Guru yoga not Indian?

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Guru yoga not Indian?

Postby Indrajala » Mon Oct 07, 2013 3:38 pm

Rob Mayer has an interesting post on the following blog worth reading:

http://blogs.orient.ox.ac.uk/kila/2013/ ... masambhava

    Given the ubiquity of guru yoga sādhanas throughout Tibetan Buddhism, and their sometimes great complexity, not to mention the richness of their commentarial literature and the great wealth of their religious art, it can be surprising to recall how little equivalent practice is recorded from Indian sources.

    ...

    Clearly then, the guru yoga that we now know developed in Tibet, not in India. As far as I am currently aware, it seems to have developed in the early phyi dar more or less simultaneously within several closely interlinked religious circles.




Any thoughts?

I always thought it unusual how nothing comparable to Tibetan guru yoga seems to have existed in Chinese esoteric Buddhism (though correct me if I'm wrong), and attributed this perhaps to an earlier period of Indian tantra being transmitted into China. But if Mayer is correct, such guru yoga is a Tibetan innovation.
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Re: Guru yoga not Indian?

Postby Malcolm » Mon Oct 07, 2013 4:11 pm

Indrajala wrote:
I always thought it unusual how nothing comparable to Tibetan guru yoga seems to have existed in Chinese esoteric Buddhism (though correct me if I'm wrong), and attributed this perhaps to an earlier period of Indian tantra being transmitted into China. But if Mayer is correct, such guru yoga is a Tibetan innovation.


That entirely depends on what you mean by "innovation". Guru Yoga certainly exists in a few Indian sources. For example, a general outline of Guru Yoga as it is universally practiced today is provided in the Hevajrasya hastavyavagrāhakrama-nāma.

In general, Guru yoga is only an annutarayoga tantra practice.

The practice of making use of historical or quasi historical figures for Guru yoga is a Tibetan innovation. It seems in India, gurus were generally imagined in the form of one's devatā.
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Re: Guru yoga not Indian?

Postby dzogchungpa » Mon Oct 07, 2013 4:22 pm

From the article:
Of course there is ample evidence that guru lineage, guru devotion, and the guru’s empowerment, were just as important for Indian Tantric Buddhists as for Tibetans. Gurus were undoubtedly understood in India as the embodiment of all enlightened beings and of all enlightened qualities, and they were regularly visualised as such, for example in various preliminaries to other practices. Yet it seems that in India, however widespread, such practices did not generally attain the status of complex, stand-alone sādhanas.

Maybe Tibetans really like complex, stand-alone sādhanas?
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Re: Guru yoga not Indian?

Postby Indrajala » Mon Oct 07, 2013 5:26 pm

Malcolm wrote:That entirely depends on what you mean by "innovation". Guru Yoga certainly exists in a few Indian sources. For example, a general outline of Guru Yoga as it is universally practiced today is provided in the Hevajrasya hastavyavagrāhakrama-nāma.


In a similar fashion, an outline for Pure Land devotional practices is found across various sūtras, but the Chinese innovated their own practices based on these texts.

There's nothing wrong with innovation in Buddhism. We just need to be clear on the real genesis of a given innovation.

However, if Mayer is correct, then it might prove problematic for some Tibetan Buddhists who generally want to trace things back to an Indian source in order to validate and confirm. That's understandable of course.
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Re: Guru yoga not Indian?

Postby smcj » Mon Oct 07, 2013 6:00 pm

However, if Mayer is correct, then it might prove problematic for some Tibetan Buddhists who generally want to trace things back to an Indian source in order to validate and confirm. That's understandable of course.

In theory, with the exception of the Nyingmas, they want to trace it back to Sakyamuni. Obviously most historians would have a problem with that.

In any case my own position is that, regardless of historical justification, somehow it is valid. If I plug my computer into the wall and there's an electrical current, I don't need to know all the wiring back to the generator in order to use it.
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Re: Guru yoga not Indian?

Postby Konchog1 » Tue Oct 08, 2013 1:01 am

Malcolm wrote:The practice of making use of historical or quasi historical figures for Guru yoga is a Tibetan innovation. It seems in India, gurus were generally imagined in the form of one's devatā.
So the Indians didn't visualize the lineage Gurus? Just their Guru?
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Re: Guru yoga not Indian?

