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Buddhist Tantra

Tantra techniques in Vajrayana Buddhism are techniques used to attain Buddhahood, also called Awakening. The most important aspect of the tantric path is to 'use the result' somehow, to gain the enlightened body, speech and mind of a Buddha. Dalai Lama says, "Tantra is limited to persons whose compassion is so great that . . . they want to be a supreme source of help and happiness for others quickly."

Tantric techniques include repetition of meditative mantras; use of various yoga techniques, including breath control (Pranayama), special hand positions (mudras, "gestures"), certain feasts; Lojong, which is simple mind-training; ritual 'empowerments' or 'initiations' which contain teachings only given personally from teacher to student and demand a certain maturity of the student.

Deity yoga (Sanskrit: Devata-yoga) is the fundamental Vajrayana practice, where the practitioners visualizes themselves as the meditation Buddha or Ishta devata (yidam, meditation deity) of the sadhana. Deity Yoga employs creative imagination, visualisation, to self-identify with the divine form and qualities of a particular deity. Dalai Lama says, "In brief, the body of a Buddha is attained through meditating on it".

Highest Yoga Tantra practice too uses sexual intercourse to transform one's sexual potential into a blissful consciousness for achieving enlightenment. According to some Tibetan authorities, the physical practice of sexual yoga is necessary at the highest level for the attainment of Buddhahood. For example, the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism holds that sexual yoga as an actual physical practice is the only way to attain Buddhahood in one lifetime. But according to others it is not: Such as Lama Tsong Khapa, "The Man from Onion Valley" (1357-1419), gained enlightenment without this practice, we are told. And because of his strong influence, compassion, and wisdom he is also referred to as a "second Buddha".

(Wikipedia, "Tantra techniques (Vajrayana)," "Je Tsongkhapa")

Tantra: Buddhist, Hindu, and in Between

There are different definitions of Tantra, from various viewpoints.

Tantra consists of accumulated practices and ideas, and is characterized by the use of ritual, by the use of the mundane to access the supra-mundane, and by linking a microcosm (human organism) with statements of a macrocosm.

Tantric methods are said to require long training. However, first-class methods and procedures should shorten that training and making it less cumbersome, and thus give you extra energy and spare time for other pursuits too. The Tantra practitioner seeks to use the prana (vitality, life force) that flows in one's own body and around it, to attain spiritual goals, material goals, or both.

Among various tools at hand are yoga postures, ways of breathing, mudras (root gestures), and the like. There are also visualisations, and evokations through sounds related to the Ishta-deva (one's cherished and favourite Goddess or divinity) for the purpose of increasing awareness, etc.

In what is called left-handed Tantra (Vamachara), sexual intercourse is employed, either by single couples or in groups. On an individual level, a participant may experience a fusion of male and female energies. There are various kinds of other left-handed practises too.

As Tantra has become more popular in the West, for many modern readers, "Tantra" has come to signify "spiritual sex" or "sacred sexuality". Such "California Tantra," as Georg Feuerstein has it, is "based on a profound misunderstanding". It helps to get an overview of a wider scenery.

(Wikipedia, "Tantra")

Development of a Line or Two of Tantric Buddhism


The present treatise consists of three significant Tantra works, preserved as manuscripts in the U.S. Library of Congress: Seven Initiation Rituals of the Tibetan Tantra, The Six Yogas of Naropa, and The Vow of Mahamudra. They were translated and edited by Dr. C. A. Musés assisted by exiled Tibetan monks.

The seven initiation rites are for those who may benefit from rites. Those who are not very much ceremonial bent, may learn Tantra techniques or methods to gain more benefit. Some such methods are found in the second part of this treatise. They tell of stands and much else from the Indian Buddhist yogi, mystic and monk Naropa (956-1041). He was a disciple of Tilopa (9881069), a tantric practitioner who developed a famous set of spiritual practices (mahamudra) for accelerating the process of attaining enlightenment.

