Why choose Mahayana over Vajrayana?

General forum on the teachings of all schools of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism. Topics specific to one school are best posted in the appropriate sub-forum.
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Malcolm
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Re: Why choose Mahayana over Vajrayana?

Post by Malcolm »

Caoimhghín wrote: Fri Jun 05, 2020 2:34 pm
jake wrote: Fri Jun 05, 2020 2:29 pm
Caoimhghín wrote: Fri Jun 05, 2020 2:15 pm Yeah, Shingon has it too.

It's kind of like if Tendai practitioners went around insisting that everyone not practicing Tendai Buddhism was on one of the 40-something preparatory bhūmis. No one else believes in 50+ bhūmis. No one else practices "on" those bhūmis.
Shingon has what?
A division between esoteric and non-esoteric aspects of practice. The terms I see used in translation by Tibetans often are "common" and "uncommon."
Can also be translated as "shared" [sādhāraṇa, thun mong] and "unshared" [asādhāraṇa, thun mong ma yin].
"Nonduality is merely a name;
that name does not exist."
—Kotalipa
Malcolm
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Re: Why choose Mahayana over Vajrayana?

Post by Malcolm »

FromTheEarth wrote: Sat Jun 06, 2020 6:53 am But I just feel the underlying authenticity thesis/implication is always troubling me, whether it is meant to say only the Theravada is the genuine, authentic Buddhism, or the Tibetan tradition is, while both apparently underwent many changes and adaptions.
No, that is not the point. Of course Tibetans, like the Chinese, have doctrinal concerns removed from what Indian Mahāyāna Buddhists cared about. But the main difference between Tibetan and Chinese Buddhist exegesis is a concern for how well a given position might comport with Indian masters, while the same cannot be generally found to be a concern with Sino-Japanese Buddhist exegesis in general, barring Xuantsang.
"Nonduality is merely a name;
that name does not exist."
—Kotalipa
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Astus
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Re: Why choose Mahayana over Vajrayana?

Post by Astus »

Malcolm wrote: Sun Jun 07, 2020 5:49 pmThat definition is an Indian Buddhist definition, not Tibetan.
Originally might be so, but even there postulated only by Tantrikas, however, currently it exists only in Tibetan Buddhism.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

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

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

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


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"
Malcolm
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Re: Why choose Mahayana over Vajrayana?

Post by Malcolm »

Astus wrote: Sun Jun 07, 2020 8:33 pm
Malcolm wrote: Sun Jun 07, 2020 5:49 pmThat definition is an Indian Buddhist definition, not Tibetan.
Originally might be so, but even there postulated only by Tantrikas, however, currently it exists only in Tibetan Buddhism.
Well, if it is originally so, then it is in Indian Buddhist definition still.
"Nonduality is merely a name;
that name does not exist."
—Kotalipa
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Re: Why choose Mahayana over Vajrayana?

Post by jhanapeacock »

Well, in my case is because i don´t believe the Vajrayana assertions of "Buddhahood in a single lifetime" etc... I don´t believe the self assertions of superiority Vajrayana makes against the other schools.
I also found myself more confortable with the idea of reaching "perfection" over an infinite amount of time rather than reaching it outright in a single lifetime. The former makes more sense to me and seems less like "marketing". Just my personal opinion.
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Re: Why choose Mahayana over Vajrayana?

Post by jhanapeacock »

Grigoris wrote: Fri Jun 05, 2020 7:10 am Karmic predisposition.

Anyway, how does somebody on the Vajrayana path know if they have (or have not) already spent 2.999999999999 incalculable eons worth of lives practicing Mahayana and this is their last life before Buddhahood? :shrug:
I think i read that if you were very far on the path you wouln`t even reborn as a human. Or something along those lines...
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Re: Why choose Mahayana over Vajrayana?

Post by Shaku Kenshin »

Nicholas2727 wrote: Sun Jun 07, 2020 5:15 pm Wow all of these replies have been amazing so thank you for all of them. I do not have much knowledge on many of the topics brought up in the comments, so I feel a better questions would be does anyone have any links to articles, books or videos that go into detail on some of the core beliefs in Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism? I know that the Theravada teachings are still there in both schools, although some of the topics brought up were new to me so I feel I would be better off getting more background information on both schools!


