The survey of the Buddhist Tantras by Mkhas-grub-rje (1385-1438 A.D) is a sample of the rich literature on this topic in the Tibetan language. In accordance with Tson-kha-pa's tantric reform (the Gelugpa), after the theory about how Gautama Buddha became enlightened the author presents the non-tantric materials stipulated as preliminary for tantric study and practice. He then sketches the Kriya, Carya, Yoga, and Anuttarayoga tantra divisions, showing the generation of self into deity and generation of deity in front, the remarkable meditations of dwelling in the flame and in the sound, numerous definitions of tantric terms, the rich correspondence system of the Yogatantra, the difference between 'Father Tantra' and Mother Tantra', mandala ritual including the various kinds of 'initiation' or 'consecration'. A severe contraction of ritual detail allows the Tibetan author room to go into the theory at each step, including the mysterious beings called samayasattva and jnanasattva, states of 'Bliss-Void', the four Voids including the Clear Light, and the three kinds of 'Evam'.
The translation was collaborated in the 1950s between F.D. Lessing and Alex Wayman at Berkeley, California. After Lessing's death, Wayman annotated and published the text in 1968, and has provided a new introduction for the present reissue of this seminal treatise. Lessing was the first professor to offer courses in the Tibetan language at American University.
About the Author:
Alex Wayman, formerly Professor of Sanskrit, Columbia University, New York is in the forefront of Western Buddhist Scholarship by his series of books in both tantric and non-tantric Buddhism based on over thirty years of researches. He employs both the Sanskrit and Tibetan languages in his books and articles. He has authored well over a hundred articles for professional journals and honorary volumes in various countries and in recent years almost exclusively by invitation. His authorship of various seminal works on Buddhist Tantra conform to high standards of authoritative texts and dependable citations.
In the last parts of their lives, they were the 2nd and 6th Abbots of Gal-dan Monastery, which was founded by Tson-kha-pa. After the death of his teacher who had created a new school, later called the Gelugpa, Mkhas-grub-rje contributed to the success of this institution by his literary talent, employed to clarify and defend Tson-kha-pa's Tantric reform. Tibetan tradition (probably starting in the 17th century), traced Mkhas-grub-rye’s anterior incarnations back to the Sthavira Subhati (considered to be an immediate disciple of Gautama Buddha) and his subsequent ones in the series called the Pan-chen Lamas.'
The author's chief work in the field of the Tantras is his great commentary on the Kalacakra-tantra, assigned No. 5463 in A Catalogue of the Tohoku University Collection of Tibetan works on Buddhism (Sendai, 1953), devoted to native Tibetan works which are referred to hereafter by "Toh." followed by the number in this catalog. Also popular among Gelugpa Lamas are his Stort-thun chen-mo (Toh. 5459), on the theory of the Void (Kinyata), and his Sdom gsum (Toh. 5488), on the three vows — those of the Pratimoksa, the Bodhisattva, and the Mantra (or Vajrayana). Among other works on the Tantras noteworthy is his commentary on the Hevajra-tantra, the Brtag hgrel (Toh. 5483).
His • "Fundamentals of the Buddhist Tantras" has the full Tibetan title Rgyud side spy* ram par giag pa grays par brjod (Toh. 5489) and the abbreviated form Rgyud side spy ram. It is neither his chief nor his best-written work. It gives the impression of a semester or summer-session lecture course, ending just as precipitately. However, no other book of comparable size belonging to the Gelugpa school and known to the present translators can serve as well through translation to open up the subject of the Buddhist Tantras to Western' readers. This is be-cause it presents the fundamentals along with important bibliography of all four divisions of the Tantras and indicates the non-Tantric Buddhist topics which the disciples were expected to master in preparation for the Tantras; and it presents these fundamentals with a minimum of quotations and other complications. On the other hand, ordinarily it does not define basic terms, and the notes to the translation have had to fill the gap.
We may presume that Mkhas-grub-rje employed the following method for composing the work: He had before him one or more earlier works of this type, possibly those by Boston (1289-1364), the redactor of the Kanjur and Tanjur, who composed three works (Toh. 5167-5169), elucidating with increased detail the four Tantra divisions. Into the outline suggested by such preceding works, the author poured various non-controversial topics and many ideas of his teacher Tson-kha-pa. This was done, partly by direct reproduction of passages and partly by para-phrase; and for this purpose he used a number of Tson-kha-pa's works, but especially the latter's Snags rim then mo (Toh. 5281) as well as his personal instructions gained from being a close disciple. He mentions among native works only a few by Tson-kha-pa. The bulk of references are to canonical Kanjur and Tanjur works, which again we identify with the signal "Toh." and numbers as given in A Complete Catalogue of the Tibetan Buddhist Canons (Sendai, 1934).
