This is a short introduction to the Six Yogas of Naropa in general and the practice of Tummo in particular.
"Through practicing these secret yogas, vitality and wisdom circulate throughout the body and in this very lifetime, one arises as the primordially awakened Wielder of the Vajra."
The six yogas of Naropa could also be called the six yogas of Tilopa, since it was actually Naropas teacher Tilopa, who put these practices together as the set as we know it today.
Tilopa (988 – 1069) collected different transmissions of the Buddhas teachings and extracted the essence from the Tantras (listed below) and passed this knowledge, known as the six yogas, on to his disciple Naropa. Naropa taught these yogas then to Marpa, the great translator from Tibet, who brought them to the land of snow, as Tibet is often called. Milarepa became his main lineage holder and undoubtedly the most famous Yogi of tibetan buddhism. His journey from a black magic sorcerer and murderer, to an enlightend being in one lifetime is famous throughout the world. Milarepas main practice was Tummo.
Gampopa became his student and through him this lineage spread to several students, who established different schools. Some of them are still alive today and thus these teachings have been brought down through the centurys, up until the present day.
There are also other lineages of the six yogas, like that of Naropas consort Niguma for example.
Overview & Origin:
The six yogas are: Inner Heat (tibetan: Tummo, Sanskrit: chandali = meaning: fierce feminine), Illusory Body, Clear Light, Phowa, Forceful Projection & Bardo Yoga. (Some traditions have dropped out the Forceful Projecion Yoga and made Dream Yoga, which originally is a part of Illusory Body, a separate Yoga, to have a total of six yogas).
There are many other ways to count these yogas (two yogas of Naropa, ten yogas of Naropa etc., according to how one is counting/ summarising). However the structure given above seems to be the most common that is known today.
These yogas (practices) come from three sources; the following buddhist Tantras:
Tummo comes from the Chakrasmavara and Hevajra Tantra (even though these are two sources of Tantras, they are counted as one, since their Tummo systems are identical)
Illusory Body and Clear Light come from the Guhjasamaya Tantra ( as well as Bardo Yoga, since it is, just as Dream Yoga, a part of Illusory Body practice)
and Phowa, as well as Forceful Projection come from the Four Seats Tantra (sanskrit: Shri Chaturphita Tantra)
The Six Yogas:
Every yoga has complex visualisation techniques and applications. What follows is a brief description and overview of the different practices.
Tummo (Inner Heat):
„Meditation on the essence of mind is good.
But for immediate results nothing compares with the yoga of inner fire.“
In the six Yogas traditions Tummo is often called the foundation stone, since all other yogas are based on it. 90% of the six Yogas is the practice of Tummo.
While going into detail would go beyond the frame of this article; here is a brief description of the practice.
As preliminary there were often the so called Preliminary Practices (tibetan: Ngöndro) done in Tibet, which consist of Prostrations, Vajrasattva, Mandala offerings and Guru Yoga (the Ngöndro varies in different traditions).
Then it is said that it is essential to have a Highest Yoga Tantra empowerment (ideally Chakrasamvara, Hevajra or Vajrayogini) in order to engage in the practice of Tummo.
However, Lama Glenn Mullin (translator and publisher of over 30 books on tibetan buddhism and tantric meditation teacher) who learned from the Dalai Lama himself and the Dalai Lamas own teachers, once said; „Since westerners have many years of general education when they have grown up, it is fine to engage in the practice of Tummo straight away, also without Ngöndro, and to collect an empowerment later if one feels this practice is what one really would like to engage in.“
Tummo meditation works with bringing together the energy that resides four finger widths below the navel and the energy residing in the crown chakra; at the heart chakra, in order to experience the clear light nature of ones own mind and to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings.
(We have a red energy drop within our body that we got from our mother and female ancestors and that is residing four finger widhts below the navel and a white energy drop that we got from our father and male ancestors, that resides within our brain/ crown chakra. Tummo works with bringing these energys together.)
The red and white energy drops partly also meet naturally at the heart through the time of sleep, orgasm and completly merge at the time of death (thats why many people see a clear light, if they are strongly aware when they die or have a near death experience).
Inner Heat is therefore a universal technology to unite the bodys energys and to see our true nature and attain enlightenment.
A short overview of the Tummo Meditation:
Every tibetan buddhist meditation starts with taking buddhist refuge and making good wishes for the happiness of all sentient beings at the beginning of each meditation session.
The actual practice starts with visualising oneself as ones meditational Deity (i.e. Chakrasamvara...).
Then one does the so called Tsa Lung Trul Khor exercises (Tsa= channels, Lung = Energy, Trul Khor = Magic circle/ wheel), which are opening the bodys energy system.
After that there is the visualisation of the channels, chakras and mantric syllables.
The main part of the meditation uses the Vase breathing in order to heat up the so called A-Tung (= A Stroke Syllable) at the navel. Heat from it is rising through the central channel, heats everything up and melts the white drop residing in the crown chakra. This energy then drips down into the other chakras, and especially the A-Tung.
Both the rising of the heat and the dripping of the white drop produces great bliss and heat within the body.
