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The Importance of the Underworlds: Asuras’ Caves in Buddhism, and Some Other Themes in Early Buddhist Tantras Reminiscent of the Later Padmasambhava Legends

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Robert Mayer

University of Oxford

Abstract: The story of Padmasambhava taming non-human females at the Asura Cave at Pharping is well known. Much less widely known is the wider tradition of Asuras ’ caves as the entrances to Potala, the magical underworlds of Asuras and Nagas, a colorful and often eroticized and popular belief which played a prominent role in early Indian and Chinese Buddhist tantras. This paper surveys these now largely forgotten beliefs, and then proceeds to raise (but not answer) the question: might further widely attested Kriyatantra themes, such as treasure recovery, kTlas, and water magic, have influenced the popular mythology of Padmasambhava?

Asuras’ Caves in Buddhism

This article will look at a set of practices deriving from popular Indian culture that were once widely attested within Indian and Chinese Buddhism. However, perhaps as a consequence of their aims and methods eventually beginning to appear somewhat tangential to those of mainstream Vajrayana Buddhism as it evolved over the last centuries of the first millennium CE, they seem to have ended up somewhat marginal within Tibetan Buddhism, despite their survival in extant Bka’ ’gyur texts.

Sometimes known as attainment of Patala (patalasiddhi), these practices were focused on gaining access to the subterranean kingdoms of the Asuras and Nagas, which were often generically referred to as Patala, and which the adventurous could enter via any one of the many Asuras’ caves identified within the sacral landscape. Once in Patala, the yogin could gain such boons as longevity, magical knowledge (yidya). fabulous material treasures, and, not least, extraordinary pleasures, especially erotic ones.

Asuras’ Caves in the Dunhuang Text Tib J 644

Despite being somewhat marginalized in contemporary Tibetan Buddhism, we still have substantial surviving evidence from Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Chinese Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies, no. 3 (December 2007): 1-31. 1550-6363/2007/3/T3102.

© 2007 by Robert Mayer, Tibetan and Himalayan Digital Library; and International Association of Tibetan Studies. Distributed under the THDL Digital Text License. sources that such practices were probably once more central. Some of the most recently identified evidence in the Tibetan language can be found in a valuable article recently published by Jacob Dalton.[ Jacob Dalton. “The Early Development of the Padmasambhava Legend in Tibet: A Study of IOL

Tib J 644 and Pelliottibetain 307." Journal of the American Oriental Society 124, no. 4 (2004): 759-72.] [ Dalton. “Early Development of the Padmasambhava Legend,” 761.] In this article, Dalton discusses the probably tenth-century Dunhuang text Tib J 644. which describes inter alia the three levels of holders of magical knowledge (yidyadhara) associated with the Tantric Buddhist vehicle of Kriyatantra. Dalton writes.

According to tliis text, there are three vidvadhara levels that can be attained through the practice of the Kriyatantras: the vidvadhara of accomplishments (grub pa 'i rigs ’dzin), the vidvadhara who dwells on the levels (sa la gnas pa ’i rigs ’dzin), and the spontaneously accomplishing vidvadhara (Ihun gyis grub pa ’i rigs ’dzin).1 It is the description of the second of these, the vidvadhara who dwells on the levels, that is relevant to tliis discussion. Here the text describes the Bodhisattva Vajrapani appearing and granting attainments (siddhis) to the yogin. who then proceeds to an Asura’s cave, where an emanation of Vajrapani grants him a vision. The yogin is then able to strike his foot into a rock, as though the rock were made of dough.

From the footprint comes a sacred flow, a spring with eight streams. One of them flows to the south face of Mount Meru, and hence is called Asvakarna. The seven others flow inside the Asma's care. By bathing himself in tliis sacred water, the practitioner becomes purified, and achieves attainments. Tliis is how the yogin achieves the accomplishment of a vidyadhara who dwells on the levels.[2 de nas phyag na rdo rje gshegs nas/ dngos grub sbyin ba dang / a su ra 7' brag phug du phyin pa dang/ de na phyag nardorje’i sprul pa gcig bzhugs pa ’izhal mthong nas brag la rkang pa gcig brgyab pa dang / zan la brgyab bzhin snang ngo / rjes de nas dam babs nas/ nang de na chu myig yan lag brgyad dang klan ba brgyad yod pa la' gcig ni ri rab kyi Iho ngos su rdol te chu myig rta rna zhes bya 'o' bdun a su ra 'i nang na 'bab pa la khrus byed cing bsgrub pa de/ sa la gnas pa 7 rigs ’dzin ces bya 'o' (Dunhuang Tibetan manuscripts held at the British Library, London: IOL Tib J 644. 2a.6-2b.l).]

It is surely more a testament to the comparative marginalization of the practice of attainment of Patala within mainstream Tibetan Buddhism, and not a reason for criticism of Dalton, that even such an erudite specialist in early Tibetan Buddhism as he was initially unaware of what exactly these rites in Tib J 644 were referring to.[ Despite their occasional appearance in Tibetan sources, topics like patalasiddhi are not primarily seen as the domain of Tibetologists or even of Sanskritic Buddhologists, but more of Indologists and Sinologists. Our established traditions of academic compartmentalization - that tends to inhibit knowledge of popular Indian religions among Buddhologists - can have drawbacks for tantric studies.]

Hence Dalton limited himself to speculations surrounding their interesting resemblance to well-known themes from the legends of Padmasambhava, notably his stay in the Asura Cave at Pharping in Nepal. Yet a close examination of the Tibetan text of Tib J 644 in its full context shows that it seems to be a reasonably standard abstract presentation of doctrine, which is quite similar to descriptions of attainment of Patala as found in other Kriyatantra texts in its structure,

its grammatical use of the third person to imply “the yogin,” and its content. So rather than representing an earlier version of the Padmasambhava story as such (a point which I am certain Dalton now understands, even though his actual words are a little ambiguous on this point), the passage more likely describes a now long-forgotten generic Patala-based ritual practice that many early Tantric Buddhists might well have attempted.

In this paper. I wish to pick up where Dalton left off, and try to contextualize the reference to the Asura cave in Tib J 644. Not only will this help us rediscover a little about the largely forgotten Buddhist practice of Asura caves and attainment of Patala. but it also offers an opportunity to draw our attention to the noteworthy but as yet seldom mentioned continuities between several prominent Kriyatantra practices[? Traditional doxographical categories such as Kriya are well known to be inconsistent and full of anomalies.

For example, most of the substantial Dharani section in the dynastic catalogues of Than kar ma and 'Phang thang ma were later reclassified by the Bka‘ gyur codifiers as Kriyatantras. However, especially since these doxographical categories were of such importance to traditional authorities. I cannot agree with those modem scholars who reject them as meaningless. For convenience, I use Kriya here as a convenient shorthand for texts containing Buddhist esoteric materials in an earlier style. Such usage avoids the need to coin my own neologism, and pennits shorter sentences. I am aware that some of what I describe also occurs in early texts that need not necessarily be traditionally classed as Kriya.] [°T1222a. K1355.] and the later legends of Padmasambhava (unfortunately, we still have rather little idea about the historical reality of Padmasambhava).

Asuras’ Caves in the Context of Buddhist Kriyatantra

In fact, despite Tibetan Buddhism’s comparatively meager interest in the subject, Asuras’ caves feature surprisingly prominently in Indian mythology, magic, tantric ritual, folklore, and cosmology, where they function as the entrances or gateways to the subterranean paradises of immense beauty, wealth, and pleasure, often enumerated as seven in number, and often generically called Patala.

It is within these subterranean paradises that Asuras (along with Nagas and various other spirits too) are believed to dwell. Patala moreover became the focus of a substantial body of magical practices in Hinduism. Jainism, and Buddhism alike. Asuras" caves serving as the gateway to Patala are thus found in the epic literature, in tantric scriptures, in magical texts, in tantric ritual manuals, and in narratives of many kinds.

More importantly for Tib J 644’s presentation of the vidyadharas of Kriyatantra. Patala. its Asura inhabitants, and Asuras’ caves as Patala’s entrances are also specifically found in several canonical Buddhist scriptures still extant in Sanskrit. Tibetan, and Chinese. In fact, as far as I am currently aware, they mainly occur in the early Buddhist tantras, especially Kriyatantra, such as the Manjusrmudakalpa. or the *Kaiykrodha-vajrakumara-bodhisattva-sadhana-vidhi (Sheng chia ni fen nu chin kang t'ung tzu p 'u sa ch ’eng chin i kuei ching).0 and the Arya-vajra-patala-nama-tantra-raja ('phags pa rdo rje sa ’og gi rgyud kyi rgyal po).

