who have decent relationships that are visible to others because how you are as an individual obviously affects everyone. You radiate outward and touch everyone in your sphere.

* Refrain from: taking life, taking what is not given, sensual misconduct, false speech, intoxicants that cloud the mind.

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Francois Leclercq

François Leclercq is the founder of Buddhist News, a website which aims to disseminate information and practical advice on Buddhism and spirituality. François Leclercq was born and raised in Paris. He studied Buddhism at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, where he graduated in social sciences and psychology. After graduating, he devoted himself to his passion for Buddhism and traveled the world to study and learn about different practices. He notably visited Tibet, Nepal, Thailand, Japan and China.

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