What is a tantric teaching in Buddhism?

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Re: What is a tantric teaching in Buddhism?

Postby Malcolm » Mon Apr 04, 2011 2:59 pm

Aemilius wrote:
Namdrol wrote:
Aemilius wrote:
Here is a short essay of Suniti K.Pathak, whose opinion is that has tantra existed from the earliest period of buddhism onward http://www.thlib.org/static/reprints/bot/bot_1989_02_03.pdf




There is one important point in this you are missing. The earliest known text in India we know of that is referred to as a "tantra" is the Agniveśa tantra -- which is the core of the important ayurvedic treatise, the Caraka Samhita. The composition of the CS is hard to date, but likely was compiled between roughly 200 BCE -- 200 CE. Before there were distinct Buddhist texts called tantras, was another ayurvedic treatise called the Aṣtaṅgahridayasamhita penned by a Buddhist physician named Vagbhata in roughly the fifth century CE -- this text refers to itself as a tantra in the colophon.

Pathak's thesis is not that tantra existed in Buddhism from the beginning. His thesis is that elements existed in Buddhism from the beginning which are consistent with later developments called Vajrayāna. I don't disagree with this thesis. I think it is correct.

However, Vajrayāna is a mature path. Reciting a mantra to remove snake venom is not a path.

N


Suniti K. Pathak says more than that. It is intersting to see what things he associates with tantrism, things that are present in our general view of early buddhism. The snake venom removing mantra is important because it is in Vinaya Vastu and it is connected to a known tantric deity !


The Vinaya Vastu is a complicated text. We cannot assume that its entire contents date from the time of the Buddha.

I prefer to interpret these instances differently. I think that there is an underlyingPan- Indian culture, based on vedic ritualism, cosmology and medical ideas, that people mistakenly term "tantrism". Buddhists were first and foremost Indian, and they utilized their culture in their practice of Buddhism. Proof of this for example may be found in the Mahaparinibbana sutta where Buddha informs Ananda that "the faithful brahmins" will take care of his cremation and so on, because they know the proper rituals for interring a Cakravartin. Or, in the beginning of the same sutta, he informs a minister of Ajasatru that it will be hard to invade the Koasalians, because among other things, they have maintained their traditional shrines and modes of worship.

All of this is not what we in Vajrayāna understand "tantra" to be. Of course we recognize that there are great similarities between non-Buddhist practice such as Shaivaite use of ganacakras, certain types of yoga, channels and cakras; secular practices such as royal coronation and so on. But just as the elements of Caitya or Stupa are all named after the ritual precinct of the Agnihotra, fire oblations, likewise, when these elements are taken up in the tantras they are repurposed if you will.

You can see seeds of this or that development in later Vajrayana in early Buddhism -- for example, the cult of Dharmapalas is present from the very beginning in the Dighanikāya, but the way these things exist in a piecemeal fashion in early Buddhism means that they are not a path.

Vajrayāna is a fully mature path, as opposed to the various miscellany found in various places. Also, even if Mahāmayuri is a deity in lower tantra, the practice of Mahāmayuri is also not a path. This deity is for temporary benefits, not for liberation. In lower tantra deities like Mañjuśri, Avalokiteśvara and Vajrapani are for complete realization. Lower tantra has hundreds of minor practices and mantras for various boons. Not many practices for complete realization.

So we either have to redefine what "tantric" means, specify what we mean when we are using the term "tantric" in terms of Buddhism, or restrict the definition to Vajrayāna Buddhism from the 7th century to the present in its various manifestations in Esoteric Buddhism of China and Japan and Vajrayāna in Tibet.

N
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Re: What is a tantric teaching in Buddhism?

Postby Aemilius » Thu Apr 07, 2011 12:55 pm

Internet sources say that Mahamayuri is one of the five Wisdom Kings ( Vidyaraja), they are connected to the Five Buddhas. This points to that Five wisdom kings are transcendental, and not merely mundane deities. There can be hundreds of deities that are practiced for mundane purposes like health, long life etc... like Ushnisha vijaya and others... but these various boons can have a transcendental origin, like the vows of Medicine Buddhas, and of Bodhisattvas.
Various benefits are called secondary siddhis, that come after you attain the primary Siddhi ( of Bodhi).
Early Buddhism emphasizes strongly Enlightenment per se. Often people take up the Kevaddha sutta and say that "Buddha condemned every kind of supernormal powers as useless". If read yourself through the Pali Suttas, you realize that this is not the whole truth, there are many instances when supernormal powers that are seen as positive and as something that really exists.
Suniti K. Pathak concludes that because there were Siddhis and supernormal powers, there also was the cause of that, i.e. something that equals the tantra of later centuries. Whether "mature" or not, it was highly effective.
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Re: What is a tantric teaching in Buddhism?