I have not yet heard of significant references in later Buddhist tantric genres, although it would of course not be at all surprising if they were to turn up there occasionally. Despite these early tantric canonical references, Patala and its Asura inhabitants no longer seemed to play a very significant role in later Tantric

Buddhism, and appear of little concern to modem Tibetan Buddhism. The words and concepts sa ’og certainly still exist, largely with reference to Nagas, or occasionally as a generic term for the place where Padmasambhava buries his treasures,[See for example the preamble to the Las byang of the gter ma cycle ’Chi med srog thig that is associated with Zil gnon nam mklia'i rdo rje. the Fifteenth Karmapa, and the late Bdud ’joms rin po che. Here, words are put into the mouth of Padmasambhava: ’‘...Bearing in mind sentient beings" wanderings in the degenerate (age).

(I) filled the whole of the subterranean world with treasures..."’ (snyigs 'gro 'i sems can la dgongs te: sa 'og thams cadgter gyis bkang:\ Zil gnon nam mkha’i rdo rje. with contributions from Karmapa XV and Bdud ‘joms rin po che ’jigs bral ye shes rdo rje, ’Chi med srog thig las byang rdo rje ’i phur pa yang gsang phrin las bend dril gyi las tshe sgrub ’chi med srog thig. in The Collected Writings and Revelations ofH. H. Bdud-joms Rin-po-che Jigs-bral-ye-ses-rdo-rje. vol. 14 [Pha] [Kalimpong: Dupjung Lama. 1979]. 77). Yet I doubt any reference to the Patalas of Asuras and Nagas is intended here.] [ Sde dge 744, Stog 697, Peking 403, and Ulan Bator 767.] and the Asuric reference is also clearly not entirely forgotten - but as far as I know, Patala is no longer a living concern of Tibetan tantric ritual, even though attainment of Patala might still persist in some old tantras and lists.

The most prominent Tibetan canonical sources for Patala I have found so far are two Bka’ ’gyur texts dedicated to the subject. One is the ’Phags pa rdo rje sa 'og gi rgyud kyi rgyalpo {Arya-vajra-pdtala-nama-tantra-rajd)j which in its main version is a substantial text in twenty-five chapters purely devoted to attainment of Patala: and its long colophon cites no lesser a personage than the great Sa skya pa Pan di ta Kun dga’ rgyal mtshan, helped by the Indian Sugatasn. Mkhas grab rje classes it as a Kriyatantra of the vajra family, and explains that it came in two further editions as well, one in thirteen chapters by ’Phags pa shes rab, the translator of Zanskar (zangs dkar). and one in seven chapters by the monk Bya gdong ba can.[ F. D. Lessing and Alex Wayman,

Introduction to the Buddhist Tantric Systems (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1983), 129.] [ Sde dge 499.] The other is the Rdo rje sa 'oggi rgyud (Vajra-pdtdla-tantra)w which is counted by Mkhas grub rje as a Carya text of the vajra family, but which Bu ston had viewed with suspicion.[ Lessing and Wayman, Introduction to the Buddhist Tantric Systems, 207.

There is also a prominent reference to Patala as a heading included in the Tibetan translation of Amarasimha’s Amarakosa. but this is a famous Indian lexicographical work written around 450 CE and translated into many Asian languages, rather than a Vajrayana treatise. This heading was cited by Mkhas grub rje (Lessing and Wayman. Introduction to the Buddhist Tantric Systems. 79).] [l" Ronald M. Davidson, Indian Esoteric Buddhism:

A Social History of the Tantric Movement (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002), 200.] Little awareness of these is reflected in more recent western Buddhological scholarship, although Davidson proposes the Sanskrit reconstruction *asuraguha to describe rites he had encountered in the famous Kriyatantra root text, the SubahupariprcchdP Comparative marginalization over the course of time is of course true of a great deal of the magical materials found in old texts such as the Mahjusrinndakalpa. which itself is a large and somewhat motley Indian compendium built up over a long period, closely resembling a Hindu purana, and from which Tibetan Buddhism has tended to cherry-pick chosen useful

items while often ignoring much of its plentiful magical materials.[ The Manjusrimulakalpa has sometimes been described as a “Buddhist purana. ” See, for example, Yukei Matsunaga, “On the Date of the Manjusrimulakalpa,” in Tantric and Taoist Studies in Honour ofR. A. Stein, ed. Michel Strickmann, vol. 3 (Bruxelles: Institut Beige des hautes etudes Chinoises, 1985), 882: “Because it [Mahjusriinulakalpa] also includes mathematical tables, astrological methods and royal genealogies, it embodies by and large the stylistic features of a purana. which is somewhat anomalous in the Buddhist canon.”]

Patala is perhaps more a location within popular Indian Puranic cosmologies rather than within orthodox Buddhist cosmologies, and the attainment of Patala itself is not necessarily consistent with core Vajrayana concerns. Hence there might well have been a learned Buddhist tendency to underemphasize or even expurgate references to Patala, as the process of reconciling and integrating the diverse Buddhist magical repertoire proceeded over the centuries. I will cite some examples of Asuras' caves and Patala from Buddhist Kriyatantras shortly, but first I will briefly describe the underlying cosmological ideas about Asuras and Patala.

The Seven Paradisiacal Nether Worlds

Patala and the other subterranean paradises have been written about quite often by western Indologists, although I am not aware of any monographs dedicated exclusively to the subject. Patala is most frequently described in Puranic cosmology, and those who browse Puranic literature are quite likely to be familiar with it from its numerous mentions there. As one expects in anything Puranic, the general idea remains similar, even if specifics vary: for example.

Patala’s paradises can either be below the earth but above the hells of torment (narakasf, or they can also be below the narakas. Another variation is that they can be described either as primarily the domains of Asuras. or of Nagas, or of both; and often of a variety of other non-human spirits as well. A common pattern is that these subterranean paradises are enumerated as seven in number. Deborah Soifer, in her study of the avatars Narasiihha and Vamana. describes them as follows:

The puranas also enumerate seven worlds below the earth, variously called atalas or regions of Patala. These nether regions, not to be confused with the more numerous hells or narakas, are the dwelling places of the Asuras, tTie demonic elder brothers of the gods. In beauty and luxury these residences rival the cities and palaces of the gods.[ Deborah A. Soifer, TheMyths ofNarasiihha and Vainana: Two Avatars in Cosmological Perspective (New York: SUNY, 1991), 53-54.']

Woodroffe, summarizing the cosmological sections of several puranas. is more specific:

Below the Hells are the seven nether worlds, Sutala, Vitala, Talatala, Mahatala, Rasatala, Atala, and Patala, where, according to the Puranas, dwell the Naga serpent divinities, brilliant with jewels, and where, too, the lovely daughters of the Daityas and Danavas [Asura maidens] wander, fascinating even tlie most austere.[17 John Woodroffe (aka Arthur Avalon). Tantra of the Great Liberation (Mahanirvanatantra) (New York: Dover Publications, 1972). xxxvi-xxxviii.]

But not all puranas follow the sevenfold pattern. The KUrrna Purana. for example, enumerates only four Patalas: Mahatala. where the famous Asura Bali dwells;[ For a detailed monographic study of this famous Asura still widely worshipped in South India, see Clifford Hospital, The Righteous Demon: A Studv of Bali (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1984).] Rasatala. where Bali’s father the Asura Virocana dwells; Vitala, where various Asuras such as Bah’s grandfather Prahlada 1 ivc. as well as great Nagas such as Jambhaka and Kambala; and the beautiful Talatala, where other Nagas dwell (KUrrna Purana. Bhuvana Kosa, 15-25).[

J. L. Shastri, Kurma Purana (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1981), 294-95.] By contrast, the Garuda Purana does enumerate seven, but, in agreement with the 1'isnu Purana,[18H. H. Wilson. The 1 Isnu Purana: A System of Hindu Mythology and Tradition, vol. 2 ( London: Triibner& Co. 1865). 14.] gives some of them variant names: Atala, Vitala, Nitala, Gabhistamat, Mahakhya, Sutala, and Patala; it describes them as inhabited by Nagas and Raksasas (Garuda Purana, Bhuvana Kosa, 1-3).[1Q J. L. Shastri. Garuda Purana (DAhv. Motilal Banarsidass, 1978), 190.]

How Did the Asuras End up Underground? A Hindu and a Buddhist Kriyatantra Version

Many might be more familiar with Asuras as rivals to the gods for possession of the heavens, and hence as inhabitants of territories on the lower slopes of Meru or in the oceans at its base, rather than in caverns below our continent of Jambudvipa. Those who are more familiar with early medieval Hinduism will be equally aware of a large and varied corpus of mythology - Hindu, Buddhist, and Jaina alike - which places the Asuras firmly underground, beneath our feet. There are many examples to choose from.