There are additional stages of the practice, like that of „Inducing the four blisses“ and Karmamudra (= the sexual union Yoga) that one can engage in aswell.
Illusory Body Yoga aims to give the practicioner the realisation of the Illusory nature of all phenomena. Even though we cannot find anything permanent in the outside world and also our thoughts, emotions and bodys change and die, we still experience them as something solid and real. Through the application of the Illusory Body teachings we become able to see the real nature of phenomena and appearance, which is radiant and like that of a dream.
Dream Yoga and Bardo Yoga are a part of Illusory Body practice.
In Dream Yoga one first learns to remember ones dreams. Then to become aware in the dream; to notice that one is dreaming. Then one learns to change objects in the dream, manifest oneself as ones meditational deity, recite mantras consciously and meditate. Great practicioners may also travel to other realms in their dreams and/ or talk to deceased teachers etc.
Clear light can be, just as Illusory Body, practiced throughout the daytime, the nighttime and at the time of death. (As mentioned earlier there are different ways to count the six yogas. One way is to divide all these yogas into daytime, nighttime and death practice, which makes a total of three yogas of Naropa, if one counts that way.)
Throughout the daytime practicing clear light basicly means to do Tummo. However there are specific applications one can engage in additionally in order to experience the clear light nature of mind.
Practicing clear light at the nighttime requires the yogi or yogini to experience and hold the clear light during the daytime. Then one would stay conscious when falling asleep and rest in the clear light of deep sleep at the level of the heart (usually this is done by meditating on a blue syllable Hung in the heart center). This means one meditates throughout the night and is conscious while the body sleeps.
Clear Light at the time of death means to retain the clear light that appears naturally through the merging of the bodys energys at the heart when we die. Those realized beings who are able to stay conscious in this experience manifest what is called Tugdam in tibetan (=Samadhi of pure mind). While the heart stops beating and western medicine would call the person dead, the area of the heart center stays warm and also the body doesn't start to smell and doesn't manifest any usual signs of decay. High masters can stay in that state for days or even weeks. (One case of this, that is well documented by doctors is the death of the 16th Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje and the Hambo Lama).
Bardo Yoga can only be applied after death and is practiced during ones lifetime as Dream Yoga. The Bardo is the intermediate state, between death and rebirth. To do Bardo Yoga is only recommended for highly realized yogis. Everyone else should rely on Phowa at the time of death (Consciousness transference).
Those yogis who would engage in Bardo Yoga (after being successful dream yoga masters throughout their lifetime) do rest in the clear light of death (see previous section). After that they would consciously manifest as their meditatinal deity and meditate in the Bardo/ intermediate state. Then they would either attain buddhahood or consciously look for a good place to be reborn and enter a womb, when a couple engages in love making that can provide the yogi or yogini a good condition to develop for the benfit of all beings in his or her next life.
However, if one is not able to retain consiousness throughout the death process and in the Bardo, one will be driven by ones karmic tendencees, why it is said to be safer for those who are not highly realized, to apply Phowa.
(I use the term Phowa in this article and not its translation, since this is usually the term also used in the west for this practice.)
Phowa literally means blast off and is the yoga of consciousness transference. The practicioner learns to transfer ones consciousness into a pure land; an enlightened energy field of a Budha with this method. One learns to open ones central channel in the Phowa practice (this opening is even physical and can be seen in the skull with a brain scan; it is a hole the size of a needle).
Then at the time of death one leaves ones body through ones opening in the crown and enters the enlightend state of Buddha. In this way one is not entering the Bardo, as it is usually the case.
In Tibet it is often said, that Phowa is the way to attain enlightenment without meditating. While one does have to learn how to do it, there's no comparison in time to other methods.
The yoga of Forceful Projection is rarely taught and mainly orally (in the Kagyü schools it is often even said that it died out/ hasn't been transmitted further, since Marpas son Darma Dode was the holder of this lineage and he died an unexpected early death. Other lineages however still maintain this practice). For this technique one would train to leave ones body and when one is able to do so, one projects ones consciousness in either the body of a dead animal or human to resurect it and move around in this body. In this way one could, when ones own body is old, find a body from a freshly diseaced person that is still in good shape and project ones mind into that body to continue ones life in that new body.
(Only highly realized masters are/ would be able to perform this action.)
Most important for all the yogas of Naropa is the practice of Tummo. As mentioned earlier, it is the foundation stone.
Through the energy control that is achieved in Tummo, one will be able to realize the Illusory Body and Clear Light, practice Dream Yoga successfully and maintain the Clear Light in Deep Sleep and master whatever meditation one would engage in at the time of death.
Without Bodhicitta (= Love and Compassion) there is no real success in any of the six Yogas. So, whoever wishes to engage in these practices will need to develop Love and Compassion for oneself and all living beings. This is the secret incredient for Naropas Six Yogas.
(this teaching on the importance of Bodhicitta I received orally from one of my own teachers.)
If you want to learn more about the Six Yogas of Naropa you can join my Facebook group on Tummo & the Six Yoas of Naropa here: