Here's my tainted view:
Heruka: justification for those 3 practices in Tibetan Buddhism.
There are other streams of Buddhist Traditions who have clearly mentioned that such are not fit to be practiced by the Ordained nor the Laity and is founded on scriptural injunctions such as the Pali Canon and in Mahayana, Sutras like the Mahayana Brahmajala (Code of the Bodhisattvas). It has even been known as 'low arts'
Indeed Luke, I agree that the I-Ching is a cultural tool but nevertheless discouraged and not used by orthodox Chinese Mahayana Buddhists either.
But some concerns are raised here:
After all the profound Teachings and practices as expounded by the Buddha from the Tibetan Buddhist POV, are those three 'arts' still a necessity?
If say there is a 'failure' to actuate those Teachings, where does the 'fault' lie?
In the practitioner who ought to shape up or has the Buddha Dharma failed per se?
Could resorting to such practices be interpreted as placing the Buddha Dharma as second only when it should encompass all aspects of life, mundane or othewise?
Thank you for all of your patience
I don't think that any Tibetan Buddhist would call divination a necessity, except perhaps for finding the new incarnations of Tulkus. Anyway, only ethnic Tibetans do that stuff, so I don't think that divination has too much importance for westerners who practice Vajrayana. As to your other questions, I don't think any Vajrayana practioner thinks divination is more important than the path of the generation and completion stages which lead toward Enlightenment.
You could poke around in the Tantras and find many things which are prohibited in the sutras, but which the Vajrayana Buddhists have transformed into skillful methods which advanced pracitioners can remain untainted by. Vajrayana can't be logically derived from only
Mahayana teachings anymore than Mahayana teachings could be logically derived from only
Theravada teachings. Each new vehicle requires some new assumptions for its "higher" point of view (as well as the assumption that the vehicle's point of view is indeed higher than that of the preceding vehicles).
If one does not like puzzles and a few apparent contradictions, it would be wisest to just practice Theravada and to only read the words of the historical Buddha. That is very logical and I respect that point of view. However, if one already accepts the legitimacy of Mahayana sutras and that other emanations of the historical Buddha and other enlightened beings have given additional teachings which are of great value, then what is stopping one from accepting the legitimacy of the Vajrayana tantras as well? This is the deeper question to ask oneself.
I am not enough of a scholar to know the details of how Tibetan Buddhists rationalize each aspect of the tantras which contradicts, or at least seems to contradict, the sutras. However, many of the things which upset the shall we say "more conservative" Buddhists about Vajrayana are in actuality very small parts of Vajrayana (like divination) or are misinterpretations of Vajrayana (such as thinking that depictions of fierce blood-drinking deities in sexual union are unethical when in actuality they have very deep and positive symbolic meanings).
Divination is a great example of a minor aspect of Tibetan Buddhism. I've never heard of any great ancient master like Guru Rinpoche or Milarepa say, "Please practice divination; it's really important." Greater siddhis don't require props, and the attainment of Enlightenment is the supreme siddhi.
I understand your concerns though, Thornbush. There is always the danger that modern practioners of Vajrayana could fall into the deluded view of "Gee, I'm this big, bad, Vajrayana yogi and my attainments are so great that I can do unethical things without any consquences." The ancient Vajrayana masters clearly indicate that this is the wrong view. The need to avoid pitfalls like this is exactly the reason why Vajrayana needs to be learned from an experienced teacher. Without this guidance, it is impossible to understand properly.
If you sense danger in Vajrayana, Thornbush, I think you are correct: if practiced improperly, Vajrayana can be very dangerous indeed.