In Hindu mythology, one of the best known accounts of the Asuras being driven underground occurs in the narrative of the dw arf avatar of Visnu. The Asuras. lead by the mighty Bali, took over the heavens from the gods. The king of the gods. Indra, was distraught. Visnu recovered heaven for the gods by cunning: taking the form of a dwarf brahmin, he obtained the offer from Bali of just as much ground as he could cover in three steps, so that he could do a sacrifice.

Recovering his cosmic form, he covered the entire triple universe in his three strides, but a deal is a deal, and Bali still had to give him all the land he covered. Thus Visnu vanquished the Asuras, and banished them to Patala far underground, to which region they remain confined. The banishment of the Asuras to splendid confinement in Patala is very old and occurs in virtually all occurrences of this popular ston .[ Hospital, The Righteous Demon. 118.] There are many other narratives, however.

A Buddhist version occurs in the well-known canonical Kriyatantra scripture, the Manjusrimulakalpa. Here, after losing heaven to the Asuras. Indra goes for help not to Visnu, but to the sage Kasyapa. progenitor of both gods and Asuras. Kasyapa teaches Indra a long wrathful mantra to invoke the Bodhisattva Manjusri, and as Kasyapa intones it, Manjusri instantly appears, making the world shake, and demonstrating that the mantra is presided over by all the Buddhas.

Indra is impressed, learns the mantra off by heart, and decides to use it just as Kasyapa advises. Worshipping Manjusri and reciting the mantra. Indra succeeds in defeating the Asuras. They are banished to the subterranean paradises of Patala forever, and henceforth Indra carries an image of Manjusri on his banner.[ Manjusrimulakalpa 3: 662 [10]; Teun Goudriaan. Maya Divine and Human (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1978). 77-78.]

Asuras’ Caves as the Entrances to Patala

One of the great advantages of the subterranean paradises is that they are far more accessible to humans than are the heavens. The late Friedhelm Hardy devoted to Patala much of his chapter on cosmology , in his book The Religious Culture of India.[ Friedhelm Hardy. The Religious Culture of India: Power. Love and Wisdom (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994).] He wrote:

The nooks and crannies, tlie caves and cavities of earth are the openings into splendid lower regions.. .In these "underworlds” (for which the generic term Patala is frequently used) we encounter a wide range of other non-human beings... Such apertures into Patala are found all over the earth - unlike the inaccessible approach to the “heavens” via Meru...Moreover, popular literature finds it easy to talk about the underworld and its beings.[ Hardy, The Religious C ill titre of India, 31.]

Hardy continues with several lengthy narratives from Prakrit and Apabhramsa sources, which he describes as "travelogues": the adventures of daring humans who have entered into Asuras’ caves and gone to stay among the Asuras and Nagas of Patala, where endless wonders and miracles of the most marvelous kind are encountered, and where esoteric knowledge and magical powers can be obtained along with inconceivable wealth and sensual delights, especially of the erotic kind. Hardy concludes:

Of interest here is not just tlie wider range of wonderful things to be found in these underground realms (including vidyd or “magical sciences”) or further species of ogre-like beings..., but also the seemingly smooth transition from the world of man to those mysterious realms...this can be regarded as indicative of how much the underworlds are regarded as part of the natural order.[ Hardy. The Religious Culture of India, 34.]

Asuras' caves as the entranceways into Patala also occur in Buddhist Kriyatantras. The *Kanikrodha-vajrakiunara-bodhisattva-sadhana-vidhi[T1222a: K1355. Stephen Hodge, with contributions from Luke Lati, trans.. “*Kanikrodha Vajrakumara Bodhisattva Sadhana Vidhi” (unpublished translation from the Chinese [London: 1989]). I am greatly indebted to Luke Lati and Stephen Hodge for their extraordinarily generous help in translating this text from the Chinese for me in 1989: Luke Lati first made a preliminary translation, which Stephen Hodge then completed.

I am also most grateful to Ronald Davidson for the citation locations within T1222a, and for improving the Sanskrit renderings of the Chinese text. Hodge has expressed some uncertainty about the title of the text, since the first element, Ka ni (= chia nt), remains obscure. The online version of Lancaster’s catalogue simply gives the Sanskrit title as Vajrakumara-tantra. while the Chinese title given there is Sheng chia ni fen nu chin kang t 'ung tzu p 'll sa ch 'eng chill i kuei ching HIlST'lfiSS Less complete versions of the same text also seem to exist in the canon.

The] is a Buddhist Kriyatantra believed to be of Indian origin, but now extant only in Chinese.[translation into Chinese is attributed to .Amoghavajra, who came with Vajrabodhi to Lo-yang in 720 and died in 774. Note that the title is translated differently yet again in Ershi 'er zhong dazangjing tongjian (Beijing. 1997). where it is given as Arya-dakim-krodha-vajrakumara-bodhisattva-siddhi- kalpa-siitra (thanks to Matthew Kapstein for this information). .Among these various alternatives, I am staying with Hodge’s rendering for now. since it seems the most reliable so far. especially in the way it takes account of the evidence from the mantras within the text.]'1 It gives us several good examples of Asuras' caves. We read as follows:

Furthermore, if someone desires to dwell in the palace of the Asuras and experience pleasures, he should go to the entrance of the cave of the Asuras and make an arikusa (hook, elephant goad) with rushes. He should recite the Vajrakumara mantra seven times to empower this hook, elephant goad, and then revolve it to the right in the air near the entrance. By just reciting the mantra, he will make it open...[ T1222a.21.102b28-102c2: Hodge, *Kanikrodha. 1.]

There is another rite. If the mantrin recites tire mantra one hundred thousand tunes m front of an Asura cave that his companions have already entered, the mantrins who have previously entered the cave will emerge and welcome him, and then lead him inside as far as as the palace of the Asuras...[T1222a.21.103b4-b6: Hodge. *Kanikrodha, 3.] The rootmantra ofVajrakumara is: namo ratnatraydya namas canda vajrapdnaye niahayaksasenapataye tadyatha om karri hum phat svdha. Furthermore, there is a second root mantra specifically to open up the palace of the Asuras: namo ratnatraydya namas canda vajra pdnaye mahdyaksasendpataye tadyatha om dhuna vidhuna kani krodha sarva \?]yantrarri hunt...[T1222a.21.104al7-bl3: Hodge. *Kanikrodha, 5.]

Now I shall explain the standing mudra to open the gates to the Asura's cave. The mantrin should stamp on the ground quickly, walk joyfully, leap ferociously...This mudra is the best of all mudras, and it is able to break open all the bolts of the Asura’s cave.[ T1222a.21.105c26-106a3; Hodge, *Kanikrodha, 6.]

Gaining entry to Patala via its entry points of Asuras’ caves is clearly one of the major concerns of this text, and the second root mantra to gain entry to the Asuras’ palace (which is deeper within the cave) precedes a long list of branch mantras subsequent to the two root mantras. Although dedicated to Vajrakumara. many of the text’s rites are attributed to Vajrapani with the phrase “Thus taught the Bodhisattva Vajrapani.”

Likewise, the main mantra (mulamantra) is a variant of the Vajrapani mantra as commonly used throughout Kriyatantra texts. It is Vajrapani of course who figures in IOL Tib J 644; while another similarity this text shares with IOL Tib J 644 is its enumeration of various vidyadhara levels (again coimnon to many Kriyatantra texts), but here these do not have the same names as in the Dunhuang text.

Within his excellent introduction to Asuras’ caves and attainment of Patala in Chinese Tantrism,[ R. A. Stein. GrottesA/atrices et Lieux saints de la deesse en Asie orientate (Paris: EFEO. 1988). especially 23 ff.] R. A. Stein has pointed out several more passages from the Chinese canon that describe gaining entiy into Asura caves, with all the usual ramifications of Vajrapani, longevity, awaiting Maitreya, enjoying Asma maidens, finding treasures, and so on and so forth.[ Stein. GrottesA/atriees et Lieux saints, 27. Stein’s main citations are as follows: [1] Taisho 901. k.5. 833b and k.6. 837b: [2] Taisho 1096, 413c; [3] Taisho 1097. 425 b-c; [4] Taisho 1246. Taisho 1248, 327a.] Extant Indian Buddhist texts also have rites to enter Patala, for example the Mahjusrimulakalpa.

[Mahjusrtmillakalpa, 572. cited in Goudriaan. Maya Divine and Human. 103.] Likewise Sadhanamala 172. dedicated to a form of Kurukulla, enumerates the attainment of Patala as one of the eight attainments listed.[ Sadhanamala. ed. B. Bhattacharya (Baroda: Gaekwad’s Oriental Series. 1925). 2:350; see also lxxxv-vi.] No doubt more such references w ill turn up. if scholars eventually turn their attention to the mass of largely forgotten magical rites long buried in the early Buddhist tantras.

