Yoga Tantra: Theory and Praxis- In the light of the Hevajra Tantra, A Metaphysical Perspective

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Item Code: IHF097
Author: Dr. Tomy Augustine
Publisher: Sri Satguru Publications
Edition: 2008
ISBN: 8170308690
Pages: 441
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.8" X 5.7"
Weight 620 gm
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From the Jacket

The study and research undertaken by Dr. Tomy Augustine on Yoga Tantra Theory and Praxis in the Light of the Hevajra Tantra, a Metaphysical Perspective contained in this book makes a unique statement about the development of Tantric Buddhism in Indian culture and Philosophy.

The author's precise and meticulous analysis of the text of the Hevajra Tantra applying the Madhyamika and Yogacara metaphysics and the simultaneous attempt to highlight therein the synthesis of Tantric bipolarities delves into rediscovering the vibrant emergence of the Vajrayana Buddhism. Dr. Augustine's claim that "Vajrayan has contributed to the advancement of human thought in regard to the development of new vision of God, world and (wo)man in general and to Buddhist thought and praxis in Particular" is fully substantiated in this work.

This book will attract scholars in the field of religion, psychology and culture besides proving valuable to students of Philosophy and those who see the increasing interface between philosophy and the social science.

Dr. Tomy Augustine is a lecturer of philosophy and English at Salesian College, Sonada, Darjeeling. He holds his M.A. both in philosophy and English, and P.D. in Philosophy and religion from Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, India. He has presented papers and published articles on various aspects of Buddhism and is interested in Philosophy, Religion and Literature.



Vajrayana is a difficult and delicate theme to explore. The main difficulty arises from its secretive and esoteric nature and the mystery surrounding the tantric texts and tantric lore. The cautious attempts to interpret these texts have been made with great apology, reluctance, and compunction. On account of its overtly erotic elements it is disowned in scholarly circles as an illegitimate child of Mahayana's tryst with Tantrism. Hence most scholars refuse to stand squarely by tantric tradition, let alone consider it as a viable template for human life.

In recent years scholars of diverse of cultural, religious and ethical provenance have pitched in to interpret and possible rehabilitate tantrism in the galaxy of Indian religio-cultural tradition. Work on Vajrayana ha been limited mainly to editing and translating tantric texts. The area of analysis and systematization of the doctrine and praxis contained in these texts remains largely a virgin territory. The orientalists, cultural anthropologists, philologists, sociologists, archaeologists, and historians have had their say on tantrism in general and Vajrayana in particular yet, they have said almost nothing about, how Vajrayana appeals to a student of Buddhist philosophy and how he 'makes sense' out of the tantric tradition.

The task, albeit an uphill one and the path lonely, as Vajrayana is a road less traveled by, has proved to be a most rewarding research experience. From the plethora of ideas and practices, a system of Vajrayanic theory and praxis seems to emerge. The eclectic and syncretic tendency of Vajrayana is responsible for the catholicity of its ideas, practices, and goals, which are mundane as well as supra mundane. The influence of tantrism in general and Vajravana in particular, has been so immense that it has genetically modified the Indian way of life, if not the view of life. Art, architecture, sculpture, painting and literature have all been flavoured by tantrism. Vajrayana has been able to enter the innermost chambers of the human psyche and satisfy certain vital aspirations and yearnings of man as no other system hitherto. So much so, even its amoral appearance attracts the ire only of the scholar, not of the commoner.

At the completion of this research project I am moved by profound gratitude and reverence for my revered Guruji, Prof. Ashok Kumar Chatterjee, witout, without whose scholarly help and advice this thesis would not have come into existence. The numerous rounds of discussions that we have had helped me understand the intricacies and the nuances of Mahayana philosophy on the one hand and of tantric tradition on the other, which (intricacies and nuances) are the bases on which Vajrayana, particularly the Hevajra Tantra, has been analysed. A doyen of Mahayana philosophy, versatile in Indian philosophy as well as in western thought, Guruji has been a source of incisive insights and inspiration. His paternal prodding, uncompromising commitment t o quality and scholarly precision will I cherish for years to come.

I owe an immense debt of gratitude to my supervisor Dr. Munni K. Agrawal, Reader in the department of philosophy and religion, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi. She has accompanied me closely throughout the research period with able advice and maternal encouragement. In spite of her busy teaching schedules, she has gone through the manuscript patiently and offered suggestions and recommendations, pointing out areas for further elaboration and clarification.