I know this can be all very confusing at the beginning, but again, as others have already pointed out, Mahayana and Vajrayana are not two distinct schools. Mahayana is one of the two main branches of Buddhism and Vajrayana is generally understood to be one strand within Mahayana.
There are several schools that teach esoteric Buddhism.
Mostly in Tibetan Buddhism, but also the Tendai and Shingon schools in Japan. Tibetan and Japanese esoteric Buddhism differ in some aspects, because Japanese esoteric Buddhism comes from the Chinese tradition of esoteric Buddhism.

Mahayana is very broad and different schools use different categorisation, usually presenting their own strand of Buddhism as the pinnacle of Buddhist teachings. Just keep on reading and it will all make sense one day.
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FromTheEarth
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Re: Why choose Mahayana over Vajrayana?

Post by FromTheEarth »

Malcolm wrote: Sun Jun 07, 2020 5:56 pm
FromTheEarth wrote: Sat Jun 06, 2020 6:53 am But I just feel the underlying authenticity thesis/implication is always troubling me, whether it is meant to say only the Theravada is the genuine, authentic Buddhism, or the Tibetan tradition is, while both apparently underwent many changes and adaptions.
No, that is not the point. Of course Tibetans, like the Chinese, have doctrinal concerns removed from what Indian Mahāyāna Buddhists cared about. But the main difference between Tibetan and Chinese Buddhist exegesis is a concern for how well a given position might comport with Indian masters, while the same cannot be generally found to be a concern with Sino-Japanese Buddhist exegesis in general, barring Xuantsang.
Well, this actually leads back to the previous point I made, which is that Indian Mahayana is not equivalent to, say, a scholastic part of its, represented by the so-called "Indian masters" and their works, while such group of masters seems also highly selective. I would be happy to accept a statement such like the Tibetans were more concerned with "how well a given position might comport with" certain Indian masters they favored or happened to be more popular; while a fairly informed picture of ancient Indian Mahayana, even just the intellectual, scholastic dimension of it, must include a proper presentation of Yogacara and some other branches, whose existence again seems better to be found in the East Asian canons and traditions.

Also, I would like to argue, whomever you may have in mind when referring to the "Indian masters," a large of number of them should be dated later than the founders of several dominant Chinese Buddhist schools (here I limit these schools to the doctrine-based such as Tiantai, Huayan, Sanlun etc., for Chan/Zen and Pureland masters seemed less interested in doing comprehensive exegetical work). To my knowledge, except for Huayan, all other doctrinally-oriented schools as such fit the description of caring about how their interpretations "comport with Indian masters" at their disposal (you would found abundant reference to Nagarjuna, Asanga, and Vasubandhu's works in Zhiyi's and Jizang's works), as did the Tibetans. And, one may argue, the Chinese Buddhist scholars tried even harder to make their positions aligned with sutras and other Indian commentaries of a less doctrinally-dense genre, i.e., upadeśa texts. And, any reasonable conception of ancient Indian Mahayana must include those texts also.
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Re: Why choose Mahayana over Vajrayana?

Post by SteRo »

jhanapeacock wrote: Sun Jun 07, 2020 10:40 pm ... i don´t believe the Vajrayana assertions of "Buddhahood in a single lifetime" etc... I don´t believe the self assertions of superiority Vajrayana makes against the other schools.
I also found myself more confortable with the idea of reaching "perfection" over an infinite amount of time ...
It's all just skillful means. But you are doing right to follow what resonates with you.
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Re: Why choose Mahayana over Vajrayana?

Post by Simon E. »

jhanapeacock wrote: Sun Jun 07, 2020 10:44 pm
Grigoris wrote: Fri Jun 05, 2020 7:10 am Karmic predisposition.

