Genuine access the Vajrayana Path depends on proper proceeding through the four following steps:
1. Acquiring a reasonable understanding of what “Dharma” represents and implies, working through the basics of the Hinayana Path.
The lecture of ‘Sutras’ and books reproducing talks and seminars given by prominent Masters to large audiences are useful for this. It will provide the practitioner proper insight into the teachings of Buddha Sakyamuni while presenting a variety of answers to the many questions often conceptualised at this point by the discursive mind.
2. Developing the altruistic motivation of Bodhicitta by practicing the fundamental teachings of the Mahayana tradition.
Bodhicitta is the most important thing to develop if one truly wishes to reach Enlightenment. That is, we want to learn and practice taking all the negativity and mistakes on ourselves and offer the goodness and merit to others through the practice of meditation. There is Aspiration Bodhicitta and Perseverance Bodhicitta. Training in Aspiration-Bodhicitta is done by keeping the Bodhisattva Vow and by remembering the Enlightened Attitude; Training in Perseverance-Bodhicitta is done by carrying out the Bodhisattvas’ ten tasks, by practicing the Six Paramitas, by applying the Four Immeasurables and by practicing “Sending and Receiving” i.e. ‘Tong-len’ meditation.
3. Meeting with a Vajrayana teacher and taking Refuge.
All the accomplished practitioners of the past achieved Enlightenment through relying on a spiritual teacher. Just relying on one’s own personal ideas and being totally independent, cannot bring one to Enlightenment. For each and every practice of Sutras and Tantras, an explanation from a qualified teacher is necessary.
Taking Refuge is a practice of a surrendering the ego to the blessings and guidance of the three jewels.
We take Refuge in the Buddha, in the Dharma and in the Sangha.
Taking Refuge is a sign of courage and wisdom and the first important step one can make in this life towards gaining awareness and complete liberation from the bondage of samsara.
These initial steps are not to be rushed and it is good to spend time developing some insight into the very meaning and motivation of your spiritual approach as well as to build up a close relationship with your Lama. There is no value in trying to by-pass this initial understanding and rush to higher means of realisation, as there is no value in trying to use a powerful tool not having mastered the basic skills needed for its use. It can only end up damaging and hurting yourself and others.