The research work has been financed by the Junior Research Fellowship awarded to me by the Indian Council of Philosophical Research (I.C.P.R.), New Delhi, under the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India. I place on record my sincere thanks and profound gratitude to the Council for the financial assistance given to me to complete this project.

My sincere gratitude to the members of the Faculty at the department of philosophy, Banaras Hindu University, Prof. D.A. Gangadhar, Prof. U.C. Dubey, Prof. S. Vijay Kumar, Prof. A.K. Rai, Prof. Mukul Raj, Prof. Urmila Chaturvedi, Dr. K.P. Mishra and Dr. Deobrat Chaubey, Dr. Kripa Shankar Ojha, and Dr. Abhimanyu Singh.

I am greatly indebted to Dr. Francis Alencherry S.D.B.M the provincial, Fr. Jhon Berger, S.D.B., and the Salesian province of Kolkata for permitting me to undertake my doctoral studies at BHU. I owe a debt of gratitude to the former professors of philosophy at Salesian College, Sonada, Fr. Nicholas Logroi, S.D.B., Fr, Joseph Verzotto, S.D.B., Dr. Scaria Thuruthiyil, S.D.B., and Dr. Joseph Alapurackal, S.D.B. I express my heartfelt thanks to my uncle Dr. Anthony Mookenthottam, M.S.F.S., for all the help and inspiration to study Indian Philosophy.



Mahayana Buddhism flourished during the period between the second and the eighth century A.D., while between the seventh and the twelfth centuries, it was tantric Buddhism that dominated the scene. The creative activity of the latter period was almost exclusively devoted to tantras. S.k Ramchandra Rao points out that "Nalanda, Vikramsila and Odantapura Universities were well-known centres of Tantrik studies". According to tradition some of the greatest minds of Buddhist doctrine like Santaraksita, Santideva, and even Nagarjuna and Asanga were great scholars as well as tantric adepts.

Tantric Buddhism took the world of Buddhist thought by storm. It baffles the student of Buddhist philosophy how a system known for its speculative sophistication could now degenerate, if it does as some allege, into mere esoteric and occult practices. Thos makes the scholar suspect that there is more to Vajrayana than what meets the eye. But certain pertinent questions have to be answered before he can arrive at definite conclusions. What is the essence of Vajrayana? Is it merely a set of obscure practices performed for nefarious purposes? Is there a definite theory, which informs its prescribed praxis?

1. Yoga Tantra

The name 'Yoga Tantra' is generally applied to the third and higher grade of Buddhist tantras. But here the term 'Yoga Tantra' is not employed to refer to this class of tantra, nor is it used to refer to the Hevajra Tantra itself, for, the latter does not belong to this grade of Yoga Tantras at all but to the Anuttarayoga Tantras and more precisely, to the Yogini Tantras. At times, the term 'Yoga Tantra' is also used to refer to the common elements of the Yoga and Anuttarayoga Tantras. The Blue Annals called the Yoga and Anuttarayoga Tantras as 'outer' yoga tantra and 'inner' yoga tantra. However, I have used the term 'Yoga Tantra' to refer to the Vajrayanic theory and praxis of Anuttarayoga Tantra leading to the mystic union (yoga), of polarities within the individual, which is the essence and goal of Vijarayana.

Yogic practices existed long before the advent of Tantric Buddhism. The term 'yoga' has several meanings, such as Samadhi, union etc. Patanjali describes yoga as the cessation of mental modifications (yogas citta-vrtti-nirodhah). The Bhagavad Gita characterizes it as 'equanimity in all circumstances' (samatvam yoga ucyate) or as 'skill in action' (yogah karmasu kausalam). Yoga is the goal for the Buddhists as well, but understood in a quite different sense from that of their Hindu counterparts. For the Hinayanists, as Stcherbatsky states, 'yoga' is profound meditation in which the infinite unmber of separate evanescent entities (dharmas), the ultimate constituents of reality, gradually setter into quiescence leading to an absolute annihilation of all life. It is concentrated thought (Samadhi) or fixing the attention on a single point (ekagrata) and persisting in that state (punah punah cetasi nive sanam). Dasabhumikasutra advocates the practice of yoga in the first stage called vimala for achieving the purification of all forms. For the Madhyamika, it would mean the cessation of views about reality, and for the Yogacara, the cancellation of subject-object duality. The Madhyamika and Yogacara understanding of yoga, albeit near to the 'citta vitti nirodha' of Patanjali, is from a different metaphysical stock; the former is monistic and absolutistic, while the latter springs from the dualism of purusa and prakrti.