Anyway, how does somebody on the Vajrayana path know if they have (or have not) already spent 2.999999999999 incalculable eons worth of lives practicing Mahayana and this is their last life before Buddhahood? :shrug:
I think i read that if you were very far on the path you wouln`t even reborn as a human. Or something along those lines...
Which rules out The Buddha then. And the Dalai Lama. And Nagajuna. :smile:
“You don’t know it. You just know about it. That is not the same thing.”

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche to me.
Malcolm
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Re: Why choose Mahayana over Vajrayana?

Post by Malcolm »

FromTheEarth wrote: Mon Jun 08, 2020 9:55 am
Malcolm wrote: Sun Jun 07, 2020 5:56 pm
FromTheEarth wrote: Sat Jun 06, 2020 6:53 am But I just feel the underlying authenticity thesis/implication is always troubling me, whether it is meant to say only the Theravada is the genuine, authentic Buddhism, or the Tibetan tradition is, while both apparently underwent many changes and adaptions.
No, that is not the point. Of course Tibetans, like the Chinese, have doctrinal concerns removed from what Indian Mahāyāna Buddhists cared about. But the main difference between Tibetan and Chinese Buddhist exegesis is a concern for how well a given position might comport with Indian masters, while the same cannot be generally found to be a concern with Sino-Japanese Buddhist exegesis in general, barring Xuantsang.
Well, this actually leads back to the previous point I made, which is that Indian Mahayana is not equivalent to, say, a scholastic part of its, represented by the so-called "Indian masters" and their works, while such group of masters seems also highly selective. I would be happy to accept a statement such like the Tibetans were more concerned with "how well a given position might comport with" certain Indian masters they favored or happened to be more popular; while a fairly informed picture of ancient Indian Mahayana, even just the intellectual, scholastic dimension of it, must include a proper presentation of Yogacara and some other branches, whose existence again seems better to be found in the East Asian canons and traditions.

Also, I would like to argue, whomever you may have in mind when referring to the "Indian masters," a large of number of them should be dated later than the founders of several dominant Chinese Buddhist schools (here I limit these schools to the doctrine-based such as Tiantai, Huayan, Sanlun etc., for Chan/Zen and Pureland masters seemed less interested in doing comprehensive exegetical work). To my knowledge, except for Huayan, all other doctrinally-oriented schools as such fit the description of caring about how their interpretations "comport with Indian masters" at their disposal (you would found abundant reference to Nagarjuna, Asanga, and Vasubandhu's works in Zhiyi's and Jizang's works), as did the Tibetans. And, one may argue, the Chinese Buddhist scholars tried even harder to make their positions aligned with sutras and other Indian commentaries of a less doctrinally-dense genre, i.e., upadeśa texts. And, any reasonable conception of ancient Indian Mahayana must include those texts also.
It’s definitely true that the snapshot of Indian Buddhism that Tibetans took was later than the largely Central-Asian filtered Buddhism which had the most influence on Chinese Buddhism. But, for example, Zi yi’s interpretation of the four siddhantas owes nothing observable to Indian Buddhism, nor his fivefold division of Buddhist texts, etc. I personally think part of the reason for this difference between the two is that Chinese Buddhism suffered a severe setback in 845, when it was nearly completely purged from China, as did Tibetan Buddhism, with the assassination of Langdarma in 841. And the greatest flowering of Chinese Buddhist thought took place after the fall of the Guptas in 495. This 250 year period is arguably the high point in Classical Chinese Buddhism. At the same time, Indian Buddhism was on institutionally shaky ground, recovering from the invasion of the white Huns and under increasing pressure from hostile Hindu Kings; and during the last 100 years of this period, Central Asian Buddhism was being encroached upon by Muslims. By the 11th century, Buddhist text translation into Chinese was increasingly rare.

I would say that while Zhiyi certainly took inspiration from Indian sources, his exegetical methodology is unique, more like Huayen than Sanlun, for example.
"Nonduality is merely a name;
that name does not exist."
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Re: Why choose Mahayana over Vajrayana?

Post by Caoimhghín »

There's also the deal with "Who's Zhìzhě Dàshī/Zhìyǐ?"

