Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

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Luke
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Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Luke » Sat Apr 27, 2013 12:54 pm

I am curious what the main historical reasons are for the secrecy in Vajrayana.

I have 2 theories, but I am not very knowledgeable about history, so I could be wrong.

Theory 1: The secrecy in Vajrayana was necessary because of being persecuted by people of other religions (the Muslim invasion of India, etc.)

Theory 2: The concept of secret teachings being passed from master to disciple is just an element of Indian culture which Vajrayana absorbed.

I would be interested to hear your ideas about these things.

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Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Wayfarer » Sat Apr 27, 2013 12:59 pm

I think they are kept secret for the simple reason that they are very easily misunderstood, and the consequence of misunderstanding them may be very serious. Those that are likely to misunderstand them will be much better off with the other schools. That would be my take, but it is only based on reading and may be quite mistaken.
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Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sat Apr 27, 2013 1:38 pm

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Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby MalaBeads » Sat Apr 27, 2013 2:38 pm

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Astus
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Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Astus » Sat Apr 27, 2013 4:52 pm

Ronald M. Davidson writes in Indian Esoteric Buddhism: A Social History of the Tantric Movement:

Buddhist hermeneutics in service of the siddha-related literature had to accomplish several arduous goals. First, under the rubric of secrecy, it had to explain why the new literature diametrically contradicted the fundamental Buddhist values of virtuous restraint, since restraint and discipline (vinaya, sila) were the starting points to Buddhist institutional life. Second, siddha hermeneutics needed to generate a systematic interpretation of difficult passages, especially those tying erotic behavior to the Buddha himself. Finally, the exegesis needed to be sufficiently flexible both to reassure the conservative monastic community, while continuing to incorporate new developments in Indian religious life.
(p. 239-240)

Most Buddhist Mahayanist and esoteric scriptures explicitly acknowledge the question of reception with the introductory chapters (nidana) affording scenarios in which different communities are assembled, followed by their haggling over the meaning of the Buddha’s message. The hermeneutics of reception, in fact, contributed to one of the great paradoxes of Indian esoteric Buddhism: the employment of secrecy for the purpose of propagating extensively the esoteric practices within multiple communities and subcultures. The esoteric method is arguably the most successful Indian Buddhist ritual system to market itself throughout both the traditional and modern worlds. Given the extraordinary spread and viability of the esoteric persuasion, it appears that one aspect of its popularity is exactly its claims to superiority by virtue of selectivity. Few themes fan the flames of desire like restricted access and an aura of incomparability. In their emphasis on secrecy, esoteric Buddhists shared systems of transmission with other institutions that required secrecy in the pursuit of hegemonic status: governments, trade societies, criminal conspiracies, and ritual specialists.
In recognition of these requirements, the rhetoric of esoterism directed that new material typically be introduced through the agency of a scriptural pronouncement that is presented as a challenge to the status quo. The language of the introductory chapters (nidana), introductory sections of threatening chapters, and sections on coded language (sandhyabhasa) often represent their content as causing grave doubts, sometimes about their referents, sometimes about the nature of the Buddha’s message itself. Many of the literary techniques had already been introduced in Mahayana sutras, especially the Saddharmapundarika, but were used now to justify decidedly different content.

(p. 245-246)

At home, esoteric Buddhism demonstrated tenacious success in India for more than five centuries at a time when the dynamics of the subcontinent were rapidly changing, and Buddhist institutions were in retreat in the Krsna River valley and elsewhere. It assisted the maintenance of the great monasteries and stemmed the Saiva tide sweeping up from the south. It sponsored the development of aesthetic and artistic forms in other countries such as Tibet, China, Japan, Nan-chao, and Burma—and formulated models of a hierarchical sacred community that survive to the present. It developed some of the most popular rituals ever employed in Buddhist centers and propagated them with a rhetoric of intimacy and secrecy. Indeed, the overwhelming success of the Secret Path has propelled it into a position where it has become perhaps the least secret of all the Buddhist meditative systems.
(p. 339)
Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.