Postby invisiblediamond » Tue Oct 08, 2013 5:28 am

There is something very wrong with innovation in Buddhism. Guru yoga is Indian. One imagines the guru in the form of Vajradhara in the heart which is the embodiment of all Buddhas. This goes back to Lawapa. Hindus have it in the form of the guru mantra.
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Re: Guru yoga not Indian?

Postby smcj » Tue Oct 08, 2013 6:23 am

One imagines the guru in the form of Vajradhara in the heart which is the embodiment of all Buddhas. This goes back to Lawapa.

Who's Lawapa?

In the Kagyu NgonDro you visualize your guru as Vajradhara sitting in a tree. The other lineage gurus are around and above him. At the very top is Vajradhara again. The reason for this is that Vajradhara is supposed to be the enlightenment of Sakyamuni as seen from the Vajrayana perspective. So the Vajradhara at the top represents the historical Sakyamuni, and his enlightenment is passed down through the lineage (regardless of how likely history says that is) until it gets to your teacher. So seeing your teacher as Vajradhara means seeing him as presenting the enlightenment of Sakyamuni to you. Obviously your teacher is his own personage, not the personage of Gautama. But his enlightenment (to whatever degree he has any) is not different than Sakyamuni's--at least in essence if not in scope. Now of course if he is fully enlightened (lucky you!) then you are just visualizing him as his mind appears in the Sambogakaya.

I'm pretty sure that is an orthodox presentation, but I cobbled it together from a number of different sources rather than from one coherent teaching. So I may have assembled a jigsaw puzzle with a false picture. Sorry if I have lead anybody astray.

Incidentally I heard a story about the XVIth Karmapa that relates to this. Somebody took some pictures of him, but when they were developed they were pictures of thankas. He supposedly said of this, "You tried to take a pictures of my body, but you got pictures of my mind."
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Re: Guru yoga not Indian?

Postby smcj » Tue Oct 08, 2013 7:13 am

There is something very wrong with innovation in Buddhism.

Yes and no. I believe the technical definition of "Dharma" is the speech of an enlightened being. So if someone does become enlightened, what they say is authentic Dharma. Plus there are those that would say that the different termas in the Nyingma tradition are innovations as well.

But if somebody can't do it, doesn't like it, and changes it to suit their purpose, then that's corrupting Dharma. Of course there's nobody around like that these days!
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Re: Guru yoga not Indian?

Postby Malcolm » Tue Oct 08, 2013 1:21 pm

smcj wrote:Who's Lawapa?


Luipa, the first siddha to write down a Cakrasamvara sadhana. Also there is the Vajrayogini sadhana penned by Naropa which has a very clearly indicated guru yoga section.

Jeff, you have to keep in mind that a lot of ritual procedures written by Tibetans were held in the memories of Indians practitioners since they are a deep cultural part of India.
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Re: Guru yoga not Indian?

Postby Indrajala » Tue Oct 08, 2013 1:43 pm

Malcolm wrote:Jeff, you have to keep in mind that a lot of ritual procedures written by Tibetans were held in the memories of Indians practitioners since they are a deep cultural part of India.


Sure, but then we need to ask why tantric traditions in China never seemed to have had comparable practices (but correct me if I'm wrong).
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Re: Guru yoga not Indian?

Postby Malcolm » Tue Oct 08, 2013 1:47 pm

Indrajala wrote:
Malcolm wrote:Jeff, you have to keep in mind that a lot of ritual procedures written by Tibetans were held in the memories of Indians practitioners since they are a deep cultural part of India.


Sure, but then we need to ask why tantric traditions in China never seemed to have had comparable practices (but correct me if I'm wrong).


I explained that -- Guru yoga, as well as mandala offerings, are quite specific to the annutarayoga tantra phase in India. These tantras were not imported to China in any systematic way.
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Re: Guru yoga not Indian?

Postby Sherlock » Tue Oct 08, 2013 1:49 pm

Does guruyoga exist in Newari Buddhism? or even Javanese Buddhism?
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Re: Guru yoga not Indian?