Why Do Vidyadharas Want to Go to Patala?

One of the main attractions of Patala is pleasure. Returning from a visit to Patala, the sage Narada is said to have declared that he had found it much more delightful than Indra’s heaven (llsmt Purana V).[ H. H. Wilson. The I'isnu Purana: A System of Hindu Mythology- and Tradition (London: Triibner & Co, 1865). 2:14-15.] In particular, the loveliness of the Asura and other non-human maidens is emphasized, and having sexual intercourse with them is one of the main objectives of those (usually male) adventurers who visit Patala. as. for example, in Sadhanamala 172 cited above.

The Mahjusrimulakalpa expresses such sentiments in a verse: those Buddhist yogins accomplished in mantras and desirous of sexual intercourse with supernatural women can invoke all kinds of Asura or other supernatural females by using their mantras, and dwell with them in Patala for the duration of a complete kalpa.

Then. when Maitreya finally arrives, they will hear his dharma and become enlightened. But those who have subjugated Asura women this way should henceforth never even touch a human woman.30 The Manjusrimulakalpa itself has numerous rites and mantras to procure non-human females in this way.[30 Goudriaan. Maya Divine and Human, 103. citing Mahjusnmfllakalpa, 572.] [3 Goudriaan. 3lava Divine and Human, 101-3.] [T1222a.21.102c2-c6: Hodge, *Kanikrodha. 2.]

The *Kanikrodha-vajrakumara-bodhisattva-sadhana-vidhi has very similar rites. Having forced entry by using the mantras and gestures using the arikusa made from rushes as prescribed (see above), the vidyadhara encounters the following scene:

Within the Asura’s cave, a great mass of fire will arise and all the male and female Asuras will bum within it while shrieking and wailing with terror. Each one of the female Asuras will reveal themselves and say to the mantrin, “Noble one! Please come into our cave and enjoy yourself as you will!” When he has gained entrance, he will be able to remain there for the duration of a kalpa, enjoying heavenly delights (sukha)?9

Another more complex passage is even more explicitly sexual. After gaining entrance to an Asura cave, and hoping to progress from there towards the actual Asura palace, the yogin should perform various rites, including the recitation of the mantra of Vajrakumara. At one stage, the following happens:

Then the Goddess Sarasvati and the female Asuras together with their attendants will come forth from the cave, and going up to theyogin they will speak as follows: “Finally, we will serve you.” The mantrin should not accept, but he should speak with a wrathful voice like thunder and recite the mantra further. The Asura maidens will become confused and demented, and undressing, will make their bodies naked...[T1222a.21.103bl5-bl8; Hodge, *Kanikrodha. 3.]

Another theme in the literature on visiting Patala is the quest for immortality, often in a more alchemical sense. As David White reports, the entire Indian alchemical tradition (rasayana) is attributed in its origins to the Asuras: Vaasa’s commentaiy on Yoga Sutra 4.1 cites the Asura realms as the locus for the immortality-conferring botanicals, and this view is repeated by the ninth-century luminary Vacaspati Misra, who mentions that initiation into Indian alchemical tradition is given by alluring Asura damsels.[ David Gordon White, The Alchemical Body: Siddha Traditions in Medieval India (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1991). 58-59.]

[White, The Alchemical Body. 285-86.] In the Mahabharata, the head priest of the Devas. Brhaspati, has to practice an elaborate deception on the chief sage of the Asuras, Kavy a Usanas, in order to wrest from him the secrets of alchemical immortality.11 As a consequence, and in recognition of its de facto founder being the Asura Kavya Usanas, medieval Indian alchemy designated the perfectly accomplished alchemist a kavi. Likewise, some Bengali ayurvedic physicians are still called kaviraj to this day, for similar reasons.[L White, The Alchemical Body, 286.]

Wealth and wisdom are other reasons to visit Patala. In the Jaina sources cited by Hardy, the visitors to Patala encounter not only “pleasures eight times greater than those found in the heavens,” including stunning Asura damsels, but also treasure chests[ Hardy, The Religious Culture of India, 33-34.] and magical sciences or vidyaf[ Unfortunately, Hardy chooses not expand on these magical sciences, and I lack the resources and time to pursue them in his primary sources.]

But purer and more academic motives are attributed to the great Madhyamaka philosopher Bhavaviveka, who, according to Hsiian-tsang, went to dwell in Patala among the Asuras until the coming of Maitreya Buddha. Hsiian-tsang reports that Bhavaviveka did this so that he could live long enough to be able to address particularly troubling doctrinal questions directly to Maitreya; here, no mention is made of alluring Asura maidens. Nevertheless.

Hsiian-tsang’s account mentions Bhavaviveka gaining entrance to the Asura kingdoms using a procedure entirely similar to the Kriyatantra sources quoted in this article: Vajrapani is invoked. mantras and mustard seeds are throw n at a rock face to make it open, a crowd watches the whole operation, and some of them accompany Bhavaviveka into the Asura’s cave.

[Stein, Grottes-Matrices etLieux saints, 26. See also Malcolm David Eckel, To See the Buddha: A Philosopher’s Quest for the Meaning of Emptiness (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994), 11-13.]1 am not aware of similar accounts regarding Bhavaviveka from Tibetan sources, so I am not sure if they might have contributed to Sa pan s interests in attainment of Patala. However, a quite early Central Asian Silk Route Mahayana cult of suspended animation to await Maitreya is certainly reported, perhaps based on a similar account found in very much earlier sources still that describe the great meditator Mahakasyapa. [John Jorgensen, Inventing Hui-neng, the Sixth Patriarch: Hagiography and Biography in Early Ch 'an (Leiden: Brill, 2005), 231-32.] [ Gail Hinich Sutherland, The Disguises of the Demon: The Development of the Yaksa in Hinduism and Buddhism (New York: SUNY, 1991), 40.]

The Waters of Patala

Waters are of course another special feature of Patala. as one would expect from the homeland of the Nagas (in almost all accounts. Patala is the domain par excellence of both Asuras and Nagas). According to the traditional etymology. Patala’s very' name derives from the fact that it is well-watered: patanti alam > pdtdlaf1 In other accounts, the heavenly Ganges exists in Patala and can be suimnoned up to earth from there.[ Hardy, The Religious Culture of India, 175.]

In addition, the cosmology of Mount Meru includes the idea of miraculous flows of heavenly waters or juices flowing down from its sides all the way to earth and beneath: our earthly gold, for example, is the dried residue of the rose-apple juice seeping down from the heavenly rose-apple fruits on Meru’s peak. Perhaps this cosmology, together with the pervasive understanding of Patala as well-watered and opulent, explains the occurrence of the Asvakarna springs connected with Meru in IOL Tib J 644.

The myth of the dwarf avatar's three steps overcoming the Asura Bah that I mention above certainly develops the theme of sacred and magical waters from Mem flowing into Patala; in many cases, this became an important integral part of the myth of the Asuras' banishment to Patala. since it is through the higher of his three steps that Visnu makes these ritually most significant sacred waters flow down for the veiy first time.[

Often, the waters descend front Visnu’s foot breaking the shell of the Cosmic Egg surrounding the universe; sometimes, the waters descend from Brahma’s bathing of Visnu’s foot as it arrives in the highest heavens. This can sometimes become an important cosmogonic account of the birth of the Ganges; as it is. for example, in the Padma Purana 6.261 cited above. Saiva cosmogonic accounts will of course prefer to say that Ganga flows down from Siva’s head.]

In the Padma Purana 6.267. to take one example, the sacred stream flowing down the face of Meru separates into three different streams, one of which becomes Ganga (i.e., the human world's Ganges), and another of which flows directly into Patala where it could be enjoyed by Bali. who. despite being an adharmic Asura, had nevertheless shown exemplar} devotion to his conqueror. Visnu. In the Asura realms, the sacred ri\ er is called BhogavatT. A third branch of the same stream flows into the God’s realms, where it is called Mandakim.[?0 Hospital. The Righteous Demon, 133-34.] Needless to say, such waters confer great purification and attainment.


Some conclusions:

Firstly. Buddhism, like the other Indian religions, has had a long and sometimes significant relation to Patala.

Secondly, while it seems that the comparatively early texts we now call Kriyatantra once considered Patala an important topic, that was no longer so much the case in subsequent Indian and Tibetan Tantric Buddhism: my hunch is that Patala’s non-standard doctrinal and cosmological bases caused it to be increasingly sidelined as Vajrayana Buddhism emerged as a fully dev eloped tradition (which process might also have coincided with a similar falling away of interest in Patala within other Indian traditions).