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pueraeternus
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Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby pueraeternus » Sat Apr 27, 2013 6:05 pm

So its mostly a upaya thing? A transformation and development to deal with a rapidly changing and antagonistic world. A defensive mechanism really - build ornate and stunning walls with elaborate jeweled gates - both to keep away marauders and attract postulants.
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Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Konchog1 » Sat Apr 27, 2013 6:07 pm

My understanding is that it's mostly number one. But the worry was about persecution from Hindus and other Buddhists, not Muslims. Read the story of Luipa for example, most people would think him mad and be unable to believe anything else. So better people think one man crazy than all of Tantra.

There's another reason that Dzongsar Rinpoche gives in Not for Happiness. If a practice is secret, it becomes sacred. The practitioner will treat the practice with respect and not involve it in ego games. He gives the example of Hatha Yoga which has been reduced from a practice a spiritual transformation to a mere exercise program. The cause he says is not enough secrecy and respect.

Therefore, the secrecy isn't really there to restrict access to information. The purpose of the secrecy is keep Tantra holy. Which is why if you are initiated into Avalokiteshvara, you can't tell other Buddhists that his mantra is Om Mani Padme Hum. Which most people already know.
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"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
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Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

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Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Jnana » Sat Apr 27, 2013 6:29 pm


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Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Konchog1 » Sat Apr 27, 2013 6:56 pm

Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats

Jnana
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Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Jnana » Sat Apr 27, 2013 7:19 pm


Sherlock
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Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Sherlock » Sat Apr 27, 2013 7:51 pm

I think it might not really have been that secret even in India. Non-initiates did know about ganapujas and that they involved meat and alcohol. Ganapujas themselves were a non-Vedically sanctioned ritual form which were shared between Buddhist groups and groups which at least nominally believed in the incorruptibility of the Vedas (Shaivites, Vishnuites etc); which group they originated with is impossible to confirm but there is quite a bit of evidence that hints that they originated in the forms of Buddhism meant for outcasts or tribals.

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Luke
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Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Luke » Sat Apr 27, 2013 9:03 pm


Pero
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Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Pero » Sat Apr 27, 2013 9:28 pm

Although many individuals in this age appear to be merely indulging their worldly desires, one does not have the capacity to judge them, so it is best to train in pure vision.
- Shabkar

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Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Sherlock » Sat Apr 27, 2013 9:37 pm


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Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby heart » Sat Apr 27, 2013 9:51 pm

"We are all here to help each other go through this thing, whatever it is."
~Kurt Vonnegut

"The principal practice is Guruyoga. But we need to understand that any secondary practice combined with Guruyoga becomes a principal practice." ChNNR (Teachings on Thun and Ganapuja)

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Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Konchog1 » Sat Apr 27, 2013 9:57 pm

Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats

Jnana
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Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Jnana » Sat Apr 27, 2013 9:58 pm


Pero
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Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Pero » Sat Apr 27, 2013 10:16 pm

Although many individuals in this age appear to be merely indulging their worldly desires, one does not have the capacity to judge them, so it is best to train in pure vision.
- Shabkar

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Astus
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Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Astus » Sat Apr 27, 2013 10:39 pm

If the reason for secrecy were the personal nature of practice, it'd be true for every Buddhist (and non-Buddhist) teaching. If the reason were to keep it holy, the same would apply for all religion. Rather, as Davidson says, the idea of secrecy was and still is used primarily as an attractive element, to make it look special and people who are initiated feel they are the chosen ones. Secrecy is also used to explain why Tantra was unknown to other Buddhist schools, the same excuse used by Mahayana. Western esoteric teachings are also meant to be secret, however, it is obvious that practically anyone who wants to know about it can get all the information. Same applies for Vajrayana that is arguably the most widespread form of Buddhism in the West with perhaps the largest number of publications and other media coverage from documentary films to Hollywood movies. It is a lot easier to learn about the Six Yogas, one of the highest and most secret practices, than to find information on such common practices as (East Asian) Pure Land funerary rituals.
Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.



Pero
Posts: 1901
Joined: Tue Aug 31, 2010 8:54 pm

Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Pero » Sat Apr 27, 2013 10:55 pm

Although many individuals in this age appear to be merely indulging their worldly desires, one does not have the capacity to judge them, so it is best to train in pure vision.
- Shabkar


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