In all, the Buddhist conception of yoga is far from those of the Brahminical theist and monist as well. For the theist it is union with God or at least being in his presence, while for the monist, yoga is merging into the impersonal absolute (brahma Veda brahmaiva bhavati). For the Bddhists, yoga does not mean to be united with God or be swallowed up by the Absolute. Evan-Wentz speaks of Buddhist yoga as essentially overcoming ignorance by being yoked to knowledge. While it is some form of cessation for the Hinayanist and the Mahayanist, (of dharmas for the Hinayanist, of views for the Madhyamika, of subject-object duality for the Yogacara), yoga for the Vajrayanist, is defferent, In Vajrayana, yoga is the mystic union of the bi-polarity within the psyche of the sadhaka, and the consequent re-integration of the individual. In vajrayana, the state of mystic union (yoga) or yuganaddha is expressed through the symbol of 'sexual embrace', the most intimate of relationships.

2. Theory and Praxis

The Vajryanic theory is the confluence of two distinct streams of thought, namely the Mahayana and the Tantra. By Mahayanic thought we mean the general notions of Madhyamika and Yogacara, without going into further distinctions of the different branches of these schools. Tantric unsights found in Vajrayana spring from the general stock of ideas collectively called Tantrism to which both the Hindus and the Buddhists had recourse. The praxis also has elements from both Mahayanic and tantric traditions. The practice of virtue, the study of Madhyamika and Yogacara notions are incumbent on the Vajrayanist as well. Tsong-kha-pa writes

Intelligence which apprehends the profound nature of all that is, is the same in Mantrayana as it is in the two lower courses (Hinayana and Paramitayana), because without understanding existentiality it is impossible to cross the ocean of samsara by exhausting our emotional reactions.

The early Buddhism and the later Mahayana tradition become preparatory stages for the practice of Vajrayan. Yogi C.N. Chen points that, "he who is not well accomplished in the Hinayana meditation of purification and in the Mahayana meditation of sublimation should not practice of Vajrayana meditation either of Hevajra or of any other Heruka.

The term 'praxis' sums up the entire realm of tantric practices adopted by the Vajrayanists. The term 'praxis' is more comprehensive than the term 'practice' as the former refers also to the principles that inform the various practices. 'Praxis' is closer to principles than to practices' it is applied principles as distinct and differentiated from static theories. This work does not enumerate or describe the various Vajrayanic practices but attempts to reveal the principles, which are applied therein. The happy marriage between the Mahayanic and the tantric notions gave birth to this unique form of tantra called the Vajrayana.

3. The Hevajra Tantra

Hevajra Tantra has been chosen as the constant reference in our effort to delineate the theory and praxis of Vajrayana. According to A.K. Warder, it is one of the most significant Vajrayanic texts, on account of the number of commentaries written on them, the most important of which are the Yogaratnamala of Krsnacarya and the Muktavali of Ratnakarasanti. I have made extensive use of these commentaries, thanks to the efforts of D.L. Snellgrove, G.W. Farrow and I. Menon, and Ram Shankar Tripathi and Thakur Sain Negi. The text and its commentaries help us to interpret the theory and praxis in the light of Mahayana philosophy as well as to explain the tantric insights informing them. Hevajra Tantra is a product of the mature years of Vajrayana and is respected as an authoritative test on tantric theory and praxis, and is oft quoted by scholars.

4. Nature and Scope

Vajrayana has been analysed mostly by the Buddhologists, Orientalists, Indologists and Archaeologists. Great has been the contribution of tantric scholars like Mm. H.P. Shastri, Benoytosh Bhattacharyya, S.B. Dasgupta, P.C. Bagchi, Mm. Gopinath Kaviraj, Chintaharan Chakravari, Agehananda Bharati, David snellgrove, Arthur Avalon, Mircea Eliade, W.Y. Evans-Wentz, Giuseppe Tucci, Herbert V. Guenther, Lama Anagarika Govinda, F.D. Lessing, Alex Wayman and others. Their efforts have shed much light on such issues as the origin and development of Vajrayana, the date and authorship of tantric texts, identity of tantric deities, masters and tantric sites (pithas). Some of their possible links with other traditions and religious observances. They have corroborated their findings with historical, textual and archaeological evidences. The laudable efforts of these eminent scholars have furnished us with a great amount of useful data for deeper analysis and interpretation.

