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.
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.