Take for instance the relation of "Grandmaster Tiāntāi" to the Madhyamaka traditional compared to the relations between that tradition and the school "he founded." Ven Zhìyǐ quotes liberally from the Mahāprajñāpāramitopadeśa, which can arguably be thought of as functionally a Sānlùn treatise IMO. He was also almost-definitely of the opinion that Ven Nāgārjuna wrote it. He quotes from the Chinese recension of the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā he would have been familiar with as well as Ven Vimalākṣa's commentary that it circulated with.

But in his pànjiāo (IMO the worst-aging and least useful of the hermeneutics Ven Zhìyǐ developed to sort the Buddhavacana) he places the 般若時 "Prajñā Era" as the second highest teaching of the Buddha, indicating a subordination of Madhyamaka/Prajñāpāramitā by Ven Zhìyǐ in favour of the Lotus and Nirvāṇa scriptural traditions.

I want to find the paper I am remembering in saying this, but basically there is a narrative that, as successive Tiāntāi patriarchs add onto and interpret Ven Zhìyǐ's philosophies, there is a tendency to speak in increasingly disparaging terms of Madhyamaka as an inferior or lacking view, often equated with nihilism. Ven Vimalākṣa comes under particular attack by the Tiāntāi (and Huáyán and Chán alike) with accusations of Madhyamaka nihilism. Venerables Zhànrán and Zhílì took particular issue with Madhyamaka as nihilism, branding their own schools' philosophies as positivist in comparison. This is all part of that paper I have to find before I head to bed or when I wake.

This "nihilism vs positivism" tension is anticipated in the preface of Ven Zhìyǐ's disciple, Ven Guàndǐng, to the abbot's magnum opus, Mahāśamathavipaśyanā:
Nan-yüeh studied under the dhyāna master Hui-wen, who was without equal in the area of the Yellow River and Huai River during the reign of Kao-tsu of the Northern Ch'i dynasty. His teachings were not understood by the people of his day, as people who tread the earth and gaze at the sky do not know the depth of the earth nor the height of the sky. Hui-wen exclusively relied on the Mahāprajñāpāramitopadeśa for his mental discipline. This treatise was taught by Nāgārjuna, the thirteenth in the line of the transmission of the treasury of the Dharma. In his Treatise on Contemplating Thoughts, Zhìyǐ says, "I entrust myself to the teacher Nāgārjuna." Thus we know that Nāgārjuna was the highest patriarch [of the T'ien-t'ai lineage].

A skeptic might say, "The method of the Madhyamakaśāstra is to clear away, while śamathavipaśyanā is constructive. How can they be considered the same?" However, it should be known that there are about seventy Indian commentaries on Nāgārjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā; we should not affirm only that of Vimalākṣa and reject other commentators. The Madhyamakaśāstra says:

All things that arise through causes and conditions,
I explain as emptiness,
Again, this is a conventional designation.
Again, this is the meaning of the middle way.
(T1911.1b27 Mahāśamathavipaśyanā translated as Clear Serenity, Quiet Insight p.91-2 by Paul Swanson, some Chinese changed to Sanskrit, Wades-Giles to Pinyin, & emphasis added)

So we can see already immediately after Ven Zhìyǐ's death that Ven Vimalākṣa is getting shade from Ven Zhìyǐ's students, with later successors to consider even Ven Nāgārjuna a nihilist and Madhyamaka wisdom secondary to the "Integrated Teaching." But Ven Zhìyǐ himself has only laudation for Ven Nāgārjuna.

Food for thought IMO.
Then, the monks sang this gāthā:

These bodies are like foam.
Them being frail, who can rejoice in them?
The Buddha attained the vajra-body.
Still, it becomes inconstant and rots.
The many Buddhas are vajra-entities.
All are also subject to inconstancy.
Quickly ended, like melting snow --
how could things be different?

The Buddha passed into parinirvāṇa afterward.
(T1.27b10 Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra DĀ 2)
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Re: Why choose Mahayana over Vajrayana?