The present study does not focus on the historical and Indological specifics associated with texts, authors, places, and the like. We do not enter into the rewarding enterprise of comparing Hevajra Tantra with other tantric texts or attempt to relate Vajrayana with Hindu tantras and other religious traditions. Issues of exegesis and hermeneuties, if and, that crop up in a textual analysis, are mentioned and bypassed. The present study is not a textual analysis but a themeatic one. Our effort is only to accentuate the universal and fundamental themes of Vajrayana and relate it with the basic notions of Mahayana and tantrism. This is a humble contribution to the construction of a vajryanic theory and praxis in the light of the insights found in the Hevajra Tantra.




  List of Abbreviations of References  
  Table of Contents  
  Introduction 1
1 Yoga Tantra 2
2 Theory and Praxis 4
3 The Hevajra Tantra 5
4. Nature and Scope of the Thesis 6
5 The Hypothesis 7
6 The Significance of the Study 8
7 The contribution to the study of Vajrayana 9
8 The Limitations and the Difficulties 10
9 Methodology 11
10 Layout of meterial 14
  Chapter 1: Tantric Buddhism  
1 Tantra 19
2 Rise of Tantrism 22
2.1 Antiquity of Tantrism 23
2.2 Sources of Tantric Theory 25
2.3 Sources of Tantric Praxis 26
3 Salient features of Tantrism 30
3.1 The spirit of Heterodoxy 30
3.2 The spirit of Revolt 32
3.3 Ritualism 34
3.4 Centrality of the Body 35
3.5 The Ultimate reality as Bi-polar 36
3.6 Realisation as the union of polarities 37
3.7 The pursuit of Siddhis 37
3.8 Predominance of female deities 38
3.9 Deities of Terrifying Nature 39
3.10 Emphasis on Guru and Diksa 40
4 Hindu Tantrism 41
4.1 The Saivas 42
4.2 The Saktas 42
4.3 The Vaisnavas 44
4.4 The Sauras 44
4.5 The Ganapatyas 45
4.6 Minor Hindu Tantric Sects 46
4.6.1 The Siddhas 46
4.6.2 The Nathas 47
4.6.3 The Vaisnava Sahajiyas 47
4.6.4 The Bauls 49
5 Tantric Innovations in Buddhism 51
5.1 Reasons for the Tantric phase 52
5.2 The Term Vajrayana 56
5.3 Founder of Vajrayana 58
5.4 Seat of Vajrayana 60
5.5 Sources of Vajrayana 61
5.6 The goal of Vajrayana 62
6 The development of Vajrayana 64
6.1 Mantrayana 65
6.2 Vajrayana 66
6.3 Sahajayana 67
6.4 Kalacakrayana 70
7 Classification of Buddhist Tantras 72
7.1 Kriya Tantra 73
7.2 Carya Tantra 74
7.3 Yoga Tantra 75
7.4 Anuttarayoga Tantra 76
8 Vajrayanic Literature 79
8.1 Sutra 80
8.2 Dharani <82/td>
8.3 Tantra 85
9 Tantric language and literary style 90
10 Vajrayanic Masters: The Siddhacaryas 94
  Conclusion 95
  Chapter 2: The Hevajra Tantra  
1 The title 97
2 Date and Authorship 100
3 Text an Context 102
4 Language and Literary style 107
5 Thematic analysis of the text 109
5.1 The Mahayana foundations 110
5.1.1 The Absolute as Tathata 110
5.1.2 The Absolute as Tathagata 112
5.1.3 The concept of Tathagatagarbha 114
5.1.4 The concept of Avidya 115
5.1.5 The concept of Bodhicitta 116
5.1.6 The Nature of Nirvana 118
5.2 Theoretical Assumptions of Tantrism 119
5.2.1 The Bi-polar nature of the Non-dual reality 119
5.2.2 The Absolute as Union of Polarities 120
5.2.3 The body as the sphere of realisation 121
5.2.4 Body as the Microcosm 121
5.2.5 Homologous vision of existence 122
5.3 The tantric means 122
5.3.1 Samvara 123
5.3.2 Abhiseka 124
5.3.3 Sandhyabhasa 125
5.3.4 Ananda 126
5.3.5 Ksana 127
5.3.6 Carya 127
5.3.7 Bhojana 128
5.4 The process towards Buddhahood 128
5.4.1 The process of generation 129
5.4.2 The process of completion 130
6 Commentarial Literature 130
7 The Hevajra Tantra and other Major Tantras 133
8 Singnificance of the Hevajra Tantra 136
  Conclusion 138
  Chapter 3: The Metaphysical Foundations  
1 Nature of empirical existence 139