I. How the Teacher Bhagavat became Abhisambuddha (Ib-2) A. Position of the Sravakas (Ib-3) b. position of the Mahayana (2b-5) 1. Teaching of the Paramita school(2b-5) 2. Teaching of the Mantra school (4a-1) a. Teaching of the Yoga school (4a-2) (1) Position of the Sakyamitra and Buddhaguhya(4a-3) (2) Position of Anandagarbha (4b-4) (3) The Five Abhisambodhi (5a-2) b. Teaching of Anuttara school (7a-2)
II. The method of setting the Wheel of the Law into motion (8b-2) A. The method of setting the Wheel of the Law of the Paramita-yana into motion (8b-3) 1. The Promulgations (9b-6) 2. Assembling the Promulgations (14b-1) a. The first council (14b-2) b. The second council (16b-5) c. The third council (18a-1) [d. A note concerning the Mahayana scriptures] (19a-3) 3. Commentaries on the Promulgations (19b-2) a. The four outer sciences (20a-1) b. Inner sciences (23a-3) (1) Commentaries on the First Wheel of the Law (23a-5) (2) Commentaries on the Intermediate Wheel of the Law (24b-5) (3) Commentaries on the Last Wheel of the Law (28a-1)
B. The method of setting the Wheel of the Law of the Mantra-yana into motion (29b-4) I. Fundamentals of the Kriya Tantra (29b-4) a. Fundamentals of the various varieties of the Kriya Tantra (29b-5) (1) The Tathagata Family (30-5) (2) The Padma Family (37b-2) (3) The Vajra Family (39a-1) (4) Mundane Families of the Kriya Tantra (40a-5) (5) General Kriya Tantra (41-5)
b. Fundamentals of Initiation and holding of vows in the Kriya Tantra (42a-6) c. Fundamentals of studying the path, after having received initiation and taken vows (47a-6) (1) Meditation with muttering (48a-1) (a) Preliminary acts(48a-1) (b) The main part of the four members of muttering (48a-3) 1. Generation of Self into Deity (first member) (48a-4) 2. Generation of Deity in Front (second member) (52a-6) 3. The four members, general (56b-1) (c) Terminating acts to the four members of muttering (58b-6) (2) Meditation without muttering (59b-4) (a) Meditation of dwelling in the flame (59b-4) (b) Meditation of dwelling in the sound (60a-1) (c) Meditation granting freedom at the limit of the sound (60b-1) (3) Accomplishment of siddi after appropriate service (61a-5)
2. Fundamentals of the Carya Tantra (62b-1) a. The varieties of the Tantra (62b-1) b. Method of studying the steps of the path (63a-2) (1) Procedure of preliminary service after being committed to the pledges (63a-4) (a) Yoga with images (63a-6) (b) Yoga without images (64a-4) (2) Manner of accomplishing siddhis after aptitude in the service (64b-1)
3. Fundamentals of the Yoga Tantra (64b-4) a. Method of setting the Wheel of the Law of Yoga into Motion (64b-4) b. Method of studying the steps of the path (68a-6) (1) Meaning of the expression 'four seals' (68a-6) (2) Varieties (68b-1) (3) Sequence (69b-6) (4) Requirement and benefit of seal execution (71b-1) (5) Method of seal execution (71b-2)
4. Fundamental of the Anuttara-Yoga Tantra (74a-6) a. Division into two Tantras (74a-6) b. Meaning of the several divisions (74b-5) (1) Refutation of other schools (74b-6) (a) Tripartition by enuciation of the promulgation (75a-1) (b) Tripartition by meaning of the subject matter (75b-1) (c) Tripartition by the petitioner (76b-4) (2) Establishment of our school(78a-4)
C. Procedure in the meaning of the subject matter (80b-2) (1) The path of initiation which produces maturation (80b-2) (a) Characteristics of the mandala in which Initiation is conferred (80b-4) (b) Characteristics of the hierophant who confers Initiation (81a-4) (c) Method by which the hierophant initiates in whatever mandala (83a-2) 1.Method of Initiation in the mandala of powdered colors (83a-2) I. Method of drawing the mandala (83a-3) A. Ritual of the site (83a-3) B. Ritual of the preparatory acts (84b-2) C. The ritual of drawing the mandala II. Method of accomplishing the mandala (87a-6) A. The school which makes them different B. The school which makes them identical 2. Method of initiation in the mandala painted on cloth (90a-3) 3. Method of initiation in the body mandala (90b-6)
I. Manner of conferring initiation (91b-6) 1. Ritual of conferring initiation on the disciple (92a-1) A. Entering the mandala (92a-1) B. Conferring initiation after entrance (92b-5) 1. Initiation of the flask (92b-5) 2. The Secret initiation (94b-1) 3. The insight-knowledge initiation 995b-1) 4. The initiation of the syllable (96a-5) 2. The relation between steps and initiations along the path (96b-4) 3. Vows and pledges (97b-1) 4. Steps of Production and Steps of Completion (98a-4)
Of Related Interest :
Buddhist Tantra and Buddhist Art
The Buddhist Tantras: Light on Indo-Tibetan Esotericism
Preparing for Tantra: The Mountain of Blessing
Chinnamasta: The Aweful Buddhist and Hindu Tantric Goddess
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