Post by Crazywisdom »

Nicholas2727 wrote: Fri Jun 05, 2020 4:17 am Hello

First off I want to start by saying that my knowledge of Mahayana and Vajrayana are very limited. Most of my knowledge in Buddhism is in the Theravada lineage and I have just recently started learning more about the Mahayana. From what I can tell the main focus in both schools is achieving Buddhahood. The Mahayana school teaches the six perfections as a way towards Buddhahood (I may be wrong here but this is what I believe I have heard as true) while the Vajrayana school teaches tantric practices to achieve Buddhahood (Again this may also be wrong so if it is I am sorry!) I have heard that that Mahayana school says it will take 3 incalculable eons before someone reaches Buddhahood, although the Vajrayana school says someone can achieve Buddhahood in this lifetime. If both schools focus is on becoming a Buddha, why would one choose Mahayana (The much slower school) versus Vajrayana (The much quicker school?) Hopefully my question makes sense and I can learn more about each school from your responses.
Karma phala is your answer
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Re: Why choose Mahayana over Vajrayana?

Post by tkp67 »

In the EA tradition there seems to be a reverence for perfection in accordance to time and place. As impermanence would have it teachings themselves are rightfully subject to the same. As our nature would have it this canon of teachings has a cause (shakyamuni) and an effect (all of us). As I understand it the EA tradition is about the recognition of all beings within that chain of dependency that brought the teachings from cause to effect and their timely perfection.

In my ordinary mortal mind I see everything represented here still have a related dependency.
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Re: Why choose Mahayana over Vajrayana?

Post by Malcolm »

tkp67 wrote: Mon Jun 08, 2020 4:04 pm In the EA tradition there seems to be a reverence for perfection in accordance to time and place. As impermanence would have it teachings themselves are rightfully subject to the same. As our nature would have it this canon of teachings has a cause (shakyamuni) and an effect (all of us). As I understand it the EA tradition is about the recognition of all beings within that chain of dependency that brought the teachings from cause to effect and their timely perfection.

In my ordinary mortal mind I see everything represented here still have a related dependency.
I have no idea what you are trying to say.
"Nonduality is merely a name;
that name does not exist."
—Kotalipa
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Re: Why choose Mahayana over Vajrayana?

Post by tkp67 »

Malcolm wrote: Mon Jun 08, 2020 4:09 pm
tkp67 wrote: Mon Jun 08, 2020 4:04 pm In the EA tradition there seems to be a reverence for perfection in accordance to time and place. As impermanence would have it teachings themselves are rightfully subject to the same. As our nature would have it this canon of teachings has a cause (shakyamuni) and an effect (all of us). As I understand it the EA tradition is about the recognition of all beings within that chain of dependency that brought the teachings from cause to effect and their timely perfection.

In my ordinary mortal mind I see everything represented here still have a related dependency.
I have no idea what you are trying to say.
It happens.
Malcolm
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Re: Why choose Mahayana over Vajrayana?

Post by Malcolm »

tkp67 wrote: Mon Jun 08, 2020 4:23 pm
Malcolm wrote: Mon Jun 08, 2020 4:09 pm
tkp67 wrote: Mon Jun 08, 2020 4:04 pm In the EA tradition there seems to be a reverence for perfection in accordance to time and place. As impermanence would have it teachings themselves are rightfully subject to the same. As our nature would have it this canon of teachings has a cause (shakyamuni) and an effect (all of us). As I understand it the EA tradition is about the recognition of all beings within that chain of dependency that brought the teachings from cause to effect and their timely perfection.

In my ordinary mortal mind I see everything represented here still have a related dependency.
I have no idea what you are trying to say.
It happens.
Mostly.
"Nonduality is merely a name;
that name does not exist."
—Kotalipa
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Re: Why choose Mahayana over Vajrayana?

Post by Bristollad »

Caoimhghín wrote: Fri Jun 05, 2020 4:26 pm
Bristollad wrote: Fri Jun 05, 2020 4:17 pm Just to add an interesting point: in the traditional Tibetan narrative, Shakyamuni Buddha is said to have not entered the Vajrayana path until he was a bodhisattva on the 10th Bhumi.
Of course. That's where Tantra starts, isn't it? "You fuse the path with the result," is the usual slogan.
No, that's not where tantra starts, but yes they do say, "You fuse the path with the result." Shakyamuni is often the exception to the typical in Secret Mantra.

