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Tantric Buddhism Books

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Books on Tantric Buddhism

Some of the most difficult and profound Buddhist Tantras are the Mahavairocana, Guhyasamaja, the earlier parts of the Manjusrimulakalpa, and the Hevajra Tantra. A series of commentaries and authored works on these texts were also written. Nagarjuna’s Panchakrama is among the earliest. The Tantric Chandrakirti (ninth century) wrote a commentary on the Guhyasamaja, and Buddhaguhya (eighth century) discussed the Mahavairocana. Sanskrit commentaries eventually were written to fossilize even the spontaneous poems of the Sahaja saints.

A Brief Description of the major Tantric Buddhist texts are:

Guhyasamaja Tantra (Skt). The ‘Tantra of the secret assembly’, an important early anuttara-yoga-tantra with important innovations such as the use of overt sexual symbolism and practices.

Hevajra Tantra (Skt.). One of the key anuttara-yoga texts associated with the yi-dam Hevajra and his consort Nairatmya. The text describes the deity and main meditational practices related to him.

Maha-vairocana-abhisambodhi Tantra. It is possibly the earliest such work to systematically present the entire range of tantric practices. It teaches the manner in which the enlightenment (sambodhi) of Maha-vairocana is expressed in the world through mandalas, mantras, and mudras so that practitioners may also achieve that state associated with them. Though this work was overshadowed in India by later Tantric developments, it became extremely important in the east Asian transmission of esoteric Buddhism and is still highly revered in the Japanese ‘Shingon school.

Manjusri-mula-kalpa. A kriya-tantra associated with the cult of the Bodhisattva Manjushri. Often cited as the earliest extant example of a Buddhist tantra.