Is Tantra not a defining feature of Vajrayana?

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Is Tantra not a defining feature of Vajrayana?

Postby Rakshasa » Thu Sep 05, 2013 7:17 pm

I have researched quite a bit about various Buddhists sects and traditions - especially to understand what is "original" and what is fabrication - and I believe that Tantra or Yoga is not necessarily the defining feature of Vajrayana Buddhists sects like in Tibetan Buddhism.

We know from manuals found in Sri Lanka (which are written in Pali), that Tantric and ritualistic, Yoga like practices, were quite prevalent in the island. There are also historical accounts that prove that Lanka was a center of Mahayana and Yoga practices (Lankavatara Sutra and Dzogchen is supposedly founded there) .We know from Yoga manuals of Sravastivada monks that are found in Dunhuang caves that even the Sravastivada monks were practicing Yoga. And you cannot get more Hinayana than Sravastivada monks. There are texts on spells of HInayana monks found from Dunhuang caves. In fact, the archeological findings of various Hinayana monasteries from all over India points to a ritualistic tradition even amongst monks belonging to these sects. As is already being understood, "Hinayana" was more like a derogatory reference to some sects by other sects to prove themselves superior. The monk Buddhabhadra was considered "Hinayana" monk in China even though he translated the Avatamsaka sutra!

So I believe that the argument of the Vajrayana/Mahayana monks was not "we are superior to you because we have tantra and yoga" but it was more like "our tantra/yoga is superior to your tantra/yoga".

Please comment on my conclusion.
Thank you.
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Re: Is Tantra not a defining feature of Vajrayana?

Postby Kim O'Hara » Thu Sep 05, 2013 10:40 pm

Hi, Rakshasa,
I don't know enough about the subject to comment usefully on your conclusion, but you may find something of interest in this thread from the other DW, "Tantric Theravada?" http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=10503

:reading:
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Re: Is Tantra not a defining feature of Vajrayana?

Postby Indrajala » Fri Sep 06, 2013 3:12 am

The defining feature of Vajrayāna and tantra is abhiṣeka, which earlier similar practices generally lack. We find the use of dhāraṇīs, mantras, spells, summonings and so forth long before abhiṣeka, as well as various yoga practices. There are also astrology sūtras that are not specifically Mahāyāna, which is noteworthy.
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Re: Is Tantra not a defining feature of Vajrayana?

Postby Zhen Li » Sun Oct 06, 2013 12:51 am

Important also to keep in mind is that Tantric practitioners almost always were not monks, but siddhis. When you find ceremonies which appear to be similar in monastic lineages at the time, they very well may be, as you suggest, carry overs from the most common practices in the South Asian religious milieu in general. But the defining feature of Tantric Buddhism is indeed Abhiseka, which is an expression/extension of the feudalism in medieval South Asia.

In the end, if you are trying to find a clear dividing line between any such ideas in history, it's not going to happen. Siddhis enjoyed staying over at, and initiating monks at monasteries, and monks were keep to break their precepts to get into the circle of siddhis who were associated with politically powerful figures, such as kings. Most of them probably weren't in the monastic business for nirvana anyway.

It's all a very different picture from Tibetan Buddhism.
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Re: Is Tantra not a defining feature of Vajrayana?

Postby KonchokZoepa » Sun Oct 06, 2013 12:43 pm

Rakshasa wrote:
So I believe that the argument of the Vajrayana/Mahayana monks was not "we are superior to you because we have tantra and yoga" but it was more like "our tantra/yoga is superior to your tantra/yoga".

Please comment on my conclusion.
Thank you.



i think this '' vajrayana is superior to the other vehicles '' is misleading and not right. i dont think that any real masters would say this. superior meaning better.

i think this is something that westerners have come up with.

and hinayana, lesser vehicle doesnt mean or indicate that it is somehow lower or ''not as good as '' the mahayana and vajrayana. what it means is that it is a vehicle for lesser capacity. and a place where every buddhist practitioner should start and has to start because it is the foundation.

i think that this conclusion or your '''' quotes either of them sound egotistical and not coming from truth based thinking.

of course bodhisattva path is ''superior'' to arahant path but that has to do with the capacity, not that they are somehow better. and as you probly know this is the case with tantra that you have to have the bodhisattva ideal or mind.


i might be wrong but i think that all the tantras and yogas have come down from the mahasiddhas and are equal, just different methods for different people

so this mind putting other teachings or paths on a pedestal and disparaging others sounds stupid and coming from the mouth of a not very developed individual or groups.


i might be wrong and just talking out of my ass, but this are my thoughts.
If the thought of demons
Never rises in your mind,
You need not fear the demon hosts around you.
It is most important to tame your mind within....

In so far as the Ultimate, or the true nature of being is concerned,
there are neither buddhas or demons.
He who frees himself from fear and hope, evil and virtue,
will realize the insubstantial and groundless nature of confusion.
Samsara will then appear as the mahamudra itself….

-Milarepa

OMMANIPADMEHUNG

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ls6P9tOYmdo
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Re: Is Tantra not a defining feature of Vajrayana?

Postby Greg » Sun Oct 06, 2013 10:21 pm

Zhen Li wrote:Important also to keep in mind is that Tantric practitioners almost always were not monks, but siddhis. When you find ceremonies which appear to be similar in monastic lineages at the time, they very well may be, as you suggest, carry overs from the most common practices in the South Asian religious milieu in general. But the defining feature of Tantric Buddhism is indeed Abhiseka, which is an expression/extension of the feudalism in medieval South Asia.

In the end, if you are trying to find a clear dividing line between any such ideas in history, it's not going to happen. Siddhis enjoyed staying over at, and initiating monks at monasteries, and monks were keep to break their precepts to get into the circle of siddhis who were associated with politically powerful figures, such as kings. Most of them probably weren't in the monastic business for nirvana anyway.

It's all a very different picture from Tibetan Buddhism.


It's been a while since I read Davidson, but it seems to me this would only have been true (that monks rarely practiced HYT) very early in the history of HYT, meaning prior to 750 CE or so, and gets less and less true from there. All of the mahaviharas had HYT shrines at the very least, and Vikramasila and Jaggadala were known as centers for HYT. It was fully institutionalized in monastic centers.
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Re: Is Tantra not a defining feature of Vajrayana?

Postby Zhen Li » Fri Oct 11, 2013 8:08 am

Late 8th century is when it was institutionalised, but the question is about what is more original and defining in terms of Vajrayana. To the extent that we can answer that, monastic institutionalisation isn't it.
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