It is derived from the Mahayana - Sutrayana and includes the influences of the extinct Sautrantikas, the Madhyamaka, the Mantrayana and the Tantrayāna.
Vajra means 'diamond', hence the designation 'diamond vehicle' (Tibetan: Dorje Thegpa) of the spirit or 'diamond path'.
In addition, the Vajrayana developed a rich pantheon in which also variants of Indian Yidams such as Yamantaka, Mahakala, Hayagriva, Ganapati, Sarasvati and Tara were integrated.
The teachings include
- Kriya Tantra
- Kalachakra - Tantra
- Maha Yoga - first of the three inner tantras of Nyingma
- Anu Yoga
- Ati-Yoga (Dzogchen)
The Vajrayana, however, sees itself as a third rotation of the wheel after the Mahayana.
The not uncontroversial Buddhanature (eg, buddha - dhātu, tathāgata - dhātu) or Tathagatagarbha is presented here as the indwelling, incomprehensible, unconscious, joyful and immortal Buddha essence (svabhava) of all living beings.
The Bodhichitta, the Mahamudra(Kagyu) and the Trikaya are emphasized, while the Sunyata is no quite as much in the center with exception of the Geluks, as the doctrines of Shunyata and Anatta relate to conditioned things.
Mahasiddha Saraha - one of the founders of a Mahâmudrâ line saw the Sahaja as higher than Sunjata.
The path of the Vajrayana consists of the preparatory stage (Ngöndro), the tantric generation stage (Kyerim) and the completion stage (Dzogrim), which is similar to the 'crown initiation' of Kriya Tantra.
These steps correspond to the preparationpath, the trail path (7-12) and the initiation path(13-18) in the universal system.
Vajrayana was originally a secret doctrine and was handed down in a symbolic language (saṃdhyā-bhāṣā). The earliest texts were written at Nalanda University. The manuscripts of Dunhuang are equally diverse.
The tibetan tantric Buddhism formed four main schools (Nyingma, Sakya, Kagyu and Gelug) and monasteries with their own specific variants of the doctrine.
Meditations, visualizations (mandala, yidam) and recitation of mantras as well as rituals, initiations and guru-yoga belong to the practice of Tantra - Sadhana.
The transience of all existing is emphasized. Real understanding of compassion, the right view and an understanding of the 'big emptiness' are essential.
Equally important are the preparatory exercises (sngon 'gro), without which the successes are mostly sparse. The Vajra recitation of Om Ah Hum for beginners and for voting is spread here.
The Vajrayana knows roughly three types of meditation practice:
- Silent meditation, concentration, Shinay or Shamatha
- Sutra-songs - Meditation (Sutra recitation)
- Mantra - recitation and meditation while walking.
According to the seventh Tantric commandment of the Vajrayana, only the external Sadhana should be described, and even with this outer Sadhana no actual technique is should transmitted without examination of the integrity and inclination of the recipient. Nowadays this does not happen because of the multitude of western scolars.
In the Vajrayāna and the Nalanda tradition of India-Tibet-China there are 15 major tantric Deity - Sādhanas: 1. Śūraṅgama Sitātapatrā, 2. Nīlakaṇṭha, 3. Tārā, 4. Mahākāla, 5. Hayagrīva, 6. Amitābha Amitāyus, 7. Bhaiṣajyaguru Akṣobhya , 8. Guhyasamaja, 9. Vajrayoginī Vajravarāhi, 10. Heruka Cakrasaṃvara, 11. Yamāntaka Vajrabhairava, 12. Kālacakra, 13. Hevajra 14. Chod 15. Vajrapāṇi.
All are available in Tibetan form, many in Chinese translation, and some of them still contain ancient Sanskrit manuscripts.
The tantric deities are described in the multi-volume 'Ocean of Methods of Reaching', Drup Thab Kununtu (14 volumes) and Gyu De Kun Tus (30 volumes).
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