Recently, a student asked about the meaning of samaya. A samaya is a mantrayana (or vajrayana) vow which you receive from your teacher. Samaya literally means 'promise' between the teacher and his student(s). When you receive an empowerment from your teacher, you assume a samaya -- an obligation to do your practice with pure body, speech and mind. There are boundless samaya, but all samaya branch forth from the Five Root Samaya; therefore, let us examine these carefully.
1. The first root samaya is to realize the nature of your mind as enlightened. In Rinpoche's book, Tantric Practice in Nyingma, mantra is defined as a protection (tra) of the mind (man) in the sense of visualizing one's body, speech and mind as well as seeing one's environment and activities as pure and thus keeping one's mind from ordinary appearances and a consequent conception of ordinariness. In the absolute bodhicitta (the absolute truth), one meditates on the nature of your mind as unelaborate, empty, without mental fabrications. In the relative bodhicitta (the relative truth), you understand that outside of meditation all appearances are just the display of the nature of your mind. Everything you see and experience should be realized as emptiness, pure and without fabrication. You should never abandon these two bodhicitta and should meditate on them continuously.
2. The second root samaya is to respect your kind teacher who has given you the Dharma, taught you treatises, and bestowed upon you empowerments and pith instructions. Maintaining your samaya with your teacher is of the utmost importance. All the infinite number of samaya are condensed into this one essential root mantrayana vow. As defined in Words of My Perfect Teacher, "the most essential samaya is to consider the teacher's body, speech and mind as pure."
3. Never break the continuity of mantra and mudra. This is the third root samaya. Practice(s) should be performed continuously as appropriate. When you receive an empowerment, you should never break the sadhana (the practice; lit. accomplishment) of that empowerment. For instance, if you take a mantrayana vow to practice the Guru Rinpoche puja each month, then you must do it each month. Once taken, a samaya should never be broken.
4. The fourth root samaya is to love your vajra brothers and sisters. There are four kinds:
v General brothers and sisters are all the sentient beings who possess Buddha nature.
v Far brothers and sisters are all the practitioners who belong to the retinue of the Buddha.
v Close brothers and sisters are Vajrayana practitioners.
v Inseparable brothers and sisters belong to the retinue of the same lama. When you are together and receive an empowerment from the same mandala, it's like being siblings of the same father.
5. The last of the Five Root Samaya regards secrecy. It is important to keep the vajrayana secret so that it is not debased by those who are not a proper vessel, for those who have not received the empowerment, and/or for those who have broken a samaya.
In conclusion, though each of the Five Root Samaya is important, the most important is maintaining your vow to your teacher. After receiving an empowerment you should always maintain your samaya. It's important. It is said that by maintaining your samaya, it will be beneficial to you in this and future lifetimes and that you will achieve all the accomplishments.
With this month's new moon, we complete another yarney, the annual retreat period, at Nyingmapa Wishfulfilling Center. Since Yarney marks the end of our school year, currently the monks are diligently studying before their final exams; after which time they shall enjoy a brief, two-month holiday. We thank each of you for your support this past year and pray you will continue to support our efforts in the future. If you have any questions, please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I welcome your questions, thoughts and insights.
I join Rinpoche in wishing you all the blessings of the Dharma.
Yours in the Dharma,
Tulku Jigme Rinpoche