2 Nature of Nescience 148
3 Removal of Nescience 153
4 Nature of the Ultimate reality in Mahayana 157
4.1 Madhyamika understanding of Sunyata 157
4.2 Yogacara understanding of Vijnana 160
4.3 A comparison of Madhyamika and Yogacara views 162
5 Absolute and Phenomena in the Hevajra Tantra 164
6 Vajrayanic Insights into the Nature of the Ultimate reality 171
6.1 Ultimate reality as Vajra 171
6.2 Ultimate reality as Sahaja 173
6.3 Ultimate reality as Mahasukha 175
6.4 Ultimate reality as Immanent 182
7 The concept of Tathagata in the Hevajra Tantra 186
7.1 The Tantric innovation of the Trikaya 189
7.1.1 Dharmakaya 189
7.1.2 Sambhogakaya 191
7.1.3 Nirmanakaya 192
7.1.4 Mahasukhakaya 192
8 The concept of Tathagatagarbha in Vajrayana 193
  Conclusion 197
  Chapter 4: Fundamental principles of Tantra  
1 The Bi-polar nature of the Non-dual reality 200
1.1 Sunyata and Karuna as Prajna and Upaya 203
1.2 Prajna and Upaya as female and male 208
1.3 Prajna and Upaya as Lalana and Rasana 210
1.4 Prajna and Upaya as Vowel and consonant 212
2 The tantric absolute as the union of the Bi-polarity 216
3 The centrality of the Body 220
3.1 Tantric Physiology 222
3.1.1 The spinal cord 222
3.1.2 The Cakra 222
3.1.3 The Nadi 225
3.2 Body as the Microcosm 228
4 Body, speech and mind 231
5 Homologous vision 234
  Conclusion 240
  Chapter 5: Fundamental Tools of Vajrayana  
1 The Mandala 242
1.1 The Description of a Mandala 245
1.2 Symbolic meaning of the Mandala 248
1.3 The mandala in the Hindu Tantra 250
1.4 The Mandala of Hevajra 251
1.5 The Mandala of Nairatmya 253
1.6 Th body as a Mandala 254
1.7 The significance of the Mandala 256
2 The deity 259
2.1 The Dhyani Buddhas 263
2.1.1 Aksobhya 266
2.1.2 Ratnasambhava 267
2.1.3 Amitabha 268
2.1.4 Amoghasiddhi 268
2.1.5 Vairocana 269
2.2 The Dakini 270
2.3 Hevajra 271
2.4 Nairatmya and her Troupe 277
2.5 Other deities of the Mandala 280
2.6 The Nature and significance of the deity 285
3 The Mantra 291
4 The Guru 297
  Conclusion 302
  Chapter 6: The Process Towards Buddhahood  
1 The Preparation of the Yogi 304
2 The Preparation of the Yogini 314
3 Application of the vows 316
4 Conferral of Consecrations 319
4.1 The master consecration 321
4.2 The secret consecration 322
4.3 The wisdom consecration 323
4.4 The fourth consecration 323
5 The process of generation 324
5.1 Meditation on the Hevajra Mandala 328
5.1.1 The Preliminaries 328
5.1.2 The four stages of the sole hero Yoga 330
5.2 The meditation on the Nairatmaya Mandala 332
5.3 The six-phased Yoga 334
6 The process of completion 336
6.1 The external union 366
6.2 The Mudras, the Joys and the Moments 338
6.3 Union as an internal process 342
  Conclusion 345
  Chapter 7: Conclusion  
1 The Metaphysics of Vajrayana 349
1.1 Nature of existence 349
1.2 Nature of Avidya 350
1.3 Ultimate reality as Vajra 351
1.4 Ultimate reality as Bi-polar 351
1.5 Yoga: The union of Polarities 352
1.6 Nature of the absolute as bliss 352
2 Vajrayana: Buddhism in a new key 352
2.1 From conceptualization to Visualisation 357
2.2 From 'Meaning' to 'Meaning-lessness' 360
2.3 From the Physical to the spiritual 364
2.4 From fragmentation to Re-integration 366
3 Vajrayanic Insights into the Human psyche 367
4 Therapeutic relevance of Vajrayana <369/td>
5. Vajrayana: Degeneration or development 372
6 Vajrayana: Is it relevant 375
7 Vajrayana: Metaphysics, Religion or Psychology? 377
8 Vajrayana as Mysticism 379
9 Vajrayana for personal re-integration and universal harmony 381
10 Vajrayana: A new vision of man, Metaphysics, and Religion 384
  Bibliography 387
  Glossary 404
  Index 417

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