The 7th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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Adhiṣṭhāna (Romanised Sanskrit with diacritics; Devanagari: अधिष्ठान; Standard Tibetan: jin lab, contraction of jin gyi lab pa; Wylie: byin rlabs; Japanese: 加持 kaji; Thai: อธิษฐาน) are initiations or blessings in the Vajrayana Buddhist schools such as Tibetan Buddhism and Shingon.
Nomenclature, orthography and etymology
Adhishthana(m) is a term with multiple meanings: seat; basis; substratum; ground; support; and abode. Monier Williams Sanskrit-English Dictionary Online holds the following semantic field for 'Adhishthana':
- Byin-rlabs is commonly glossed as 'gift wave', but it more properly goes back to a literal translation of a Chinese word which was almost certainly made during the earliest introduction of Buddhism into Tibet in the seventh or eighth centuries. It is not a literal translation of the Sanskrit Buddhists term adhisthana. Its actual, or rather its philologically correct, meaning is 'received by (way of) giving'.
Tsultrim Allione points out that in Tibetan Buddhism adhistana blessings are an important part of the esoteric transmission received from the guru and lineage. Receiving these blessings is dependent on the student having proper motivation, aspiration and intentionality (refer: Bodhicitta) and sufficient 'devotion' (Sanskrit: bhakti). These blessings may be received from the student's guru during initiation, from the yidam during deity yoga or simply from being in the presence of holy objects such as stupa.
The Buddha is creative life itself, he creates himself in innumerable forms with all the means native to him. This is called his adhisthana, as it were, emanating from his personality. The idea of Adhisthana is one of the Mahayana landmarks in the history of Indian Buddhism and it is at the same time the beginning of the 'other-power' (tariki in Japanese) school as distinguished from the 'self-power' (jiriki).
Stream of blessings
In the Indo-Himalayan lineages of Mantrayana where traditions of Tantra were introduced in the first wave of translations of Sanskrit texts into the Tibetan language, from the 8th century onwards, the term chosen by the community of 'translators' (Tibetan: lotsawa) which importantly is one of the most concerted translation efforts in documented history, chose to render "Adhiṣṭhāna" as "Tibetan: བྱིན་རླབས, Wylie: byin rlabs". This metaphorical usage of the 'stream', 'wave', 'thread', 'continuum' is reinforced in philosophy with the mindstream doctrine and its relationship to tantric sadhana where it is used in visualizations and invocations, particularly in relation to the Three Vajras of Padmasambhava and depicted in Indo-Tibetan Buddhist and Bon iconography such as representations of the Adi-Buddha and Tapihritsa. Mills (2003: p.160) in a modern political and power-relations dissection of "chinlabs" in relation to hierarchical structures of the Gelugpa, a school of the 'second wave of translations' (Tibetan: sarma), holds that:
"The acceptance of offerings by worldly deities and spirits was felt very strongly to oblige the recipient to act in favour of the donor, and particularly to act as their protector (strungma), a term widely used by householders to describe the various numina that inhabited their houses. This protection was seen as being a blessing (chinlabs) which descended upon the offerer from above in the manner of a stream. This metaphor of the stream and its pure source is an important one, and is a central idiom by which hierarchical relations, either in hospitality gatherings, offering practices, or religious teachings, were conceived and spoken about, emphasising once again the salience of height as designating relations with social superiors and preceptors."
Honzon simply refers to the main deity in any given ritual. Kaji refers to the enhancement of a sentient being’s power through the Buddha’s power (Nyorai-kaji-riki), and it translates the Sanskrit word adhisthana.