Four Stakes to Bind the Life-Force
Four Stakes to Bind the Life-force (srog sdom gzer bzhi)
These four stakes are a key principle in the tantric practices of the Nyingma tradition. Though they are most often taught in the context of development stage, they are said to subsume all aspects of the view, meditation and conduct of the Vajrayana. The source for these teachings is the Tantra of the Perfect Secret (gsang ba yongs rdzogs).
- The four stakes are:
- four stakes to bind the life-force (srog sdom gzer bzhi) - [detailed expl., The Light of Wisdom, Vol. 2, page 108]. Furthermore: To explain the four stakes to bind the life-force, the object to be purified is the state of affairs of a sentient being's body, speech and mind as well as its activities. The result of purification is the Body, Speech, Mind, Qualities and Activities of buddhahood. Even though this basic state of affairs of any sentient being is primordially pure as these aspects of buddhahood, in the apparent state these are seen as being impure and involved in the cause and effect of samsaric existence. The means which purify are to apply these key points of instruction to these four stakes which bind this life-force and herein you come to realize the way it ultimately is. Thus, by binding samsara and nirvana with the life-force of their purity in being completely equanimous, both the basic and the apparent aspects - the practitioner's three gates and Activities and the deity's Body, Speech, Mind and Activities - are brought into the path as the great primordial purity. This is therefore the extraordinary key point of the nonseparateness of development stage and completion stage and the special feature of the Old School of the Early Translations, Ngagyur Nyingma. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche [RY]
- As Tenpé Nyima explains, these four stakes subsume all aspects of Tantric practice: “All of the key points of the Vajrayāna path of Secret Mantra are included in these four.” [KR 59] Explaining further, Khenpo Ngaga writes, “It is traditionally said that these four stakes bring together our own ordinary body, speech, mind and actions with the enlightened form, speech, mind and activities of the wisdom deity. They are like stakes that bind these together…In other words, these key instructions on the four stakes that bind the life-force purify the three gates and actions, which seem to obscure from the perspective of the way things appear. Consequently, enlightened form, speech, mind and activities—the way things really are—actually manifest. This is why these four are necessary.” [ST 29] [CJD]