Postby Aemilius » Thu Apr 07, 2011 1:34 pm

Namdrol wrote:The Avatamsaka sutra is not found in the rgyud sde of the Kangyur, I can assure you since I have access to several versions. There is a two volume collection at the end of the rgyud sde where all dharanis from both sutra and tantra are collected. The dharanis in the Avatamska are also found there.

The abhisheka mentioned in the Dasabhumi sutra and the Lanka-avatara is only bestowed upon tenth stage bodhisattvas. It is not a method that is taught for ordinary people.

These kinds of misconceptions have been put to bed by Indian tantric scholars 1200 years ago. Tripitikamala is one person you should read to understand the difference between sutra and tantras, as well as many others.


You should read Lankavatara Sutra Chapter 2.40 ;Two kinds Of Buddha's Sustaining Power (Adhisthana)

This subchapter is about two and half pages, the verse at its the end goes:
163.The sustaining power is purified by the Buddhas' vows; in the baptism, Samadhis,etc., from the first to the tenth stage, the bodhisattvas are in the embrace of the Buddhas.

"Baptism" means abhisheka, obviously.
This means that Bodhisattvas are conferred the Buddhas' sustaining power through their whole career, not just on the 10th Bhumi.

"By the power of the Buddha" occurs repeatedly through the Avatamsaka Sutra. It must be the same Adhisthana that is discussed in Lankavatara?

Adhisthana is also present in Diamond Sutra when it says that "Tathagata blesses bodhisattva-mahasattvas with the greatest of blessings"
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Re: What is a tantric teaching in Buddhism?

Postby Malcolm » Thu Apr 07, 2011 2:34 pm

Aemilius wrote:
Namdrol wrote:The Avatamsaka sutra is not found in the rgyud sde of the Kangyur, I can assure you since I have access to several versions. There is a two volume collection at the end of the rgyud sde where all dharanis from both sutra and tantra are collected. The dharanis in the Avatamska are also found there.

The abhisheka mentioned in the Dasabhumi sutra and the Lanka-avatara is only bestowed upon tenth stage bodhisattvas. It is not a method that is taught for ordinary people.

These kinds of misconceptions have been put to bed by Indian tantric scholars 1200 years ago. Tripitikamala is one person you should read to understand the difference between sutra and tantras, as well as many others.


You should read Lankavatara Sutra Chapter 2.40 ;Two kinds Of Buddha's Sustaining Power (Adhisthana)

This subchapter is about two and half pages, the verse at its the end goes:
163.The sustaining power is purified by the Buddhas' vows; in the baptism, Samadhis,etc., from the first to the tenth stage, the bodhisattvas are in the embrace of the Buddhas.

"Baptism" means abhisheka, obviously.
This means that Bodhisattvas are conferred the Buddhas' sustaining power through their whole career, not just on the 10th Bhumi.

"By the power of the Buddha" occurs repeatedly through the Avatamsaka Sutra. It must be the same Adhisthana that is discussed in Lankavatara?

Adhisthana is also present in Diamond Sutra when it says that "Tathagata blesses bodhisattva-mahasattvas with the greatest of blessings"


Adhisthana and abhisheka are not the same thing.
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Re: What is a tantric teaching in Buddhism?

Postby tamdrin » Thu Apr 07, 2011 2:46 pm

Namdrol,
In your opinion does the hocus pocus of using various mantras to attract a worldly boon work?
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Re: What is a tantric teaching in Buddhism?

Postby Malcolm » Thu Apr 07, 2011 2:50 pm

tamdrin wrote:Namdrol,
In your opinion does the hocus pocus of using various mantras to attract a worldly boon work?


If you produce the function of mantra in your speech, then mantras work. They do not have any magic power of their own.
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Re: What is a tantric teaching in Buddhism?

Postby tamdrin » Thu Apr 07, 2011 3:26 pm

Can you elaborate?
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Re: What is a tantric teaching in Buddhism?

Postby Malcolm » Thu Apr 07, 2011 5:03 pm

tamdrin wrote:Can you elaborate?



There are many theories of how mantras work. However, at basis, if you do some long retreat on a wisdom deity, any retreat, and gains signs of success, then chances of these others kinds of mantras working for you are much better.

At any rate, this is my personal experience.
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Re: What is a tantric teaching in Buddhism?

Postby Aemilius » Sat Apr 09, 2011 8:24 am

The only really colorful thing is attaining the dhyanas, samadhi, (samapatti or siddhi, if you like). Before that there is no substantial difference between kasinas and a picture of buddha, bodhisattva or a deity.
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Re: What is a tantric teaching in Buddhism?

