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Religious Studies
RELG 1681
Sam Borsman

Vajrayana Buddhism  the "vajra" vehicle- like a diamond, cuts through anything, particularly delusions  often called "Tibetan Buddhism" in the West (however, present in many Himalayan regions- Bhutan, Mongolia, Nepal...)  doesn't replace Mahayana texts, beliefs, and practices, but claims to add practices that enable one to become a Buddha in a relatively short period of time o teachings found in the Tantras, claimed to be the highest teachings of the Buddha  Tantric texts appear in India c. 7th century CE o associated with spiritual adepts (siddha) who lived on the margins in society o the siddhas often practiced in cremation grounds and engaged in practices shocking to Brahmanical norms  ritual use of alcohol and sex, ingesting of "forbidden" substances  regarded as skillful means (upaya) to enable people to realize the emptiness of ordinary concepts o influenced by Shaiva tantra, borrows a lot of its imagery and ritual practice- ie mantra, mandala, mudra o differ from sutras primarily in method:  symbols, practices, and teachings thought to be more powerful than Mahayana o underlying philosophy of tantras:  all human emotions (even negative ones) are to be used in order to achieve Awakening  by using the energy of these emotions, they are transformed and purified (ie. one uses desire in order to transcend desire)  various tantric practices purify and transform body, speech, and mind into the body, speech, and mind of a Buddha o from the Hevajra Tantra: The Buddha said: "You should kill all living beings, speak lying words, take things that are not given, and have sex with many women." -the Buddha explains that this is symbolic of severing attachment to concepts, not to be taken literally o Buddha as the deity Hevajra in sexual union with Vajrayogini  Imagery o often depicts Buddhas and bodhisattvas in a way influenced by Hindu Tantra and by the Shamanic, pre-Buddhist traditions of the Himalayas o "Peaceful" deities symbolic of compassion, wisdom, etc o "Wrathful" deities symbolic of negative emotions that have been purified and transformed through tantric practice o Buddhas in sexual union (yab-yum) with a consort, symbolizing union of wisdom and compassion o Green Tara, a compassionate manifestation of Avalokiteshvara bodhisattva o Tibetan wrathful deity Mahakala o in some Tantras, the wrathful form of Vajrayogini is called the "essence of all Buddhas" o many of the wrathful deities have their roots in Himalayan shamanism and Hinduism o Mandala (Skt, meaning "circle")- is a circular diagram that often depicts a Buddha or Bodhisattva in the center, surrounded by other symbols or deities o symbolic of the true nature of reality, and of the awakened mind o often visualized in order to transform ordinary, deluded consciousness into the awakened consciousness that the mandala represents  Practices o many tantric teachings are secret ("esoteric") and in coded, symbolic language  a teacher (, Tbt. lama) is needed and one must first receive initiation from the guru/lama o before higher tantric teachings are practiced, the guru often assigns preliminary practices to the student, each of which is done 100,000 times  1. taking refuge (in Dharma, Buddha, Sangha)  2. prostration (full body bow to a religious symbol)  3. visualization and mantra recitation of Vajrasattva Buddha  4. mandala-offering (offering a real or visualized mandala to the Buddha, bodhisattvas)  5. guru-yoga (visualizing one's guru as the Buddha) o Deity Yoga (seen by some as central to Vajrayana)
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