Naropa was the main teacher of the Tibetan family man Marpa Lotsawa (1012-1097), which means Marpa the Translator. Naropa formally declared Marpa to be his successor. For many years Marpa translated treatises into Tibetan. He handed over teachings and transmissions to many students. One of them was the famous Jetsün Milarepa 1052-1135). Milarepa in turn helped many others, including Gampopa (1079-1153). The five gurus mentioned above are called the "Five Founding Masters" by the Kagyu (Kargyu, Kagyupa) followers, who are in a long line of transmission. Kagyu is one of four main schools of Tibetan (Himalayan) Buddhism. In the Kagyu school there is a strong emphasis on guru devotion and personal transmission of secret instructions from guru to disciple.

(Wikipedia, "Tilopa," "Naropa," "Marpa Lotsawa,", "Milarepa", Gampopa," and "Kagyu," "Padmasambhava," "Nyingma".)


A famous Buddhist teacher that appears in the treatise is the Indian Padmasambhava. His name means "The Lotus Born". He is said to have transmitted Tantric Buddhism to Bhutan and Tibet in the 700s CE. In those lands he is better known as Guru Rinpoche ("Precious Master") or Lopon Rinpoche. He is lauded in the popular canon as the founder of Tibetan Buddhism, and traditionally venerated as "a second Buddha." According to Tibetan tradition, the (the Tibetan Book of the Dead) was one of many treasures Padmasambhava hid away to be found later.

The Nyingma tradition is the oldest of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism, and traces its origin to Padmasambhava. A selection of his teachings is here: [Link]

(Wikipedia, "Tilopa," "Naropa," "Marpa Lotsawa,", "Milarepa", Gampopa," and "Kagyu," "Padmasambhava," "Nyingma".)


Buddhist tantra, Musés, Garma Chang, Literature  

Chang, Garma C. C., ed and tr. Teachings and Practice of Tibetan Tantra. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 2004. ⍽▢⍽ Abstracts.

Evans-Wentz, Walter Yeeling, ed. The Tibetan Book of the Dead: After-Death Experiences on the Bardo Plane, according to Lama Kazi Dawa-Samdup's English Rendering. London: Oxford University Press, 1927. ⍽▢⍽ Abstracts.

⸻. Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines. 2nd ed. London: Oxford University Press, 1967.

⸻. The Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation or the Method of Realizing Nirvana through Knowing the Mind. London: Oxford University Press, 1968.

⸻. Tibet's Great Yogi Milarepa. 2nd ed. London: Oxford University Press, 1969.

Milarepa. The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa. Tr. Garma C. C. Chang. London: Shambala, 1999. ⍽▢⍽ Milarepa was an eleventh-century Buddhist poet and saint who taught Buddhahood through songs. People gathered to hear him "singing the Dharma." The book's translator says it "has been read as the biography of a saint, a guide book for devotions, a manual of Buddhist yoga, a volume of songs and poems, and even a collection of Tibetan folklore, and fairy tales."

Mishra, Tej Narain. Buddhist Tantra and Buddhist Art. New Delhi: D. K. Printworld, 2000.

Musés, C. A., ed. Esoteric Teachings of the Tibetan Tantra, including Seven Initiation Rituals and the Six Yogas of Naropa in Tsong-Kha-Pa's Commentary. Tr. [Garma] Chang Chen Chi, Former Lecturer at the Kong-Ka Lamasery, Meinya, East Tibet.

Pandit, M. Kundalini Yoga. 5th ed. Madras: Ganesh, 1972.

Tiwary, Shiv Shanker. Encyclopaedia of Buddhist Tantra. New Delhi: Anmol, 2009.

Woodroofe, Sir John. Mahanirvana Tantra: Tantra of the Great Liberation. 1913. On-line.

⸻. Tantraraja Tantra. 3rd ed. Madras: Ganesh, 1971.

⸻. Tantra of the Great Liberation (Mahanirvana Tantra). New York: Dover, 1972.

⸻. Garland of Letters. 6th ed. Madras: Ganesh, 1974 (?).

⸻. Shakti and Shakta. New York: Dover, 1978.

⸻. (alias Arthur Avalon)The Serpent Power. 1st Shivalik ed. Delhi: Shivalik Prakashan, 2005.

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