Postby Malcolm » Tue Oct 08, 2013 2:19 pm

Konchog1 wrote:
Malcolm wrote:The practice of making use of historical or quasi historical figures for Guru yoga is a Tibetan innovation. It seems in India, gurus were generally imagined in the form of one's devatā.
So the Indians didn't visualize the lineage Gurus? Just their Guru?


In general, in many practices, the master of one's family meditated at the crown is one's guru, even in lower tantras.

BTW, Jeff, you consistently say that Vajrayāna in China was "earlier" than that in Tibet. But this is not really true.

Vajrayāna was brought to Tibet during the reign of khri srong lde'u btsan which lasted from 755 to 797 or 804 depending on whose account you follow. Amoghavajra only translated a portion of the Tattvasamgraha into Chinese in 754, thought he translated a number of other texts. Considering that it is very likely that the yoga tantra, etc., we see comes from South India by way of Java and so on, both by tradition and by textual evidence, and the so called annutaratyoga tantras such as Guhysamaja are sited in Oḍḍiyāna from the start, this accounts for the very different characters of Tibetan and Chinese Vajrayāna traditions, not "earlier" and "later" since Guhyasamaja and so on were certainly circulation by early 700's. Be that as it may, the main shrine in Samyas was devoted to the Vajradhātu Maṇḍala pointing to the presence of Tattvasamgraha by 790 at the latest in Tibet. sarvadurgatipariśodhanatejorājāyatathāgatasyārhatesamyaksambuddhasyakalpa-nāma, guhyasamaja, and so on are present in the ldan dkar catalogue pointing to its early presence in Tibet. Anyway, the Tattvasamgraha was never completely translated in Chinese until the 11th century, or perhaps the late tenth, around the same time it was translated into Tibetan.

M
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Re: Guru yoga not Indian?

Postby Indrajala » Tue Oct 08, 2013 2:21 pm

Malcolm wrote:I explained that -- Guru yoga, as well as mandala offerings, are quite specific to the annutarayoga tantra phase in India. These tantras were not imported to China in any systematic way.


Some of the texts were translated (some albeit poorly), though in any case it makes me wonder why guru yoga wouldn't have discernible roots in earlier stages of development as preserved in East Asia?
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Re: Guru yoga not Indian?

Postby Indrajala » Tue Oct 08, 2013 2:25 pm

Malcolm wrote:BTW, Jeff, you consistently say that Vajrayāna in China was "earlier" than that in Tibet. But this is not really true.


Tantric Buddhism was more systematically introduced into China before it was into Tibet it seems.

It seems the Chinese tradition preserved earlier developments more than the Tibetans did. This is the opinion of some Japanese scholars which classify Shingon/Zhenyan as 'middle period' esoteric Buddhism, while Tibetan is generally more associated with a 'later period'.
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Re: Guru yoga not Indian?

Postby Norwegian » Tue Oct 08, 2013 2:44 pm

Indrajala,

When was Tantric Buddhism systematically introduced into China? And by whom? And what class of tantra? Which lineage(s)?

Who are the "some Japanese scholars", and according to them, when is the "middle period", and when is the "later period"? Also, which earlier developments were preserved?

Don't be so vague.
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Re: Guru yoga not Indian?

Postby Malcolm » Tue Oct 08, 2013 2:46 pm

Indrajala wrote:
Malcolm wrote:BTW, Jeff, you consistently say that Vajrayāna in China was "earlier" than that in Tibet. But this is not really true.


Tantric Buddhism was more systematically introduced into China before it was into Tibet it seems.

It seems the Chinese tradition preserved earlier developments more than the Tibetans did. This is the opinion of some Japanese scholars which classify Shingon/Zhenyan as 'middle period' esoteric Buddhism, while Tibetan is generally more associated with a 'later period'.


Vajrayāna was introduced to China primarily by a single master.

Vajrayāna was introduced some thirty years (or earlier) later into Tibet by a large number of masters. After all, Samye was completed by 779 at the latest on a Vajrayāna plan. This means that Padmasambhava was present in Tibet not later than 775. This is a mere 34 years after Amoghavajra returned from his travels in 746.

