(Last Updated on : 10/03/2015)
Vajrayana is one of the schools of Buddhist thought which was first practiced in India and from here the Vajrayana school of Buddhism spread to Tibet, Bhutan and Mongolia. Since the People's Republic of China's seizure of Tibet in the year 1959, the Tibetan Vajrayana has covered several Western countries and has acquired lot of fame. Vajrayana Buddhism is a third and distinct school of Buddhism, the other two being Mahayana and Theravada. The Vajrayana school of Buddhism comes from the Mahayana Buddhism. The Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism possesses its own texts in the Sanskrit and Tibetan languages and it also holds the Theravada texts in the Pali language and the older Mahayana texts in Sanskrit language.
Vajrayana is at times called Tantric Buddhism in the west. One form of Vajrayana Buddhism
is Tantric practice and there are also various other forms. Vajrayana developed in the northern parts of India during the seventh century. Its chief philosophical roots are in Madhyamika of Nagarjuna, Vijnanavada (also known as Yogachara) and Chandrakirti, Vasubhandu and Chittamatra of Asanga. Guru Padmasambhava was the renowned teacher of Vajrayana. He founded Nyingma School, Tibetan Buddhism's first school.
It is assumed that Vajrayana was more popular in the Himalayan territories. This school is called Vajrayana because of the use of the vajra. It is a symbol for thunder, diamond and lightning. The most prominent features of Vajrayana include the use of mantras, which is a form of chanting. It gives mush importance to the teacher or guru. Another feature of Vajrayana is the significance of meditation, which also includes concentration techniques like; the visualization of bodhisattvas
. The followers of the faith are brought in to these practices by initiation called empowerment.
Vajrayana school of Buddhism is regarded as a spiritual and life philosophy which embraces the teachings of Siddhartha or Lord Buddha
. However, the emergence of Vajrayana during the eighth century is credited to the Indian tantric master Padmasambhava, also called the 'second Buddha.' Vajrayana is closely associated with theTheravada schools of Buddhism
and Mahayana school of Buddhism, even if there are few differences as far as practice between them is concerned. Vajrayana is also regarded as the third Yana of Buddhism, it is the Sanskrit word which when translated means; 'vehicle.' Particularly, the path which led to the birth of Vajrayana is considered to have originated from the 'wheel of dharma's,' third turning, a list of oral traditions and Buddhist teachings generally called sutras.
This school of Buddhism got its name from Sanskrit word vajra, which symbolizes the thunderbolt handled by the god of weather and war, Indra. It also loosely translates in order to mean 'diamond,' symbolizing the unbreakable strength. Thus, the Vajrayana school of Buddhism is also known as the Diamond Vehicle and also the Indestructible Path of Buddhism. It also possesses various other names like True Words Sect, Esoteric Buddhism, Thunderbolt Vehicle, Tantric Buddhism, Secret Mantra and Mantrayana among others.
Varjayana principles are regarded as very close to those which the Buddha practised in order to attain true enlightenment or dharmakaya. However, the Vajrayanists hold that Buddha did not disclose most of these principles since he believed them too private for the non-initiated. Similar to various other Buddhist teachings, Vajrayana is established on tantric doctrine or tantras, which are accessible by exercising several sadhanas. A sadhana
can comprise meditation
, controlled breathing or Pranayama
and the reiteration of particular prayer called as mantra
Different from a number of Buddhist teachings, the course of Vajrayana school of Buddhism does not prescribe that the follower should endeavour to reach Nirvana, a method considered to absorb several lifetimes. In coalition with the bodhisattvas of Mahayana Buddhism, the practitioners of Vajrayana school of Buddhism should look for perfect enlightenment but be eager to reincarnate to help others on the material world to attain the same. The notion that the practitioners of Vajrayana may achieve pure enlightenment in one lifetime also varies from other teachings and which is why Vajrayana Buddhism is at times called the Short Path.
Vajrayana is viewed as a part of Mahayana Buddhism
. The only difference between the two is in their upaya or the means in which they are being implemented. The philosophy of the tow schools of Buddhist thoughts hardly differs. Vajrayana Buddhism is instrumental in achieving enlightenment and this could be done with the help of the tantra upaya or techniques. While the earlier schools of Buddhism help in attaining nirvana, Vajrayana prompts the process of achieving enlightenment. This is where it differs from the major schools of Buddhism. It helps in spiritual development and esoteric transmission. One of the salient features of Vajrayana is that it considers Mahayana and Theravada as the base on which the tantras could be practiced. The knowledge of these two earlier branches is absolutely essential to practice Vajrayana. It is more similar to Mahayana because the basic philosophies of both these are the same. Both of the schools strive to become Buddha by following the Bodhisattvas. In certain Pali texts too the reference to Vajrayana are found. Thus, it hints that this discourse was not limited only to Tibetan Buddhism. There are several lineages of Tibetan Buddhism. These comprise of Nyingma-pa, Kagyu-pa, Sakya-pa and Gelug-pa. Till date it is practiced in countries like Tibet and Mongolia.