Postby Aemilius » Sat Apr 09, 2011 8:39 am

Suniti K. Pathak doesn't really spell it out what he means. He presumes too much, namely that people would understand from a mere hint that the path of the Four Legs of Miraculous Powers utilizes desire and passion. One of the four legs is even called Chanda, that is Desire. Because this teaching exists in the Theravada and Mahayana canons, it is an evidence that the path of tantra or utilizing the passions existed already in the early buddhism.This is what he says by implication.
Thanissaro Bhikkhu's Wings To Awakening has a good description of the Path of Four Bases Of Miraculous Power that consists of passages taken from the Suttas. That it is a path in itself is quite clear from it.
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Re: What is a tantric teaching in Buddhism?

Postby Aemilius » Sat Apr 09, 2011 8:53 am

It seems that the path of the Seven Bodhyangas describes a transmutation passion or resolving of passion. It is clear in the stages 3. and 4., and onwards. They are: 3. Virya ( persistence), 4. Priti ( Rapture), 5.Prashrabdhi ( Serenity), 6. Samadhi ( concentration), 7. Upeksha ( Equanimity)
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Re: What is a tantric teaching in Buddhism?

Postby Malcolm » Sat Apr 09, 2011 9:20 am

Aemilius wrote:Suniti K. Pathak doesn't really spell it out what he means. He presumes too much, namely that people would understand from a mere hint that the path of the Four Legs of Miraculous Powers utilizes desire and passion. One of the four legs is even called Chanda, that is Desire. Because this teaching exists in the Theravada and Mahayana canons, it is an evidence that the path of tantra or utilizing the passions existed already in the early buddhism.This is what he says by implication.
Thanissaro Bhikkhu's Wings To Awakening has a good description of the Path of Four Bases Of Miraculous Power that consists of passages taken from the Suttas. That it is a path in itself is quite clear from it.


The thirty seven bodhipaksha dharmas do not imply that there was Vajrayana present in Buddhism from earliest times.

Chanda simply means that one desires one-pointed concentration. It does not mean that one is taking sexual intercourse, food, etc., onto the path.

N
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འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

Though there are infinite liberating gateways of Dharma,
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Re: What is a tantric teaching in Buddhism?

Postby Pema Rigdzin » Sat Apr 09, 2011 9:44 am

Namdrol,

Re: the original question about what characteristics make a Buddhist teaching "tantra," what about the ten topics (i.e. empowerment, mandala, samaya, offerings, etc) as mentioned in the Guhyagarbha, among tantras? Or does the complete list only pertain to anuttarayoga tantra?
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Re: What is a tantric teaching in Buddhism?

Postby Malcolm » Sat Apr 09, 2011 10:02 am

Pema Rigdzin wrote:Namdrol,

Re: the original question about what characteristics make a Buddhist teaching "tantra," what about the ten topics (i.e. empowerment, mandala, samaya, offerings, etc) as mentioned in the Guhyagarbha, among tantras? Or does the complete list only pertain to anuttarayoga tantra?



The ten tattvas which make a teachings a guhyamantra teaching are valid in general. All tantric systems have some kind of samaya, but not necessarily the 22 samayas of HYT.
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Re: What is a tantric teaching in Buddhism?

Postby Pema Rigdzin » Sat Apr 09, 2011 10:26 am

Namdrol wrote:
Pema Rigdzin wrote:Namdrol,

Re: the original question about what characteristics make a Buddhist teaching "tantra," what about the ten topics (i.e. empowerment, mandala, samaya, offerings, etc) as mentioned in the Guhyagarbha, among tantras? Or does the complete list only pertain to anuttarayoga tantra?



The ten tattvas which make a teachings a guhyamantra teaching are valid in general. All tantric systems have some kind of samaya, but not necessarily the 22 samayas of HYT.


So basically this settles it, then? If a teaching does not include these ten aspects, it is not tantra? (Keep in mind I'm including Dzogchen as a system possessing these because of its own explanation about how these are realized in Dzogchen to be primordially complete)
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Re: What is a tantric teaching in Buddhism?

Postby Malcolm » Sat Apr 09, 2011 10:28 am

Pema Rigdzin wrote:
Namdrol wrote:
Pema Rigdzin wrote:Namdrol,

Re: the original question about what characteristics make a Buddhist teaching "tantra," what about the ten topics (i.e. empowerment, mandala, samaya, offerings, etc) as mentioned in the Guhyagarbha, among tantras? Or does the complete list only pertain to anuttarayoga tantra?



The ten tattvas which make a teachings a guhyamantra teaching are valid in general. All tantric systems have some kind of samaya, but not necessarily the 22 samayas of HYT.