Doctrinally, attainment of Patala, at least in its rawest form, seems to propose spending an entire kalpa secluded in the company of delightful Asura maidens, until Maitreya comes, thus postponing all serious practice of dharma until that time. It says nothing about the immediate realization of emptiness and compassion. Mainstream Vajrayana by contrast emphasizes the perception of this very world we are bom into as the pure mandala of a Buddha, to be realized through direct perception of its emptiness.

Such a realization empowers the bodhisattva to act for the benefit of others. Hence the temporary flight from this world and the postponement of realization suggested by attainment of Patala seems tangential to Vajrayana notions of the innate purity of all phenomena, and shows little awareness of more fully developed Vajrayana skillful means. Little wonder it gained scant scholastic attention in later Indian and Tibetan Vajrayana, despite Sa pan's apparent interest.

Cosmologicallv. Buddhism is often not very definite about Asuras. In earlier Buddhism, there were quite possibly only five realms or paths for rebirth (panca-gatayah). rather than the six now enumerated (sad-gatayah). because the Asuras were not counted as a separate realm;[ Jikido Takasaki. An Introduction to Buddhism, trans. Rolf Giebel (Tokyo: Toho Gakkai, 1987). 131.] [ Jamgon KongtruI. The Treasury of Knowledge, book 1, Myriad Worlds (Ithaca: Snow Lion. 2003). 115.] indeed, some modem enumerations continue to have only five realms or paths. Moreover, Vasubandhu did not specify the precise location for Asuras in \osAbhidharniakosa,i'1 although KongtruI does present a sutric source that specifies that Asuras live in crevices of Mount Mero below the water level.[ Jamgon KongtruI. Myriad Worlds, 113, 115.]

Buddhist sources not infrequently prefer to locate Nagas predominantly in oceans, rather than in a subterranean underworld, although they can also live in a subterranean underworld, especially beneath anthills, and their splendid wealth is certainly mentioned in a similar vein to the Puranic accounts. Although there are certainly some Buddhist patterns that do not contradict the Puranic placement for the Asuras, we are left with the impression that the consistently prominent mention of Asuras as a significant and distinct class of beings and their unvarying placement in Patala is much more Puranic than Buddhist.

What is clear is that only a few ill-understood echoes of the old belief still survive in Tibet.[ It is not clear to me how the Patala cult fared in East Asia and Southeast Asia. It is not impossible that the Chinese dragon could represent to some degree a hybridized form including both Naga and Asura; and there is certainly an awareness of the idea of Patala in Southeast Asia, although I know little more than that.

A recent study by Julius N. Tsai (Julius N. Tsai, "Opening up the Ritual Casket: Patterns of Concealment and Disclosure in Early and Medieval Chinese Religion.” Material Religion 2, no. 1 [2006], 38-66) portrays a vigorous cult in medieval Daoism of the discovery of caskets containing sacred texts, heavenly mandates, and other items that sometimes bear striking resemblance to the Tibetan gter ma tradition, but I am not sure exactly how this cult in Daoism relates to the rather similar ones in Chinese Buddhism as described by Michel Strickmann and others (see for example Michel Strickmann, “The Consecration Sutra:

A Buddhist Book of Spells,” in Chinese Buddhist Apocrypha, ed. Robert E. Buswell [Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1990], 75-118). I am also not yet clear how either of these Chinese treasure cults connect with the Indic ideas of Patala.]1 have not heard, for example, that there is any contemporary Tibetan understanding of the Asura Cave at Pharping as an entry to Patala, even though there is some possible evidence that such an understanding might well once have been attached to that place.

For example, there is certainly a surviving oral tradition of sacred subterranean waterways linking Pharping with distant holy places and springs, which is suggestive of Patala.[Rather less conclusively, some of the more extensive accounts within the Tibetan phurpa literature on Padmasambhava's taming of goddesses at Pharping seem to invoke typically Puranic cosmological categories in describing those goddesses' habitats as oceans of milk, wine, ghee, and butter. See Robert]

Padmasambhava and Kriyatantra

What bearing might the Patala cult have on Padmasambhava? The popular hagiographies indicate that Padmasambhava went to the Asura Cave at Pharping more to use it as a generalized power place, rather than as a specific entry' point for him to visit Patala. There seems to be no immediate direct connection.

Nevertheless, there are certainly several noteworthy parallels between the Padmasambhava legends and some ty pically Kriyatantra beliefs, including those of the Patala ty pe, that mostly have not up till now been remarked, as far as I am aware. How exactly these parallels comiected to the historical Padmasambhava, or to his legend, is difficult to say with any precision.

At the moment, I feel there can be little doubt that the historical Padmasambhava was a major teacher of Mahayoga, as the Dunhuang Thabs zhags commentary, IOL Tib J 321, so eloquently suggests.50 Yet Padmasambhava probably existed within a cultural environment in which Kriyatantras were still very influential indeed.

Of course, categories of tantric doxography are also often rather loose and even inconsistent, so that categories such as Kriya and Mahayoga can have considerable overlaps: Mahayoga grew within the milieu of and upon the basis of earlier traditions including Kriyatantra, and therefore the later traditions still have much common ground with the earlier traditions.

One must also consider that late Dunhuang texts such as Pelliot 44 clearly portray Padmasambhava as an exponent of all levels of tantra, from Kriya up to Ati - although the significance of such terms was more flexible and varied in the tenth century' than it became in later years.[Mayer, A Scripture of the Ancient Tantra Collection: The Phur-pa bcu-gnyis (Oxford: Kiscadale] [Publications, 1996), 128ff.]

[Dunhuang Tibetan manuscripts held at the British Library. London: IOL Tib J 321. Cathy Cantwell and I are currently engaged in a four year AHRC-funded research project on this text.] [ Dunhuang Tibetan manuscripts held at the Bibliotheque nationale, Paris: Pelliot tibetain 44.] The situation is still quite hard to assess accurately (I have some speculative hypotheses that I might suggest elsewhere), but it is important not to read excessive specific significances into these resemblances: on the contraiy, it is better to understand them as indicating a more general truth.

Let us look within the contents of the *Kanikrodha-vajrakumara-bodhisattva- sadhana-vidhi. a text substantially devoted to the Patala cult, to get some examples of themes that resonate with the later Padmasambhava legend:

[1] There is in this particular text, of course, a central focus on the wrathful deity' Vajrakumara. a name ven' well known in Tibet as the proper name of Vajrakflaya. one of the chosen yi dam deities of Padmasambhava and the most important of all Rawing ma pa y/ dams. However, the appearance of the deity here is not identical to the later Tibetan or Mahayoga forms. The main difference is that the Tibetan Mahayoga forms are normally presented as kapalika deities with the trademark kapalika adornments of skulls, khatvangas. cemetery ash, and so forth,[

These kapalika adornments are linked in the Dharmasastra literature to the legal penances for Brahmins who commit murder: banished to a graveyard, and becoming ritually impure, they must wear] which are generally linked with later strata of tantra. Tliis Vajrakumara, by contrast, is of the pre-kapalika Vajrapani type, with snakes to show his control over Nagas and flames to emphasize his wrath, but lacking the specific kapalika insignia (even if some human skulls and bones are employed in some of his rites). In fact, in tliis text. Vajrakumara is explicitly understood as a form of Vajrapani, which is an identification less often made for Vajrakumara in the Tibetan Mahayoga literature. Thus in the instructions on how to paint him, the text tells us:

The figure of Vajrakumara stands alone, arising out of the waves of the ocean. He should be the colour of vaidurya, of robust appearance, having six anus with strong shoulders. His face has three eyes which are red. He wears ajewelled crown on his head. His eye teeth are tlinist out and bite on his low er lip, while his eyebrows are wrinkled in anger. Furthermore, a jewelled mountain should be painted in tlie ocean.

The figure has his right leg on tliis jewelled mountain, resting on a beautiful lotus and his left leg is submerged in the w ater up to his knee. His first right hand holds a three-pronged vajra as though about to throw it. The second right hand holds a mace, and his third right hand holds an axe. His first left hand grasps a club, his second left hand makes a gesture of warning, and his third left hand holds a sword. He has one great snake slung from his shoulder diagonally around his torso, and he also has all kinds of poisonous snakes as armlets and bracelets.

He also has a jew'elled necklace, earrings, and his hair is bound [with ribbons]. His waist is encircled three times with one large snake. Hie rear of his body is surrounded with light and tongues of blazing fire, and flashes of lightning shoot out from these flames.[only an animal skin skirt, they must carry' with them at all times the leg of the bed (literally, khatvahga) of their victim, and they must eat out of his skull as their only bowl. This image of the Brahmin penitent lies at the heart of much tantric imagery, both Saiva and Buddhist.]

