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Why does self-generation as a deity (yidam) require annutarayogatantra empowerment (wang, abhiṣeka), while visualizing it as a separate image doesn't?

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Lighting a lamp, you need another lamp. Because during self generation you are the Buddha, and in order to have 100% conviction that you are the Buddha, you must be told(initiated) by the Buddha himself. That is why it is said that seeing/recognising the guru as the Buddha himself is important in Tantra. Further the guru himself must have an unbroken lineage starting from the Buddha himself.

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  • Agreed. Our faculty of faith is weak, so we require external support. – Andrei Volkov Aug 14 '17 at 13:36

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