So basically this settles it, then? If a teaching does not include these ten aspects, it is not tantra? (Keep in mind I'm including Dzogchen in this because of its own explanation about how these are primordially complete)



Correct.
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Re: What is a tantric teaching in Buddhism?

Postby Aemilius » Sat Apr 09, 2011 12:38 pm

Namdrol wrote:The thirty seven bodhipaksha dharmas do not imply that there was Vajrayana present in Buddhism from earliest times.

Chanda simply means that one desires one-pointed concentration. It does not mean that one is taking sexual intercourse, food, etc., onto the path.

N


If Chanda were just what you say the Four Bases would be just any normal path of morality, meditation & wisdom. The case is that this is the special path that produces the supernormal powers, and here Chanda has more meaning than elsewhere. People who know what are the real bases of miraculous powers would know this, like Suniti K Pathak. This topic is somewhat esoteric, if you think that you can fly in space through mindfulness of breathing it is up to you ofcourse. The point is that the 37 bodhipakshas we have now, have gone through certain evolution during the millennia, and that therefore they do not contain everything that was there 2500 years ago. The meaning is that 37 bodhipaksha dharmas contain rudimental descriptions of teachings that really worked, i.e. that passions were really transmuted and transformed, states of dhyana & samadhi were attained, miraculous feats were attained,... We have to assume that people minds were basically similar 2500 years ago. Words are not the truth, truth is what they point at. What ever it requires to attain the Miraculous Powers was certainly done. We've gone through this many times. Theravada does not represent the correct interpretation of Buddhas words, this is also being implied.
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Re: What is a tantric teaching in Buddhism?

Postby Aemilius » Sat Apr 09, 2011 12:59 pm

About Abhisheka
According to certain authorities there is formal initiation and informal intitation (abhisheka).
I would not have believed that people really believe that placing objects on their heads is the all-decisive thing! But this seems to be the case, is it?
They have said that people's temperaments differ, and that ritualistic tantras were taught for people who are fond of it. I find it rather amazing and unbelievable. It must have its roots in the very long history of humanity, i.e. spanning atleast 10 000 or 100 000 years or more. That way it makes some sense, and its existence is somehow possible to understand.
Chogyam Trungpa refused to give abhishekas for a long time, he said that everything a true Guru does is an abhisheka.
In Dhagpo Kayu Ling Gelongma Rinchen said that Initiation means that you are taught a spiritual practice. She said that even teaching Tongleng is an initiation in the full sense of the word.
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Re: What is a tantric teaching in Buddhism?

Postby Malcolm » Sat Apr 09, 2011 1:57 pm

Aemilius wrote:
Namdrol wrote:The thirty seven bodhipaksha dharmas do not imply that there was Vajrayana present in Buddhism from earliest times.

Chanda simply means that one desires one-pointed concentration. It does not mean that one is taking sexual intercourse, food, etc., onto the path.

N


If Chanda were just what you say the Four Bases would be just any normal path of morality, meditation & wisdom. The case is that this is the special path that produces the supernormal powers, and here Chanda has more meaning than elsewhere. People who know what are the real bases of miraculous powers would know this, like Suniti K Pathak. This topic is somewhat esoteric, if you think that you can fly in space through mindfulness of breathing it is up to you ofcourse.


Samadhi alone produces supernormal powers. There is no transmutation of passion implied in chanda. The four iddhipadas are parts of samadhi. That's it.
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Though there are infinite liberating gateways of Dharma,
there are none not included in the dimension of the knowledge of the Great Perfection.

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Re: What is a tantric teaching in Buddhism?

Postby Malcolm » Sat Apr 09, 2011 2:14 pm

Aemilius wrote:About Abhisheka
According to certain authorities there is formal initiation and informal intitation (abhisheka).
I would not have believed that people really believe that placing objects on their heads is the all-decisive thing! But this seems to be the case, is it?


Abhisheka is method of arranging the dependent origination of a person's basis with the result so the result can be taken as the path. This is the unique feature of abhisheka in Vajrayana.



Chogyam Trungpa refused to give abhishekas for a long time, he said that everything a true Guru does is an abhisheka.


he gave them a lot early on, then stopped because he saw that people were only relating to them as a kind of ritual, not understanding the real meaning.

However, in his Vajrayāna seminaries he always gave a transmission called "direct introction" which is characteristic of Kagyu Mahamudra and Dzogchen.

In Dhagpo Kayu Ling Gelongma Rinchen said that Initiation means that you are taught a spiritual practice. She said that even teaching Tongleng is an initiation in the full sense of the word.


Teaching someone a practice is not an abhisheka. There is no initiation for tonglen, since it is sutrayāna. Merely teaching someone a practice is not an "initiation". You either misunderstood what she meant, or she is wrong.

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