How to correctly approach and understand the Tantras


Today’s modes of behavior often demonstrate a certain naivety as we have a tendency to consider the teachings at face value. This tendency leads to blind acceptance or blind rejection. Both of these attitudes constitute an obstacle in the approach of Tantric teachings.

It is therefore highly recommendable to question oneself as how to appraise textual knowledge that is ever more accessible through the modern technology of the Internet. The basis for scrutinizing in a wiser mode of approach is absolutely helpful and explained hereafter. 

The tantras must be appraised not only at face value but through what are called 

མཐའ་དྲུག - 'tha-drug' - 'The six limits' and, ཚུལ་བཞི། - 'four modes'.

As mentioned in the Root Tantra of the Kalachakra:


"The characteristics of the six limits are: Language with intent and not so,

terms as given and not so, provisional and definitive meaning".

These six limits are:

1) language expressing a special intent; referring to something expressed through language that has དགོངས་པ་ཅན། - an intended or implied meaning,

2) language not doing so; referring to the reverse of that;

3) terms literally expressing the meaning སྒྲ་ཇི་བཞིན་པ། which is just as in the terms used;

4) terms not doing so;

5) དྲང་དོན། - 'provisional meaning'; and, 

6) ངེས་དོན། - 'definitive meaning'.

As stated in the ཡེ་ཤེས་རྡོ་རྗེ་ཀུན་ལས་བཏུས་པའི་རྒྱུད། - The Tantra "Compendium of Vajra Wisdom", there are four styles of explanation of the tantras: 

1) ཡི་གེ། - the lexical mode. An explanation which gets at just the meaning of the individual, written words which is done in following the textbooks of terms and valid cognition;

2) སྤྱི། - the general mode. The overview giving a general explanation as opposed to the specific or detailed; 

3) སྦས་པ། - the hidden mode. The way the tantra system presents it is called "hidden or concealed meaning"; and 

4) མཐར་ཐུག། - the ultimate mode.