About the Book
Rabindranath Tagore, the founder
of Visva-Bharati, favored learning on Buddhism
through languages like Sanskrit, pali,
Chinese and Tibetan. In Santiniketan the invitation of
Sylvain Levi in 1921 is termed as the starting of Buddhist Studies at Visva-Bharati. Rabindranath
Tagore himself was a student in the classes of Professor Levi in the early
twenties of the past century, along with M.V. Shastri and P.C. Bagchi.
The Centre for Buddhist Studies, Visva-Bharati,
was launched in 2007 under the Scheme of Social Epoch Making Thinkers of the
University Grants commission. The activities of the Centre (CBS) are class
lectures in form of certified Training programs on Buddhism as well as
specialized classes on Buddhist cultures and languages of Mongolia (2010-11), Bhotia (Ladakh 2011-12, Sikkimese 2012-13, Dzongkha 2013-14), as well as Pali and Buddhist Sanskrit; Special Lectures Series
(Buddhist Art and Architecture 2011-12), International Seminars with special
focus on research on Prajnaparamita and medivial Tantrik Literature in
the Indo-Tibetan Interface, Film Shows and exhibitions.
About the Author
Prof. (Dr.) Andrea Loseries has
studied in Paris, Santiniketan, and Vienna from where
she received her PH.D. in Ethnology, Tibetology and Buddhist Studies. She is an expert on
comparative cultural history and Buddhist Tantrik
rituals and arts. She has published over hundred articles and several monographies in German and English, has produced a number
of film documentaries, was curator of several exhibition on Tibetan and
contemporary art and convener of ten international conferences. Among her
published works are ‘Path to Nature’s Wisdom: An ecological Dialogue between
Alps & Himalayas’ (2003), ‘Tibetan Mahayoga Tantra (2007), ‘Social Significance of Buddhism in the
Asian World (2008) and ‘Tibetan Art Calendar’ (Wisdom Publ. 1998-2007).
At present she is senior Professor in the Department of Indo-Tibetan Studies
and Director of the Centre for Buddhist Studies, Visva
Bharati, Santiniketan, West Bengal.
Tantra (Skr.; ‘continuum’, ‘connection’, ‘fabric’; Tib.
rGyud) along with the Vedas, the Upanisad,
the Puranas and the Bhagavad-Gita is part of the Sanatana-Dharma, the ‘eternal religion’ of Hinduism. Its
central theme is divine energy (‘sakti) personified
as Devi or goddess, the female divine aspect represented as the consort of
Siva, taking up various manifestation, peaceful such as Laksmi,
Sarasvati, Uma and Gauri, or wrathful like Kali and Durga,
and their union with Siva.
It also defines unorthodox Tantrik
writing and practice instructions that are only to be Known
and practiced by those persons who are willing and capable to
undergo a strict spiritual discipline unless they may take serious harm.
In Hindu tradition two main Tantrik
schools have emerged: the dangerous ‘Left Hand Path’ (Vamacara) involving liberal feasts, and the ‘Right Hand
Path’ (Daksinacara) involving purifying rituals,
spiritual discipline and absolute devotion to the Divine Mother.
Each Tantra treats five main
subjects: the creation of the World, its dissolution, the adoration of the
deity in its in female or male aspect, the achievement of supernatural powers,
and various yogic methods for realizing union with the Highest such as Bhakti-yoga, Kundalini etc.
The Tantrik treatises are mostly
composed between Siva and Sakti, aiming at awakening
the cosmic power (Kundalini-Sakti) through various
meditations. For the rituals five items are essential: wine (madya), meat (mamsa), fish (matsya), mystical gestures and roasted wheat (mudra) and sexual intercourse (maithuna).
In Tibetan Buddhist Traditions the term Tantra
(Rgyud) IS used to define various cult and texts such
as medical and astrological writings and meditations systems generally defined
as Vajrayana, a system of teaching revealed by Buddha
Sakyamuni in his manifestation as Dharmakaya.
It is a system that is strongly that is strongly based on human experience and
describes the spiritual development in the categories of base (gzhi), path (lam) and fruit (‘bras bu),
the base being the practitioner who uses the path for purifying the base in
order to achieve the fruit, which is the result of his practice.
The Tibetan tradition speaks of mainly four Tantra classes: Kriya-Tantra (bya ba ‘I rgyud),
Carya-Tantra (spyod pa ‘I rgyud), Yoga-Tantra (rnal byor gyi
rgyud) and Anuttara-Tantra
(blana med pa ‘I rgyud),
depending on the various levels of spiritual capacities of a practitioner. The
most important Anuttara-Tantras are Guhyasamaja-Tantra, Cakrasamvara,
Havajra, Kalacakra etc.
The ‘old’ Tantras of the rNying ma pa School differentiate Anuttara-Tantra
into Maha-Anu-and Ati-Yoga (rDzogs chen). Basis of the rNying ma Tantrik practice system
is the acceptance of the fundamental purity of mind. One of the most eminent Tantras of this tradition is Guhyagarbha-Tantra
(gSang ba ‘i sNying po’i
The main feature of these systems is the thinking in
polarities involving subtle sexual symbolism for the dissolution of duality by
the union of Upaya (thabs),
method, as the male principle, with the female principle of wisdom prajna (shes rab).