Elsewhere in the text, he is described as dark blue in color. The several references to the sea and maritime products in the text and the ascription of its Chinese translation to Amoghavajra are thought by some to indicate a South Indian provenance for tliis deity. while the Tibetan Vajrakumara is more likely North Indian. Yet both tliis deity and the later Mahay oga versions are both krodha deities of roughly the same general type, and both primarily act as subjugators of spirits of all kinds, and of demonic forces. As the text explains at the outset, those who do the practice of Kanikrodha Vajrakumara

will be able to subdue demons, eliminate those w ith false view s who revile the true dharma, and destroy such people as tlie icchantikas within the country. The power of tlie mantra will cause diem to direct their minds to goodness. Poisonous insects and plants will not harm them. Mantrins of other groups will not be able to liann their practice. ..he will be able to gain access to treasures (vidhi), break die sealed doors of the Asuras, dry up rivers, and stop the flow' of w ater.[5Q T1222a.21.106a22-b5; Hodge. *Kanikrodha, 7.

o0 T1222a.21.102bl5-b20; Hodge, *Kamkrodha, 1.]

The control over water also occurs elsewhere in the text, a theme well-attested for Padmasambhava,[ Hodge. *Kanikrodha, 2, 12. See Pasang Wangdu and Hildegard Diemberger, dBa’ bzhed: The Royal Narrative Concerning the Bringing of the Buddha’s Doctrine to Tibet (Vienna: Verlag der Osterreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 2000), 14 for a discussion of Padmasambhava’s close involvement in controlling waters in the Dba ’ bzhed. Bu ston also mentions Padmasambhava’s feats with water, including reversing the Tsang po River, and taking the silver urn in which the Tibetan king kept his fresh hair-washing water, and miraculously introducing the washing waters of the gods into it. See Bu-ston Rin-chen-grub, The History of Buddhism in India and Tibet, trans. E. Obermiller, 2nd ed. (Delhi: Sri Satguru Publications, 1986). 190.

This feat of substituting the king’s washing water with water from the gods might well represent an ancient Buddhist tradition of showing siddhi". Pali traditions maintain that being capable of obtaining the refreshing waters from Lake Anotatta, in which the gods themselves bathe, was a feat traditionally held to represent the very ultimate demonstration of siddhi. See G. P. Malalasekera. Dictionary of Pali Proper Names (London: Published for the Pali Text Society by Luzac & Co. 1960). 96-99.] and throughout the text there are also numerous rites to kill, subdue, and terrify enemies of every kind, both human and non-human, very much as Padma did in the legends. Some of these employ a kfla, the favored instrument of Padmasambhava. The text advises:

Go to a cemetery and make a figure of your satru (enemy). Take a human bone from a cemetery and make a kila and bind it with red thread. Stab tire figure of your enemy with this in its heart and [that person] will immediately die.[ T1222a.21.107c29-108a2; Hodge, *Kamkrodha. 10.]

Further on. almost the same rite seems to be repeated:

There is another rite if you desire to vanquish an enemy (satru'). Take some human bone and make a kila with it. Then either paint or sculpt an image of that person and reciting the mantra 108 times to empower the kila, drive it into his heart and he will be vanquished.[ T1222a.21.108c27-c29; Hodge, *Kanikrodha. 12.] And again:

There is another rite if you wish to overcome an enemy and make them die. Take some wood left from a cremation and make a kila with it. Anoint it with ground purple sandalwood, and wind some thread you have got from a cemetery around tire kila Then drive it into the head of the image of your enemy as before. Your enemy will then die.[T1222a.21.109al-4; Hodge. *Kanikrodha, 13.]

[2] There is a substantial concern with discovery of treasure (gter ma, nidhi). one of the most important aspects of the Padmasambhava legend. As the text explains right at the outset, in the first paragraph after the setting of the scene (nidana). by reciting the mantra 600.000 times, and performing various other rites, the yogin will be able to gain access to treasures (nidhi).[ Hodge. *Kanikrodha. 1.] This is clearly one of the main advantages of gaining entry to Patala, as understood in this text. At another point, it is explained that

There is also a rite for those who desire to acquire treasure (nidhi). Do not select a particular [astrological] season, day or hour, and it is not necessary to maintain the discipline. In the vicinity of the treasure, the mantrin should raise one foot and recite the mantra. Turning around to the right, he should gaze towards all the four directions and take possession of the area (sima-bandha) [use this method also when preparing the great mandala}. Carefully raising one foot, he should recite the mantra 108 times. If the guardians of the treasure obstruct him, then they will be burnt in a mass of fire.

They w ill come screaming to the mantrin and bow before him, vanquished. The mantrin should say to them, “Open this treasure store and give me all that is therein to me!’’ They will then open it and give everything to the mantrin. If they are mean-spirited and do not give it to him, then he should say, “Brahma, Narayana, Mahesvara, the warrior goddesses and Durga will come and crush your treasure store. You give it to me quickly! If you do not do so, the wrathful Vajrakumara will destroy all of your family! ’’ When they have heard what he has said, they will all obey, and say to him, “Noble One! Come and take what you will, we will not hinder you!’’ Then he should say to them, “You may open the store yourselves and give it to me! ” They will then immediately open the treasure store and give him the treasure respectfully.[00 T1222a.21.102c7-c20; Hodge. *Kamkrodha. 2.]

There are yet further elaborate nidhi rites in this text.[07 Hodge. *Kamkrodha. 7. 10. 12.] [08 T1222a.21.106b24-c6; Hodge. *Kamkrodha, 7-8.] Interestingly, one of them embeds the recoven of treasure into a list of impressive attainments that culminates in the most soteriological kind:

If you desire to accomplish the most excellent result, you should go to the seashore during the w'axing phase of a lunar [first, fifth, or ninth] month, and make a stupa out of mud and gravel, and place the pratitya verse [that is, the Dharmakaya Sarira verse] inside the stupa. Place the image [of Vajrakumara as described above] in front of the stupa. You should mix writer with porridge and eat it. Take sticks of arka wood and smear them with ghee, and then throw them into a homa fire. Recite the mantra 100,000 times. When you have finished, the ground will move and your body will become transformed and you will fly up and become Lord of the Tusita Heaven.

If the surrounding ground flickers w ith fire, then you will become Lord of the Four World Rulers. If rain falls from a great cloud, all the treasures hidden in the ground will burst forth at once. If rays of golden light appear everywhere, then you will be transformed by them and become a bodhisattva. You will live for one kalpa and nobody will be so pow erful that they can injure you. If you see the bodies of all beings giving out rays of light, then you will gain realization of all the Buddha’s Teachings of the Three Ways and attain bodhieitta. If the image and the stupa emit rays of light, then you will become lord of all vidyadharas. If light rays fill the ten directions, then you will see the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra, and all tilings you desire, whether mundane or supra-mundane, will be fulfilled...08

Yet most of the nidhi rites are more mundane:

There is another rite if you wish to locate hidden treasure. Get some yogurt from a yellow cow, a snake skin and shark oil, as well as some arka wood and cotton. Make a lamp with these things. Recite mantras, to empower it, and then light it at night near the place where there is treasure. You will know the amount of the treasure that is there by the size of the flame. If you need to expel the gods who guard the treasure and other obstructors, take a slab of rock or pebble or some mustard seeds or some empowered water and cast it at the treasure. The obstructor on the treasure will withdraw. If you suspect there is a large Naga there, this will also leave.[°QT1222a.21.107b27-c3; Hodge, *Kanikrodha, 10.]

In fact, as far as I am currently aware, most scriptural Tantric Buddhist nidhi rites are found in Kriyatantras - see, for example, the J 'ajrasekhara Sutra or Ch in-kang-ting ching, Fascicle 3, Chapter 4;[u Rolf Giebel, Two Esoteric Sutras (Berkeley: Numata Center for Buddhist Translation and Research, 2001). 79-80.] [ Mayer, A Scripture of the Ancient Tantra Collection, 84.] or. for an Indian example, the hlanjusrimulakalpa.11 In accordance with the wider Indian treasure cult, beyond the coniines of Buddhism, in which entire works such as the Nidhidarsana of Rama Vajapeyin were devoted to treasure recovery, not to mention the countless nidhi rites found in diverse types of Hindu texts and often connected with Patala,[ Mayer, A Scripture of the Ancient Tantra Collection, 82-89.] the treasure in these Kriyatantras is of course usually more material than textual. However that does not necessarily contradict the developed Rnying ma pa treasure practice, within which the recovery of straightforward material wealth, sacred elixirs, and various valuable objects have all along been veiy significant, occuring throughout Rnying ma history alongside the better-known text revelation.[

Mayer, A Scripture of the Ancient Tantra Collection, 87.] [ Paul Harrison, “Mediums and Messages: Reflections on the Production of Mahayana Sutras,” Eastern Buddhist 25, no. 1 (2003): 125.] One should add, even if the Buddhist Kriyatantra texts emphasize treasures of magic powers and material treasures, the several famous Mahayana texts on treasure (nidhi) studied by Paul Harrison do emphasize textual discoveries (dharmanidhana).^ in terms reasonably similar to those of the tantras, and quite strikingly similar to the more developed Tibetan treasure tradition.