Or are you suggesting all the tantric practitioners on here are necessarily bodhisattvas on the 10th bhumi of the path of meditation?
:rolling:
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Re: Why choose Mahayana over Vajrayana?

Post by Caoimhghín »

Bristollad wrote: Mon Jun 08, 2020 6:20 pm are you suggesting all the tantric practitioners on here are necessarily bodhisattvas on the 10th bhumi of the path of meditation?
:rolling:
I'm suggesting that the rhetoric of tantric empowerment is that it is often described as starting with the abhiṣeka of the Buddhas of the ten directions that Mahāyāna practitioners are generally believed to receive at the 10th bhūmi and that the maṇḍala wherein it takes place is the akaniṣṭa ghanavyūha. I could be wrong though.
Malcolm wrote: Tue Nov 20, 2018 7:10 pm
Coëmgenu wrote: Tue Nov 20, 2018 6:11 pm So from this thread I gather that tantrikāḥ believe that they have received abhiṣeka from the 10-directional Buddhas. This is the same abhiṣeka that "common-path" (or whatever the appropriate term here is) bodhisattvāḥ receive at the close of the 10th bodhisattvabhūmi. This abhiṣeka takes place in ākaniṣṭagandavyūha.
Well, Vajrayāna is called the result vehicle, because it takes the result as the path. When one enters into any mandala, one is entering into the mandala of Ākaniṣṭa Ghanavyūha (not gaṇḍavyuha, common error here), and one receives the empowerment there, from the guru who embodies the buddhas of the ten directions.
Then, the monks sang this gāthā:

These bodies are like foam.
Them being frail, who can rejoice in them?
The Buddha attained the vajra-body.
Still, it becomes inconstant and rots.
The many Buddhas are vajra-entities.
All are also subject to inconstancy.
Quickly ended, like melting snow --
how could things be different?

The Buddha passed into parinirvāṇa afterward.
(T1.27b10 Mahāparinirvāṇasūtra DĀ 2)
Bristollad
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Re: Why choose Mahayana over Vajrayana?

Post by Bristollad »

Caoimhghín wrote: Mon Jun 08, 2020 6:31 pm
Bristollad wrote: Mon Jun 08, 2020 6:20 pm are you suggesting all the tantric practitioners on here are necessarily bodhisattvas on the 10th bhumi of the path of meditation?
:rolling:
I'm suggesting that the rhetoric of tantric empowerment is that it is often described as starting with the abhiṣeka of the Buddhas of the ten directions that Mahāyāna practitioners are generally believed to receive at the 10th bhūmi and that the maṇḍala wherein it takes place is the akaniṣṭa ghanavyūha. I could be wrong though.
Malcolm wrote: Tue Nov 20, 2018 7:10 pm
Coëmgenu wrote: Tue Nov 20, 2018 6:11 pm So from this thread I gather that tantrikāḥ believe that they have received abhiṣeka from the 10-directional Buddhas. This is the same abhiṣeka that "common-path" (or whatever the appropriate term here is) bodhisattvāḥ receive at the close of the 10th bodhisattvabhūmi. This abhiṣeka takes place in ākaniṣṭagandavyūha.
Well, Vajrayāna is called the result vehicle, because it takes the result as the path. When one enters into any mandala, one is entering into the mandala of Ākaniṣṭa Ghanavyūha (not gaṇḍavyuha, common error here), and one receives the empowerment there, from the guru who embodies the buddhas of the ten directions.
But just because "it is often described as starting with the abhiṣeka of the Buddhas of the ten directions that Mahāyāna practitioners are generally believed to receive at the 10th bhūmi" doesn't mean that a tantric practitioner is necessarily a bodhisattva on the 10th bhumi. If that were the case, the rhetoric of tantra being a swifter path wouldn't make much sense - one would have already completed 3 countless aeons of merit gathering the same as the Perfection vehicle.
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