The 6th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
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Mantrayana and Vajrayana
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Although the Vajrayana claims to be as ancient and authentic as any other Buddhist school, it may have grown up gradually in an environment with previously existing texts such as the mahasannipata and the ratnaketudharani. The basic position of Vajrayana is still the same as the early Buddhist position of not-self: there is nothing which is eternal.The changes that took place reflected the changing society of medieval India: the presentation changed, the techniques of the way to enlightenment changed, and the outward appearance of Buddhism came to be dominated by ritualism, and the array of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and gods and goddesses.
There are differing views as to where in the Indian sub-continent that Vajrayana began. There are assumptions about the origin of Vajrayana in Bengal,Uddiyana, located at Odisha, or in the modern day Swat Valley in Pakistan.
The earliest texts appeared around the early 4th century. Nalanda University in eastern India became a center for the development of Vajrayana theory, although it is likely that the university followed, rather than led, the early Tantric movement.
Only from the 7th or the beginning of the 8th century, tantric techniques and approaches increasingly dominated Buddhist practice in India.From the 7th century onwards many popular religious elements of a heterogeneous nature were incorporated into Mahayana Buddhism, which finally resulted in the appearance of Vajrayana, Kalachakrayana, and Sahajayana Tantric Buddhism. These new Tantric cults of Buddhism introduced Mantra, Mudra and Mandala, along with six tantric Abhicharas (practices) such as Marana (Death), Stambhana, Sammohana, Vidvesan, Uchchatana and Vajikarana. These cults revived primitive beliefs and practices, a simpler and less formal approach to the personal god, a liberal and respectful attitude towards women, and denial of the caste system.
(Vajrayana) Buddhism had mostly died out in India by the 13th century, and tantric versions of Buddhism and Hinduism were also experiencing pressure from invading Islamic armies. By that time, the vast majority of the practices were also manifest in Tibet, where they were preserved until recently.
In the second half of the 20th century a sizable number of Tibetan exiles fled the oppressive, anti-religious rule of the Communist Chinese to establish Tibetan Buddhist communities in northern India, particularly around Dharamsala.