Both these types of Buddhist treasure narrative, the tantric and the sutric, entered Tibetan translation simultaneously in the early translation period. To be more specific, unmistakable precursors of the magical particulars for treasure recovery are richly attested in many Kriyatantra texts, including those that we know were translated into Tibetan from early on; while doctrinal and ‘'historical” explanation and justification both for nidhi's concealment, and for the manner of its concealment and recovery, are found expounded at great length and in very great detail indeed in the Tibetan translation of the Pratyutpanna-buddha-sammukhavasthita-samadhi- sutraf5 a famous and philosophically lofty Mahayana text cited by Kamalasfla in the Bhavanakrama that he specially wrote for Tibet; as in the Sarvapunya- samuccaya-saniadhi-sutra. that is cited on tlie topic of such text revelation by Santideva in his Siksasaniuccava.

[Paul M. Harrison, The Samadhi of Direct Encounter with the Buddhas of the Present: An Annotated English Translation of the Tibetan Version of the Pratyutpanna-Buddha-Sammukhcivasthita-Sutra (Tokyo: The International Institute for Buddhist Studies, 1990).] [Harrison, “Mediums and Messages,” 125. As I suggested in my article of 1994. any explanation of Tibetan gter ma that fails to take into account these more universal and Indic treasure motifs will probably prove inadequate: the canonical descriptions of gter ma need to be factored into any analysis of the complex social-historical and cultural situation of post-dynastic Tibet to get a complete picture (Robert Mayer.

“Scriptural Revelation in India and Tibet: Indian Precursors of the gTer-ma Tradition,” in Tibetan Studies: Proceedings of the 6th Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, Fagernes. 1992. vol. 2 [Oslo: Institute for Comparative Research in Human Culture. 1994], 542). Unfortunately, a more recent work by Davidson (Tibetan Renaissance. 210 ff) shows little if any awareness of these important Mahayana sutras. nor of the several studies made of them by Paul Harrison (Paul M. Harrison.

The Tibetan Text of the Pratyutpanna-Buddha-Sammukhavasthita-Sfltra [Tokyo: The International Institute for Buddhist Studies. 1978]; Harrison, Samadhi of Direct Encounter with the Buddhas of the Present: Harrison, “Mediums and Messages”). Likewise. Davidson shows little or no awareness of the highly popular cults of Asura caves, Patala, and treasure recovery mentioned here. The net result is that Davidson’s account fails to understand the continuities between treasure recovery in Tibet and elsewhere. For example. Davidson writes that the distinction between sa gter and dag snang is “a relatively modem formulation" created in Tibet, that is “nowhere to be seen” in earliertexts (Ronald M. Davidson. Tibetan Renaissance: Tantric Buddhism in the Rebirth of Tibetan Culture [New York: Columbia University Press. 2005]. 213).

In fact, precisely this distinction is made in the early period Tibetan translation of the Pratyutpanna-buddha-sammukhavasthita-samadhi-sutra. where Chapter 3 describes an unmistakable prototype for dag snang, and Chapter 13 describes an unmistakable prototype for sa gter (Harrison. Samadhi of Direct Encounter with the Buddhas of the Present. 31-44 and 96-108). Likewise it is made in the early period Tibetan translation of the Sarvapunya-samuccaya- samadhi-sutra: and also in the renowned sdstra by Santideva. the Siksasamuccaya (Harrison. "Mediums and Messages.” 123-29).

It is likely that a thorough search will locate other Mahayana sources as well. These Mahayana texts also describe a third process of text recovery, pratibhdna. that resembles the later Tibetan dgongs gter. which is indigenously distinguished from sa gter and dag snang alike. Again unaware of the Indic sources. Davidson also writes that in Tibet local deities and Klu are gradually replaced by Dakinis as the nonnative gter ma protectors, as a result, he believes, of a progressive attempt at Indianization of what he seems to see as the indigenously Tibetan gter ma tradition (Davidson.] [Tibetan Renaissance. 217-18).

In other words. Davidson assumes that having local deities and Nagas as gter ma protectors was non-Indic. Yet it is the Indian Mahayana Pratyutpanna-buddha- sammukhavasthita-samadhi-sutra's Chapter 13 that specifies local deities and Nagas (klu) as the protectors of the text-containing sgrom bu that the Buddha has had buried in the earth. Likewise, the entire Asura cave and Patala tradition so prevalent in the Indian Kriyatantras is by definition posited on Nagas (klu) and Asuras as the main treasure protectors (in China they become dragons), not on Dakinis.

Incidentally, in the same passage. Davidson comprehensively misconstrues my 1994 paper on gter ma (Davidson. Tibetan Renaissance, 212). I took pains to locate the Indic precedents as merely one factor (at that time still largely unknown) among many in the construction of the Tibetan gter ma tradition, something to be factored into Snellgrove’s interesting sociological idea (David L. Snellgrove. Indo-Tibetan Buddhism: Indian Buddhists and Their Tibetan Successors [Boston: Shambhala.

1987]). 2:396ff). I analyzed the unique Tibetan transformation of the Indic gter ma precedents as broadly analogous to the Tibetan construction of the sprul sku system of incarnate lamas on the basis of imported Indic Buddhist beliefs (Mayer. A Scripture of the Ancient Tantra Collection. 533. 541-42). Davidson however misquotes me as claiming Indian antecedents to be the only significant factor in the development of gter ma. One further point of my 1994 article was to correct Michael Aris’s at the time still influential characterization of the basic structuring concepts of gter ma as largely derived from indigenous Tibetan shamanism (Michael Aris. Hidden Treasures and Secret Lives [London and New York: Kegan Paul International. 1989]. 53-63).]

Perhaps this is why the Rnying ma treasure cult so obviously came to combine elements from the exciting magic of the Asura cave and Patala hunt for treasure, pleasure, and supernatural powers, with high-brow Mahayana scriptural orthodox}', together forming a particularly attractive package, becoming quite irresistible after being thoroughly integrated with Tibetan mythic history' and imperial memory.

One could likewise point to other similarities between the *Kanikrodha- vajrakumara-bodhisatt\’a-sadhana-vidhi and the later Mahayoga VajrakTlaya- Vajrakumara and Padmasambhava tropes, including the taking of supernatural women as consorts." elaborate rites for the taming of Raksasas to become one’s servants.78 an extremely wrathful mcmdala for protection from enemies containing the goddess Ekajata/EkajatT with Vajrakumara (she is Vajrakumara’s main consort of liberation in the Mahayoga traditions),’[Hodge. *Kanikrodha. 3.

8Hodge. *Kanikrodha, 2. 8.

9Hodge. *Kanikrodha. 9.] [ Hodge. *Kanikrodha, 2.] and the attainment of extreme longevity or immortality' while remaining in a supernatural location filled with dangerous spirits (cf. Padmasambhava in the Copper Colored Mountain zangs mdog dpal)80

Yet I do not believe any of these, nor even all of them together, need to indicate any direct connection with the Padmasambhava story', unless some further quite unexpected evidence comes to light that directly links the *Kamkrodha- vajrakuniara-bodhisattva-sadhana-vidhi with Padmasambhava and Nepal. Rather, on available evidence. 1 believe they collectively point to a much more general conclusion: that in assessing the life and times of the historical Padmasambhava, as well as the growth of the Padmasambhava legends, and moreover in assessing the growth of early Vajrayana in Tibet in general, we should try not to leave out of om calculations the fact that Kriyatantra and the other "lower’’ tantras were culturally significant traditions at the time that Buddhism first became established in Tibet.[ Some (notably Davidson. Tibetan Renaissance. 64-65 and 385) have taken an extremely conservative view of tantra translations in the Imperial period, limiting this to none beyond the thirteen texts mentioned in the Lhan kar ma.

