Shingon and Tibetan Buddhism

Shingon and Tibetan Buddhism

Postby tktru » Tue Feb 08, 2011 7:03 am

I was digging through E-Sangha files and rummaged through the archives of what remains of the Shingon forum. Unfortunately, not much is left. However, I found a thread that might be interesting for those who would want to know the differences between these two traditions, and perhaps get discussion sparking again.

Thus I have read ( :tongue: ), the question was posed by the user "Shadow Dancer" in January 2007:

Hello. I remember when I was looking at information on Vajrayana Buddhism and Tibetian Buddhism that Shingon was the other major school of Vajrayana. Out of curiosity in what ways in this tradition similar to Tibetian Buddhism and different? Also is the book Bardol Thodol of interest (I don't mean on an individual level) to Shingon Buddhists? Or is it viewed as something purely for Tibetian Buddhists?


The Rev. Eijo responds:


Hmm. Since the East Asian esoteric Buddhist traditon is older than the Tibetan, I consider Tibetan Vajrayāna the "other" form. Just kidding, I know what you mean :)

Setting aside the issue of whether or not it is appropriate to call Shingon "Vajrayāna,", and not really knowing the level that you are asking your question at, the basic differences might be summed up as:

1. There is no anuttarayoga-tantra in Shingon, and none of the practices and iconography associated with it. Shingon has what corresponds to the kriyā, caryā, and yoga tantras only. Shingon practices no form of "sexual yoga" at all.

2. The system mentioned above of classifiying tantras into four categories is not used in Shingon. Instead, in Shingon tantras are classified into zōmitsu 雑密 and junmitsu 純. Zōmitsu practices have mundane goals, like practices praying for blessings, health, the prosperity of the nation, good harvests, rain making, the ability to memorize Buddhsit texts and so on. Junmitsu practices are for perfecting the Mahāyāna bodhisattva path. Both exist in Shingon, with junmitsu being the main practice and zōmitsu existing as a form of skillful means.

3. Shingon lacks Tibetan cultural influences, and has instead East Asian cultural influences.

4. Japan had no significant awareness of even the existence of Tibetan Vajrayāna until the 19th century. Since the Bardo Thodol was composed in Tibet, it is utterly unknown to the East Asian tradition. It was first known of in Japan from the Japanese translation of Evan-Wentz's English translation.

5. Not really part of Vajrayāna, but since we are comparing the Shingon and Tibetan traditions, I might note that Shingon doctrinally does not give the most emphasis to Mādhyamika thought. Traditional Shingon doctrinal studies involve a number of areas, including Yogācāra and Mādhyamika in their East Asian forms, called Sanron/Sanlun 三論 and Hossō/Faxiang 法相. To go out on a limb, Shingon thought is perhaps closest to Kegon/Huayan 華嚴 thought. Its practice is not that of Huayan, however; it is tantric practice. Deity yoga is the core practice of Shingon.

There are many details about practice which are different between the two, but with many major features being generally the same. If you can be a little more specific about what you wanted to know, I might be able to answer in more detail.
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Re: Shingon and Tibetan Buddhism

Postby plwk » Tue Feb 08, 2011 7:37 am

Thanks tktru...I had wanted to raise this topic but feared it would become like another ES-styled discussion...look forward to contributions from you and Rev Eijo
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Re: Shingon and Tibetan Buddhism

Postby Mr. G » Tue Feb 08, 2011 10:03 pm

I hope to hear any of Rev. Eijo's additional thoughts as well.
    How foolish you are,
    grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
    - Vasubandhu
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Re: Shingon and Tibetan Buddhism

Postby tomamundsen » Tue Dec 18, 2012 1:30 am

Does Shingon have anything similar to Dzogchen and/or Mahamudra?
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Re: Shingon and Tibetan Buddhism

Postby Simon E. » Tue Dec 18, 2012 9:37 pm

Mr. G wrote:I hope to hear any of Rev. Eijo's additional thoughts as well.


Thirded.
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Re: Shingon and Tibetan Buddhism

Postby Nilasarasvati » Mon May 20, 2013 2:37 am

Fourthed! I have always wanted to know about all of this! Shingon's lineage of transmission is also of huge interest although I've studied it a little already. I'm wondering with burning curiousity about the similarities between these schools.

