For a Dharma student who receives initiations after careful preparation and then practices with the guidance of a qualified teacher, the inner meaning of the teachings gradually reveals itself.
Keeping the commitments supports this process of deepening insight, protecting practitioners so that they do not fall back into the grip of karma and the klesas. When students lack a thorough preparation, they do not have this kind of protection.
Traditionally, initiation ceremonies were occasions for the transfer of specific powers, similar to the ancient ceremonies of coronation through which a prince would ascend to the rule of the kingdom.
The transfer is also a transformation, and the world that the initiate enters by means of the initiation is truly a different place, governed by different rules and even a different logic. If this transforming power is diluted, so that the initiation becomes a change of condition in name only, who will even realize what has been lost?
The modern outlook on life encourages innovation and experimentation, and this seems to work well in many areas. Initiations, however, operate on a symbolic level that connects the initiate with the enlightened lineage. Since a symbolic action, once taken, cannot be undone, experimentation does not support the logic that gives coherence and meaning to symbolic actions.
People who are reluctant to progress toward commitment may imagine that they are practicing the Dharma, but is this really so?
Tarthang Tulku Rinpoche
Mind over Matter