When we examine these claims purely on the basis of historical dates, the claim that Vajrayāna in China is significantly "earlier" than Tibetan Imperial period Vajrayāna seems to be vastly overstated. Further, the unrestricted translation of so called anuttarayoga texts in Tibet was actually forbidden by royal edict and the main practices of the imperial period at Samye were grounded in Tattvasamgraha and the Vajrasikhara, just as in China and in Japan (from 804 onwards). Practices such as Vajrakilaya, which do date to that period, were very secret and not public at all.
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Re: Guru yoga not Indian?

Postby Indrajala » Tue Oct 08, 2013 3:09 pm

Norwegian wrote:When was Tantric Buddhism systematically introduced into China? And by whom? And what class of tantra? Which lineage(s)?


Do I really need to be your encyclopedia, or are you testing me?

Anyway...

At the earliest it was during the reign period of Kaiyuan 開元 (713-741) during the Tang Dynasty (618-907) emperor Xuanzong 玄宗(712-756). The three eminent masters Śubhakarasiṃha 善無畏 (637-735), Vajrabodhi (671-741) 金剛智 and Amoghavajra (705-774) 不空 arrived in China. Prior to a great amount of esoteric texts being translated in this period, there were already many scattered esoteric sūtras and dhāraṇīs in Chinese. What became Shingon in Japan includes everything up to yoga-tantra.

Further, during the Song Dynasty (960-1279) monks were dispatched to India to collect sūtras. Dānapāla 施護 (d.1017), Dharmarakṣa 法護 (?-1058), Dharmadeva 法天 (d. 1001) and Tian Xi Zai 天息災 (d. 1000) translated a great amount of Vajrayāna texts, though their quality were sometimes poor and moreover not widely read. The Hevajra Tantra is an example of annutara-yoga-tantra being translated into Chinese.

Who are the "some Japanese scholars", and according to them, when is the "middle period", and when is the "later period"? Also, which earlier developments were preserved?


This is just the general convention. If you read Japanese and the relevant academic literature, you would understand that this is a general convention. Early period esoteric Buddhism is understood as assorted dhāraṇī and sorcery practices before the need for abhiṣeka. Middle period would include all practices requiring abhiṣeka plus contemporary texts and traditions up to annutara-yoga-tantra. The later period is generally understood as annutara-yoga-tantra and all subsequent developments. Again, this is just a general outline, and one that I've encountered in my readings of Japanese academic literature.

In East Asia, specifically Japan, the early and middle periods are in particular preserved fairly well, at least in Chinese translation.

It is further unclear how extensive Buddhism actually was within the Yarlung state considering the history.

History of Tibet states the following in the introduction:

    Thus, while we may acknowledge genuine piety among the community of believers and the attraction of the coherent world view offered by the Buddhist message, we must conclude that Buddhism provided a unifying socio-cultural model that was promoted by Yarlung dynasty kings for political purposes.


The History of Tibet Volume I The Early Period: to c. AD 850 The Yarlung Dynasty, edited by Alex McKay (London, UK: RoutledgeCurzon, 2003), 29.

Now, granted, the Tang state was likewise interested in the political utility of Buddhism, though Buddhism was already quite extensive and well-developed in China already as compared to Tibet at the time, meaning many dedicated adherents and clergy were already trained and well-learned in China. Moreover, the Chinese economy could and probably did support a larger more systematic introduction of tantric Buddhism when compared to the Yarlung state.

This is why I believe the earlier development of tantra was better preserved in the Sinosphere. Annutara-yoga-tantra of course was best preserved in Tibet, but by that time the Chinese had lost interest in the subject and the state translation bureau was performing rather poorly.
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Re: Guru yoga not Indian?

Postby Indrajala » Tue Oct 08, 2013 3:12 pm

Malcolm wrote:Vajrayāna was introduced to China primarily by a single master.


You are mistaken. The three eminent early masters include Śubhakarasiṃha 善無畏 (637-735), Vajrabodhi (671-741) 金剛智 and Amoghavajra (705-774) 不空.

There were a lot more teachers and translators who are not so well known of course.


When we examine these claims purely on the basis of historical dates, the claim that Vajrayāna in China is significantly "earlier" than Tibetan Imperial period Vajrayāna seems to be vastly overstated.


The Chinese court, clergy and economy were in a better position than Tibet to provide the necessary institutions, crafts and so forth to facilitate the transmission of Vajrayāna.

It isn't all about dates.
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