In China, esoteric Buddhism also had it's own lineages and still exists in some form, but in terms of feudal patronage, I'm only aware of Chinese emperors (esp. Qing dynasty) patronizing and inviting Dalai Lamas and other Tibetan Lamas to Beijing and elsewhere.
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Re: Shingon and Tibetan Buddhism

Postby Jikan » Wed May 22, 2013 1:20 pm

Nilasarasvati wrote:In China, esoteric Buddhism also had it's own lineages and still exists in some form,


This one's debatable. To the best of my knowledge, esoteric Buddhism in China as it exists now is a result of Chinese practitioners training in Japanese schools, or Tibetan ones. Does anyone have evidence of an intact transmission of esoteric Buddhism strictly within China's borders?
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Re: Shingon and Tibetan Buddhism

Postby Astus » Wed May 22, 2013 2:23 pm

Jikan wrote:Does anyone have evidence of an intact transmission of esoteric Buddhism strictly within China's borders?


Depends on how you define "esoteric Buddhism". If as an independent school, it's probably never existed. If as certain practices, there are quite a few that are part of the yearly and even daily ceremonies in Buddhist monasteries.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Shingon and Tibetan Buddhism

Postby coldwater » Wed May 22, 2013 3:12 pm

Hi!

@Astus, same came to mind...
When I think of Chinese esoteric Buddhism things like the Yogacara Flaming Mouth, 1000 Hands and Eyes, Shurangama/White Umbrella, 10 morning mantras, Meng Shan, Water and Land. Most likely other mantras, mudras and rituals are there as well. It isn't so cut and clear like Japanese sects.

Shingon and Tibetan Buddhism-
My understanding is....The Indian teachers who brought Vajrayana to China were both Northern and Southern India (plus some Sri Lankan influences?) while Tibet received it's introduction through Padmasambhava (North Indian/Pakistan). China earlier than Tibet and Japan/Tibet approximately at the same time. Then later developments and cross-pollinating. Even in Shingon and Tendai folks went back to China to receive further training in esoteric Buddhism and develop their sect. So cross overs like the Bardo texts aren't there but there are different sets of practices followed around the 49-day cycle in Chinese Buddhism and Japanese Buddhism.

To me it seems like finding parallels in Tibetan and Japanese Buddhism could be like looking at Christian denominations - like the Greek Orthodox and American Southern Baptists?

Here is an older thread that discuss esoteric Buddhism in China~
viewtopic.php?f=53&t=2228&start=0

-Byogen
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Re: Shingon and Tibetan Buddhism

Postby lobster » Sun May 26, 2013 2:50 am

My early Buddhist practice was from Shingon sources and involved a five element practice. As a concentration and balancing exercise I still do it occasionally.

For those interested what recommended resources exist?
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Re: Shingon and Tibetan Buddhism

Postby eijo » Thu Aug 01, 2013 10:30 am

Astus wrote:
Jikan wrote:Does anyone have evidence of an intact transmission of esoteric Buddhism strictly within China's borders?


Depends on how you define "esoteric Buddhism". If as an independent school, it's probably never existed. If as certain practices, there are quite a few that are part of the yearly and even daily ceremonies in Buddhist monasteries.


You can define esoteric Buddhism loosely as certain mantra practices, with or without some mudras and visualizations, but lacking in abhiseka. If so defined, many or even most schools of East Asian Buddhism have some esoteric component. These practices are not systematic, and often seem to be added on as an afterthought, which may be somewhat near the truth.

If you define esoteric Buddhism the way it is in Japan, then it is a systematic set of practices requiring abhiseka that form a core or the exclusive core of the school. In that sense, esoteric Buddhist schools today consist of Japanese Shingon, Japanese Tendai, and Tibetan Buddhism. In Tendai, the esoteric practices requiring abhiseka form one focus of the teachings. In Shingon, the core is exclusively esoteric. The absolute need for abhiseka is what defines true esoteric Buddhism as it is understood in Japan.

Esoteric Buddhism was not quite yet a completely independent school in pre-845 Tang China (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Anti ... ersecution). But it was systematically taught and practiced, and was probably headed in that direction. It had charismatic leaders, of course abhiseka, specialized monks and temples, unique texts and teachings, and government sponsorship.

