Intellectual Mount Meru
From 1979: Even your enemy who tries to kill you is your best friend. by Adele Hulse, Big Love author:
Everyone knew Lama Yeshe was going to give a Cittamani Tara initiation. This was the highest yoga tantra practice of the deity Tara. He had never given his students this highest yoga tantra initiation before and several of them, whose visas were about to expire, hung around Kopan waiting for it. Then Lama announced they must wait another month. It seemed he wanted them to really value this experience, not just add it to their esoteric collection of initiations.
Lama often ruffled the feathers of some of the older students, accusing them of arrogance. For some, Buddhism had become just another arena of self-importance. Lama said such students were actually too lazy to confront their egotistic habits.
George Churinoff was unable to extend his stay. “Before leaving I went to Lama’s room, made three prostrations, offered a khata and asked if he had any advice for me. He looked hard at me and said, ‘Intellectual Mount Meru isn’t worth ka-ka!’ It was an important message for me—a Penn State and Massachusetts Institute of Technology astrophysics graduate. I had to learn that,” said George.
In December 1994, George Churinoff was Lama Osel’s tutor. “One day he was riding his tricycle around and he rode up to me. I bent down and asked him if he had something to tell me. He pulled my head down and whispered in my ear: “I don’t know anything about kaka!” The hairs just stood up on my head.” I had never forgotten Lama Yeshe’s words back in 1979, when he had looked at me so hard and said: “Intellectual Mount Meru isn’t worth kaka!” I knew it was terribly important at the time, but not that it would come back like this,’ said George.
Finally, at the conclusion of the lam-rim retreat that had begun after the eleventh meditation course, Lama gave the longed-for initiation to fifty people. This was followed by a commentary on the Cittamani Tara meditative practice from 24 January to 4 February 1979. During the initiation Alnis Grants, a Latvian student residing in Germany and not normally given to vain imaginings, had an unusual experience. “At one stage Lama’s dorje was taken around and lightly pressed against our hearts. When it touched my chest it vibrated, a physical sensation I definitely never experienced again. Years later Lama Zopa Rinpoche told me that it was Lama’s blessing.”
Tantric practices are based on dissolving the concrete view of a self-existent I or ego, and replacing it with a visualization of oneself as a buddha—in this case, Tara. It is not our limited sense of “I” that becomes a buddha because that limited “I” has been dissolved through analysis in meditation.
Tantra holds that there are 72,000 psychic channels, or nadis, within the body, of which the main three are the right, the left and the central channel (also known as the shushumna). At various points along the central channel are energy centers known as chakras. These inner elements were introduced at length in the instructions on the vase meditation technique. We have all had experiences that indicate the presence of these chakras and the concentration of energy they contain. Examples include the “lump” in the throat, the uncomfortable sensation in the pit of our stomach we often feel when we are upset, the pulsations we feel in the lower chakra when sexually aroused. While these give us a rough sense of the existence of these centers of energy along our body’s central axis, it requires empowerment, training and extensive practice to be able to penetrate the central channel through these chakras and experience the transformative results.
From Lama Yeshe’s teachings on Cittamani Tara :
According to tantric science, there are different explanations of how to enter into the sushumna, how to stay there and how to dissolve into it. When the energy enters and stays in the sushumna there is no movement of the breath because the energy is so gentle. We move and breathe so wildly now because we are not balanced; but the person whose energy has entered the sushumna is very subdued and their breath almost stops completely.
This is a difficult concept for the Western mind—if one is not breathing then one is dead. A Western doctor would probably debate with me. “What are you saying? Someone in whom there is no movement of energy is alive? That’s outrageous. You are stupid, a Himalayan dreamer, and we are the international rest of the world!” That’s a point of debate.
When I was still young, my uncle fell sick and it looked as if he had passed away; his breathing had stopped. Then a Dharma friend came to our house. He burned some tsampa and the smoke rose up and suddenly my uncle opened his eyes and started breathing again. That happens to many people. You think they are dead but suddenly energy comes back and they come to life again. Even in the West there are many stories like this. So sometimes it’s difficult to say who is dead and who isn’t.
Tibetan tantra has incredible technical meditations that bring about different experiences; you yourself can see how they function. The explanation of yoga tantra and Western science are coming together. Even Western doctors have discovered that there is a painkiller inside you, that you do not need injections. But they should also discover how to access the blissful energy as well. Our project here is to discover this blissful energy, which is already there, within us.
 A transcript of this teaching is available from the LYWA website.