Vajrayana


Vajrayana
Form of tantric Buddhism that emerged in India in the first millennium AD and spread to Tibet, where it is the predominant tradition in Tibetan Buddhism.

Philosophically, Vajrayana is a blend of the Yogacara and Madhyamika disciplines. It aims to recapture the enlightenment experience of the Buddha Gautama, and it places special emphasis on the notion that enlightenment arises from the realization that seemingly opposite principles are in truth one. It introduced innovations involving the use of mantras and mandalas as aids to meditation, and, in rare cases, the use of yogically disciplined sexual activities.

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(Sanskrit: Vehicle of the Diamond [or Thunderbolt]),also called  Tantric Buddhism,  

      important development within Buddhism in India and neighbouring countries, notably Tibet. Vajrayāna, in the history of Buddhism, marks the transition from Mahāyāna speculative thought to the enactment of Buddhist ideas in individual life. The term vajra (Sanskrit: “diamond,” or “thunderbolt”) is used to signify the absolutely real and indestructible in man, as opposed to the fictions an individual entertains about himself and his nature; yāna is the spiritual pursuit of the ultimately valuable and indestructible.

      Other names for this form of Buddhism are Mantrayāna (Vehicle of the Mantra), which refers to the use of the mantra (q.v.) to prevent the mind from going astray into the world of its fictions and their attendant verbiage and to remain aware of reality as such; and Guhyamantrayāna, in which the word guhya (“hidden”) refers not to concealment but to the intangibility of the process of becoming aware of reality.

      Philosophically speaking, Vajrayāna embodies ideas of both the Yogācāra discipline, which emphasizes the ultimacy of mind, and the Mādhyamika philosophy, which undermines any attempt to posit a relativistic principle as the ultimate. Dealing with inner experiences, the Vajrayāna texts use a highly symbolic language that aims at helping the followers of its disciplines to evoke within themselves experiences considered to be the most valuable available to man. Vajrayāna thus attempts to recapture the Enlightenment experience of the Gautama Buddha.

      In the Tantric view, Enlightenment arises from the realization that seemingly opposite principles are in truth one. The passive concepts Śūnyatā (“voidness”) and prajñā (“wisdom”), for example, must be resolved with the active karuṇā (“compassion”) and upāya (“means”). This fundamental polarity and its resolution are often expressed through symbols of sexuality (see yab-yum).

      The historical origin of Vajrayāna is unclear, except that it coincided with the spread of the mentalistic schools of Buddhism. It flourished from the 6th to the 11th century and exerted a lasting influence on the neighbouring countries of India. The rich visual arts of Vajrayāna reach their culmination in the sacred maṇḍala (mandala) (q.v.), a representation of the universe used as an aid for meditation.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

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