What is Vajrayana?
Vajray?na, Mantray?na, Tantray?na, Tantric Buddhism and Esoteric Buddhism are the various Buddhist traditions of Tantra and "Secret Mantra", which developed in medieval India and spread to Tibet and East Asia. In Tibet, Buddhist Tantra is termed Vajray?na, while in China it is generally known as Tángmì () or Mìz?ng (), in Pali it is known as Pyitsayãna (?) , and in Japan it is known as Mikky?.
Vajray?na is usually translated as Diamond Vehicle or Thunderbolt Vehicle, referring to the Vajra, a mythical weapon which is also used as a ritual implement.
Founded by medieval Indian Mah?siddhas, Vajray?na subscribes to the literature known as the Buddhist Tantras. It includes practices that make use of mantras, dharanis, mudras, mandalas and the visualization of deities and Buddhas. According to Vajray?na scriptures, the term Vajray?na refers to one of three vehicles or routes to enlightenment, the other two being the ?r?vakay?na (also known as the H?nay?na) and Mah?y?na.
showing a mountain deity carrying a sword.
Buddhism in Mongolia derives much of its recent characteristics from Tibetan Buddhism of the Gelug and Kagyu lineages. Traditionally, Mongols worshiped Tenger (the "eternal blue sky") and their ancestors, and they followed ancient northern Asian practices of shamanism, in which human intermediaries went into trance and spoke to and for some of the numberless infinities of spirits responsible for human luck or misfortune.
Although the emperors of the Yuan Dynasty in the 14th and 15th century had already converted to Tibetan Buddhism, the Mongols returned to their old shamanic ways after the collapse of their empire. In 1578 Altan Khan, a Mongol military leader with ambitions to unite the Mongols and to emulate the career of Chinggis, invited the head of the rising Gelug lineage of Tibetan Buddhism to a summit. They formed an alliance that gave Altan Khan legitimacy and religious sanction for his imperial pretensions and that provided the Buddhist school with protection and patronage.
Altan Khan of Mongolia gave the Tibetan leader the title of Dalai Lama (Ocean Lama), which his successors still hold. Altan Khan died soon after, but in the next century the Yellow Sect (Gelug) spread throughout Mongolia, aided in part by the efforts of contending Mongol aristocrats to win religious sanction and mass support for their ultimately unsuccessful efforts to unite all Mongols in a single state.
Monasteries (Mongolian: datsan) were built across Mongolia, often sited at the juncture of trade and migration routes or at summer pastures, where large numbers of herders would congregate for shamanistic rituals and sacrifices. Buddhist monks carried out a protracted struggle with the indigenous shamans and succeeded, to some extent, in taking over their functions and fees as healers and diviners, and in pushing the shamans to the fringes of Mongolian culture and religion.
The deity Kalachakra with consort Visvamata.
K?lachakra (Sanskrit, IAST: K?lacakra; Telugu Kannada; Tibetan: ?, Wylie: dus-kyi 'khor-lo; Mongolian Tsogt Tsagiin Hurden; Chinese?) is a Sanskrit term used in Vajrayana that literally means "time-wheel" or "time-cycles". The spelling K?lacakra is also used.
K?lachakra refers both to a tantric deity (yidam) and to the philosophies and meditation practices contained within the K?lachakra Tantra and its many commentaries. The K?lachakra Tantra is more properly called the K?lachakra Laghutantra, and is said to be an abridged form of an original text, the K?lachakra M?latantra which is no longer extant. Some Buddhist masters assert that K?lachakra is the most advanced form of Vajrayana practice; it certainly is one of the most complex systems within Tantric Buddhism.
The K?lachakra tradition revolves around the concept of time (k?la) and cycles (chakra): from the cycles of the planets, to the cycles of human breathing, it teaches the practice of working with the most subtle energies within one's body on the path to enlightenment.
The K?lachakra deity represents a Buddha and thus omniscience. Since K?lachakra is time and everything is under the influence of time, K?lachakra knows all. Whereas K?lachakri or K?lichakra, his spiritual consort and complement, is aware of everything that is timeless, untimebound or out of the realm of time. In yab-yum, they are temporality and atemporality conjoined. Similarly, the wheel is without beginning or end.
The K?lachakra deity resides in the center of the mandala in his palace consisting of four mandalas, one within the other: the mandalas of body, speech, and mind, and in the very center, wisdom and great bliss. The K?lachakra sand mandala is dedicated to both individual and world peace and physical balance. The Dalai Lama explains: "It is a way of planting a seed, and the seed will have karmic effect. One doesn't need to be present at the K?lachakra ceremony in order to receive its benefits."
Tsongkhapa (Tibetan: , Wylie: Tsong-kha-pa) (1357 – 1419), whose name means "The Man from Onion Valley", was a famous teacher of Tibetan Buddhism whose activities led later to the formation of the Geluk (Dge-lugs) school. He is also known by his ordained name Lobsang Drakpa (Blo-bzang Grags-pa) or simply as "Je Rinpoche" (Rje Rin-po-che).
Tsongkhapa heard Buddha's Teachings from masters of all Tibetan Buddhist traditions, and received lineages transmitted in the major schools.
His main source of inspiration was the Kadampa (Bka'-gdams-pa) tradition, the legacy of Ati?a. Based on Tsongkhapa's teaching, the two distinguishing characteristics of the Gelug tradition are:
- the union of sutra and tantra, and
- the emphasis on vinaya (the moral code of discipline)
Mah?k?la is a Dharmapala ("protector of dharma") in Vajrayana Buddhism, and a deity in Chinese and Japanese Buddhism, particularly in the Vajrayana school. He is known as Daheitian () in Chinese and Daikokuten () in Japanese. Mah?k?la belongs to the fourth hierarchy of deities.
Mah?k?la is a Sanskrit bahuvrihi of mah? (?; "great") and k?la (; "time/death"), which means Shiva is beyond the timeline ( past-bhoot k?la, present-vartm?na k?la and future- bhavishya k?la) or death. The literal Tibetan translation is "Nagpo Chenpo" (Tibetan: ?) though, when referring to this deity, Tibetans usually use the word "Goinbo" (--the translation of the Sanskrit word N?th meaning "lord" or "protector") instead.
Mah?k?la is relied upon in all schools of Tibetan Buddhism. However, he is depicted in a number of variations, each with distinctly different qualities and aspects. He is also regarded as the emanation of different beings in different cases, namely Avalokiteshvara (Tib: spyan ras gzigs) or Chakrasamvara (Tib: Korlo Demchog, Wylie: 'khor lo bde mchog).
Mah?k?la is typically black in color. Just as all colors are absorbed and dissolved into black, all names and forms are said to melt into those of Mahakala, symbolizing his all-embracing, comprehensive nature. Black can also represent the total absence of color, and again in this case it signifies the nature of Mahakala as ultimate or absolute reality. This principle is known in Sanskrit as "nirguna", beyond all quality and form, and it is typified by both interpretations.
Mah?k?la is almost always depicted with a crown of five skulls, which represent the transmutation of the five kleshas (negative afflictions) into the five wisdoms.
The most notable variation in Mah?k?la's manifestations and depictions is in the number of arms, but other details can vary as well. For instance, in some cases there are Mahakalas in white, with multiple heads, without genitals, standing on varying numbers of various things, holding various implements, with alternative adornments, and so on.