Sadhana (Skt. sādhana; Tib. སྒྲུབ་ཐབས་, druptap, Wyl. sgrub thabs) — literally ‘means of accomplishment’. A sadhana is a ritual text presenting the means to accomplish one or several deities, who in essence are the ultimate state of a buddha. As we follow Anuttarayoga Tantra sadhana practice texts and actualize their meaning, we develop an enlightened vision of the world: we visualize ourselves as a buddha or deity, and our surroundings as a pure realm or ‘buddha field’, while recognizing that all sounds are mantra, and all thoughts are primordial wisdom. This process is at first artificial, something which is developed or generated through the practices of kyerim and dzogrim, but the visualizations correspond to the visionary experience of enlightened beings. By adopting these new habits of perception, we can weaken the ordinary habits of gross perception based on ignorance and emotional tendencies, and put ourselves in touch with a more subtle level of experience.
The Prerequisites of Sadhana Practice
There are three components needed in order to engage in a specific sadhana practice:
- the empowerment (Tib. དབང་, wang),
- the oral transmission (Tib. ལུང་, lung), and
- the secret instruction (Tib. ཁྲིད་, tri)
which are all granted or bestowed by a qualified master for each specific practice.
- The empowerment or wang is to mature or ripen us.
- The oral transmission or lung is to connect us.
- The secret instruction or tri is to liberate us.
Types of Sadhana
In the sadhanas of the outer tantras—kriya tantra, charya tantra or upayoga tantra, and yoga tantra—we invoke the presence of the deity in the sky before us, as in guru yoga. In the sadhanas of the inner tantras—mahayoga, anuyoga, and atiyoga, or the Anuttarayoga Tantra of the Sarma schools—we ourselves arise in the form of the deity.
Practices such as: Riwo Sangchö; Tendrel Nyesel; The Wisdom Mind Practice of One Phurba; Dudjom Rinpoche's The Essential Daily Practice of Vajrakilaya; Rigdzin Düpa; Yang Nying Pudri; and Yumka Dechen Gyalmo are all sadhanas.
- Padmasambhava & Jamgön Kongtrul, The Light of Wisdom, Vol. Two, translated by Erik Pema Kunsang (Boudhanath: Rangjung Yeshe Publications, 1986-98), Chapters 20-23.