Perhaps such absolute certainty is premature. The combined evidence of what we know about Tibetan-ruled areas adjoining Kashmir (for a useful review of several sources, see Cristina Scherrer-Schaub. “Enacting Words: A Diplomatic Analysis of the Imperial Decrees [bkas bead] and their Application in the sGra sbyor bam po gnis pa Tradition,” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 25, nos. 1-2 [2002]: 263-340, 271ff); the development of the Sgra sbyor bam bo gnyis pa (see Scherrer-Schaub, “Enacting Words,”

263-340); the Sb a bzhedIDba' bzhed\ Bu ston‘s Chos 'byung (see A. Hemnann-Pfandt. “The Lhan kar ma as a Source for the History of Tantric Buddhism." in The Many Canons of Tibetan Buddhism, ed. Helmut Eimer and David Gemiano. 129-49. BLITS 2000: Tibetan Studies: Proceedings of the Ninth Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies. Leiden 2000 [Leiden: Brill. 2002]); the Bhang thang ma and Lhan kar ma: what we know about contemporaneous Indian and Chinese Buddhisms; and the Dunhuang finds - might also suggest otherwise.] Hence their various mythologies and preoccupations could naturally attach to the person of Padmasambhava. even if he was himself in all probability also an early teacher of Mahayoga and maybe more, in addition to being knowledgeable in earlier tantric traditions. Moreover the "lower tantras” contributed towards and influenced the development of later tantrism, to a degree rather greater than is commonly analyzed by most modem scholars, even if they remain in most cases vaguely aware of this situation.

In short, it is not at all impossible that the largely hidden, oblique and indirect cultural imprint of these “lower” tantras on the fully developed Rnying ma pa tradition as we now know it, with its Padmasambhava legends, its VajrakTlaya-Vajrakumara popular yi dam. and its treasure traditions, is in truth more interesting than we usually choose to recollect. It is all too easy to become somewhat beguiled by the later Rnying ma pa rhetoric of exclusive reliance on the three inner or “higher” yogas of Maha. Anu, and Ati. and ignore the sometimes interesting materials thrown up by the earlier “lower" tantras (but Matthew Kapstein has been a distinguished exception to this trend). In that respect, even scholars of the more developed and systematized Rnying ma pa must welcome the works of scholars like Ariane Macdonald. David Snellgrove, Tadeusz Skorupski. Stephen Hodge, and now also Steven Weinberger, who have all contributed towards opening up for Tibetanists this very useful field of knowledge of the earlier tantras.


Note: glossary entries are organized in Tibetan alphabetical order. All entries list the following information in this order: THDL Extended Wylie transliteration of the term, THDL Phonetic rendering of the term, English translation, equivalents in other languages, dates when applicable, and type.


Wylie Phonetics English Other Dates Type
klu lu

Wylie Phonetics English Other Dates Type
mkhas grub rje Khedrupje

Wylie Phonetics English Other Dates Type
grub pa ’i rigs ’chin druppe nkdzin vidyadhara of accomplishments Term
dgongs gter gongter Term
sgra sbyor bam bo gnyis pa Drajor Bampo Nyipa Text
sgrom bu
drombu treasure casket Term

Wylie Phonetics English Other Dates Type
olios 'byung Clwjung Text
'chi med srog thig Chime Soktik
Doxographical Category

Wylie Phonetics English Other Dates Type
rnying ma Nyingma Organization
rnying ma pa Nyingmapa

Wylie Phonetics English Other Dates Type
gter ma terma treasure San. nidhi Term


Wylie Phonetics English Other Dates Type
thabs chags
Tapohak Text

Wylie Phonetics English Other Dates Type
dag snang daknang Term
bdud ’joms tin po che Dujom Rinpoche Person
rdo rje sa 'oggi rgyud Dorje Saokgi Gyu San. Vajra-patala- tantra Text


Wylie Phonetics English Other Dates Type
pan di ta kun dga ’ rgyal mtshan Pendita Kunga Gyeltsen Person
sprul sku trtilku Term


Wylie Phonetics English Other Dates Type
phur pa purpa Term
'phags pa rdo rje sa 'og gi rgyud kyi rgyal po Pakpa Dorje Saokgi Gyukyi Gyelpo San. Arya-vajra- patala-nama- tantra-raja Text
phags pa shes rab Pakpa Sherap Person
'phang thang ma Pangtangma Text
Wylie Phonetics English Other Dates Type
bu ston Buton Author
bya gdong ba can Jadongwachen Person
dba' bzhed IVazhe Text
sba bzhed Bazhe Text
Wylie Phonetics English Other Dates Type
tsang po Tsangpo Term
Wylie Phonetics English Other Dates Type
zangs dkar Zangkar Zanskar Place
zangs mdog dpal ri Zangdok Pein Copper Colored Mountain Place
zil gnon nam mkha ’i rdo rje Zilnon Namkhe Dorje Person
Wylie Phonetics English Other Dates Type
yi dam yidam Term
Wylie Phonetics English Other Dates Type
las byang L ejang Title
Wylie Phonetics English Other Dates Type
sa skya pa Sakyapa Organization
sa gter sater Term
sa pan Sapen Person
sa la gnas pa ’i rigs ’dzin sala nepe rikdzin vidyadhara who dwells on the levels Term
Wylie Phonetics English Other Dates Type
lhan kar ma Lhenkarma Text

Ihun gyis grub pa 7 rigs 'dzin lhiingyi druppe rikdzin spontaneously accomplishing vidyadhara Term
Wylie Phonetics English Sanskrit Dates Type
J bhidharmakosa Text
J marakosa Text
A moghavajra Person
hook; elephant goad ankusa Term
Arva-dakini- krodha- vajrakumdra- bodhisattva-siddhi- kalpa-sutra Text
Asura Term
*asuraguhd Term
Asvakarna Term
a region of Pat ala atata Term
Ati Doxographical Category
Bali Deity
Bhavanakrama Text
Bhdvaviveka Person
Bhogavatf Term
bodhicitta Term
Bodhisattva Term
Brahma Deity
brahmin Term
Brhaspati Deity
Carya Doxographical Category
Ddkini Term
Daitya Term
Ddnava Term
deva Term
Dharani Doxographical Category
dharma Term
Dharmakaya Sarira Text
textual discoveries dharmanidhana Term
Dharmasdstra Term
Durga Deity
Ekajatd Deity
Ekajati Deity
Gabhistamat Place
Ganges Ganga River

Garuda Purana Text
homa Term
icchantika Term
Indra Deity
Jambhaka Deity
Jambudvipa Place
kalpa Term
Kamalasila Person
Kambala Deity
Vajrakumara Deity
*Kanikrodha- vajrakumara- bodhisattva- sadhana-vidhi (Chi.
Sheng chia ni fen nu chin kang t'ung tzu p'u sa ch'eng chiu i kuei ching) Text
kapalika Term
Kasyapa Deity
kavi Term
kaviraj Term
Kavya Usanas Deity
leg of the bed khatvahga Term
kila Term
Kriya Doxographical
Kriyatantra Doxographical
krodha Term
Kurma Purana Text
Kurukulla Deity
Madhyamaka Organization
Maha Doxographical
Mahabharata Text
Mahakasyapa Person
Mahakhya Place
Mahatala Place
Mahayana Organization
Mahayoga Doxographical
Mahesvara Deity
Maitreya Deity
Mandakini Term

mandala Term
Manjusri Deity
Manjusrimulakalpa Text
mantra Term
mantrin Term
mudra Term
main mantra mulamantra Term
Naga Term
hells of torment naraka Term
Narada Deity
Narasimha Deity
Narayana Deity
nidana Term
Nidhidarsana Text
Nitala Place
Padma Purana Text
Padmasambhava Person
five realms or paths of rebirth panca-gatayah Term
Patala Place
attainment ofPatala patalasiddhi Term
patanti alam Term
Prahlada Deity
pratibhana Term
Pratyutpanna- buddha- sammukhavasthita- samadhi-sutra Text
pratitya Term
purana Term
Raksasa Term
Rama Vqjapeyin Person
Rasatala Place
Indian alchemical tradition rasayana Term
Sadhanamala Text
Samantabhadra Deity
Sarasvati Deity
Sarvapunya- samuccaya- samadhi-sutra Text
attainment siddhi Term
sima-bandha Term
stupa Term
Subahupariprccha Text

Sugatasri Person
heavenly delights sukha Term
Sutala Place
sutra Term
six realms or paths of rebirth sad-gataydh Term
Santideva Person
sastra Term
enemy satru Term
Siksasamuccaya Text
Siva Deity
Talatala Place
tantra Term
Tusita Heaven Place
Vacaspati Misra Person
vaidurya Term
vajra Term
Vajrabodhi Person
Vajrakilaya Deity
Vajrakumara Deity
Vajrapani Deity
Vajrasekhara Sutra (Chi.
Chin-kang-ting ching) Text
Vajrayana Doxographical Category
Vamana Deity
Vasubandhu Person
magical knowledge; magical sciences vidya Term
holders of magical knowledge vidyadhara Term
Virocana Deity
Visnu Deity
Vitala Place
Visnu Purana Text
Vyasa Person
Yoga Sutra Text
yogin Term
Wylie Phonetics English Chinese Dates Type
Dunhuang Place
Ershi ’er zhong dazangjing tongjian Text
Hsuan-tsang Person


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