However, after 845, the abhiseka lineage of Tang esoteric Buddhism was cut off in China, and only survived through its earlier importation to Japan. Some peripheral or partial practices survived in a somewhat haphazard fashion in China. Some of these were in turn passed on to Japan later on, such as with Zen. None of the core esoteric practices requiring abhiseka survived in China post-845.

Esoteric Buddhism according to the abhiseka-based definition is a very fragile thing. It cannot be reconstituted from books, which was possible with the other non-esoteric schools after 845. It can be eliminated in one generation if all the masters who can give abhiseka are killed or otherwise disposed of. Which is what seems to have actually happened.

There is no evidence at all of any surviving abhiseka lineage of Tang esoteric Buddhism in China, until the reintroduction from Japanese Shingon starting in the 20th century. How successful that reintroduction has been is another matter.
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Re: Shingon and Tibetan Buddhism

Postby Anders » Thu Aug 01, 2013 11:37 am

eijo wrote:Esoteric Buddhism according to the abhiseka-based definition is a very fragile thing. It cannot be reconstituted from books, which was possible with the other non-esoteric schools after 845. It can be eliminated in one generation if all the masters who can give abhiseka are killed or otherwise disposed of. Which is what seems to have actually happened.

There is no evidence at all of any surviving abhiseka lineage of Tang esoteric Buddhism in China, until the reintroduction from Japanese Shingon starting in the 20th century. How successful that reintroduction has been is another matter.


Isn't it possible to ressurrect it the same way the original lineages presumably started? Ie, a Buddha or mahasattva emanating to start a line, or a yogin receiving such abisheka by virtue of having the siddhis to communicate with such beings?

The impression I get is that this was more or less what Hsu Yun did when he ressurected the Guiyang school of Chan and passed it on to Hsuan Hua.
"Even if my body should be burnt to death in the fires of hell
I would endure it for myriad lifetimes
As your companion in practice"

--- Gandavyuha Sutra
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Re: Shingon and Tibetan Buddhism

Postby Astus » Thu Aug 01, 2013 12:10 pm

Anders wrote:Isn't it possible to ressurrect it the same way the original lineages presumably started? Ie, a Buddha or mahasattva emanating to start a line, or a yogin receiving such abisheka by virtue of having the siddhis to communicate with such beings?

The impression I get is that this was more or less what Hsu Yun did when he ressurected the Guiyang school of Chan and passed it on to Hsuan Hua.


Good question. In Tibetan Buddhism there are both long and short lineages, and visionary empowerments and connections are accepted. Even the old lineages start with some buddha or bodhisattva manifesting for someone.

In Chan it's a bit different. One can claim distant lineage connection based on personal affiliation.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T2076p461b24-26)
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Re: Shingon and Tibetan Buddhism

Postby eijo » Thu Aug 01, 2013 2:14 pm

Anders wrote:
eijo wrote:Esoteric Buddhism according to the abhiseka-based definition is a very fragile thing. It cannot be reconstituted from books, which was possible with the other non-esoteric schools after 845. It can be eliminated in one generation if all the masters who can give abhiseka are killed or otherwise disposed of. Which is what seems to have actually happened.

There is no evidence at all of any surviving abhiseka lineage of Tang esoteric Buddhism in China, until the reintroduction from Japanese Shingon starting in the 20th century. How successful that reintroduction has been is another matter.


Isn't it possible to ressurrect it the same way the original lineages presumably started? Ie, a Buddha or mahasattva emanating to start a line, or a yogin receiving such abisheka by virtue of having the siddhis to communicate with such beings?

The impression I get is that this was more or less what Hsu Yun did when he ressurected the Guiyang school of Chan and passed it on to Hsuan Hua.


That is certainly possible, but it would be a new lineage, not the Tang lineage. Once a thing is gone, its gone. New esoteric lineages can arise, but this hasn't happened authentically or reliably as far as I know in East Asia (meaning outside of the usual range of quackery). In China it would be building from nothing, not adding on to existing lineages. In Japan there is no need.

Resurrecting an exoteric lineage that doesn't require abhiseka is an entirely different matter.
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