At the time of the Indian Siddha
tradition there was no rigid boundary or distinction between Hindu and Buddhist
Tantrik adherents, as both introduced a body of
scriptures called Tantras for which they claimed
divine revelation. And it is the skillful synthesis of diverse elements of
Indian culture that gave Tantrik Buddhism its vigor
and viability. Tantrik Buddhists encountered their
Hindu counterparts at cremation grounds at cremation ground and pilgrimage
place, yogis and yoginis of mainly sakta and saivite traditions.
One of the earliest Yogini Tantras is the Hevajra Tantra, which dates from approximately the eighth century.
It was found by Saroruha and commented by the Mahasiddha Kanha (or Krisnacarya) in the text called Yogaratnamala,
written in the ninth century. Krisnacarya is listed
among the 84 Buddhist Mahasiddhas and was a
progenitor of the Kaula school of Tantra.
In his Carya songs he proclaims himself to be a Kapalika Yogi. Kanha also is a
revealer of the Cakrasamvari Tantra,
so is Luipa, who is most probably identical with Matsyendranatha, the teacher of the famous Gorakhanatha. Therefore the influence of the 84 Mahasiddhas in the existing Hindu Tantrik
schools such as the Natha Yogis, the Aughoris and Bauls, should not be
The Tantrik tradition of Tibet
survived the Buddhist Diaspora and the aftermath of King Langdarma’s
reign ( 9th century) in the-according to later Tibetan Buddhist
hagiographers-‘infamous’ non-monastic snags pa tradition, the ‘Mantra holders’,
who-in the voice of later monastic hagiographers-were subject to evil spells
and unconventional practices. This took a turn with the second spread of
Buddhism in Tibet, under the auspices of the Indian Pandit
Atisa Dipamkara (11th
century), who invited to West Tibet, inaugurated a movement of
coming back to the of Mahayana and the ideal of Bodhisattva, meaning correct
livelihood and being a good and subordinate subject to the state government.
The conflation of the monastic Mahayana and the non-celibate Tantrik paradigms required explicit synthesis. In the later
centuries, under the influence of the bka’ dam pa
School and with the institutionalization of monasticism, supported by the
adaptation of the reincarnation system (sprul sku) from the 12th century onwards, ritual
behavior pattern started to change dramatically, a movement to be continued
till now in exile.
All Tibetan Tantrik
transmission lineages, alive and unbroken till date, derived from illustrious
Indian Masters and Mahasiddhas, many of them were
from Bengal. In contemporary Bengal itself Tantra is
still practiced at the amasanas of the great pitha sites, while some aspects of Tantrik
traditions were absorbed into more moderate spiritual movements, focusing on bhakti, such as Vaisnavism.
Generally in Tibetan tradition it is said, the pre-requisite
for Tantra practice are a profound experience of the
Void through meditative and analytical insight, a thorough renunciation of
worldly attachments and deep and boundless compassion for all living beings.
Thus matured one may find an impeccable master who holding the transmission of
an unbroken lineage has realized the teachings and is willing to transmit
gradually the complete empowerments, authorizations and individual instructions
to a committed disciple with unshakeable devotion and faith. During the time of
training the disciple has to prove himself by
undergoing strenuous preliminaries, long solitary reclusions and repeated
challenges, examinations and a personal initiation by his or her master. Of
greatest value for proceeding on the path without failure are the sacred
It is said that the Path of the Secret Mantras or Vajrayana is short-one may reach enlightenment within one,
at the latest within three life times only. But it is sharp as a razor blade
one balances on at the peak of a glacier. One is sure to fall to death in one
single moment of distraction. There are Fourteen Root Tantrik
Vows, eighteen Secondary and two additional secondary Tantrik
Vows to be held. Ekposing the secrets of Tantra to those who are not initiated is the seventh Root
How and why can we discuss this
profound and sacred vehicle for enlightenment bound to the oath of secrecy in
an academic forum?
Introduction to the theme
Beginning of Tantrik
Studies:The Works of Csoma
Tantra as Persistent Counter-Culture: An Indic Play Ethic and its
Philosophy and Hermeneutics of Buddhist Tantra
Kundalini yoga and the Concept of Devi in Sankaracarya's
Bodhipathapradipa and its Importance in Tibetan Buddhism
The Alchemy of Vision in Tibetan Tantrik Practice
The Journey to the Goddess Tara Adoption
and Adaptation of a Buddhist Goddess in
The Viracara Tantrik Practice of Nimba-vasini
Sahajasiddhi (Lhan cig skyes
grup) of 'Sri Dombi Heruka:A Hermeneutic Exposition
The History of Bon Tantra
Abhiseka and the Chinese Hevajra Tantra
Taranatha and IndianTantrikKnowledge in
the 16th and 17th Centuries
The Non-apprehension ('dzin
med) of Luminosity and Emptiness: A Lam 'bras View
Alkhana, Buryat Secret Valley of 'Sri Cakrasamvara, and its Creator Namnane
Janchub Tsultim, 1825-1897)
SIMHAMUKHA: The Lion-faced Durga of the Tibetan Tantrik
Hermeneutics of Mandala
Wall Paintings of Meditative Deities from
the Mahayoga Tantra in an
Cave Temple in Upper Mustang
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