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  1. Tantra...

    One can find some justification of this in the doctrine of Buddha-nature, and it is often taught this way to Westerners who are uncomfortable with connecting to external deities. I personally think this is an incomplete picture of things. Certainly most Tibetans think there is actual connecting to deities.
  2. Tantra...

    There are rituals to invoke the blessing of deities (lower tantra) and rituals to become the deity (higher tantra), involving mantra, visualization, ritual items, etc. The specifics depend on the particular practice, but they typically share a common structure. Initiation is what allows something mind-based like visualization to actually connect to the deity.
  3. Tantra...

    There are a number of features often found in paths that are considered Tantric. -Emphasis on initiation -Emphasis on the integration of the physical and worldly existence with the highest spiritual transcendence (rather than their opposition) -Lifting of taboos on sex, violence, and intoxication common to exoteric religions/spiritual paths -Deliberate use of sex, violence, and/or intoxication in spiritual practices -Practices involving manipulation of subtle body phenomena, and practices using the physical body used for spiritual aims (e.g. khecari mudra, mahabandha/vase breath, yoga asanas) -Microcosm-macrocosm principle: correspondence between the inner experience of the subtle body and the external universe Not every path that has identified as Tantric carries all of these features, and non-Tantric paths might have one or more of them. But typically the more of these are present in a tradition the more likely it is to self-identify as Tantric. So there is dualistic Shaiva tantra, non-dualistic Shaiva tantra, Vaishnava tantra, Mahayana Buddhist tantra. They all have their own internal reasons for making the shift to the Tantric mode of practice. For instance, in Buddhism, many think the later forms of Buddhist tantra were influenced by non-dual Shaiva tantra, but the earliest forms developed for reasons completely internal to Mahayana Buddhism. In Mahayana, a Buddha doesn't just have an enlightened mind, but an enlightened body (nirmanakaya), and sees samsara and nirvana as non-dual and all phenomena as primordially pure. So this is already proto-tantric. But in ordinary Mahayana, the only way to get to that point is innumerable lifetimes of renouncing the world and engaging in deep meditative absorption and good deeds. Whereas In the earliest fully tantric form of Buddhism (Yoga Tantra, technically), there came the idea that one can receive an initiation into the mandala of a deity that allows one to do this in a single lifetime. So here we have initiation, integration spiritual transcendence with worldly existence, slight lifting of the taboo on violence (there was a peaceful mandala and a wrathful mandala) and a macrocosm-microcosm principle, but no sexual, subtle body, or physical body practices. Naturally, there were groups who explored sexuality within this context and that led to the next phase of Buddhist tantra, involving consort practice. As freeform noted, non-Indic tradition that has the most similarity to Tantra is Daoism. As for the specific question about Guru Yoga being Tantra, since in Tibetan Buddhism initiation is given to make this connection, and the connection gives information on how to integrate the body and mundane existence on the spiritual path resulting in both an enlightened mind and enlightened body, it is definitely Tantra. Guru Yoga and Deity Yoga are considered the characteristic practices of Tantric Buddhism in Tibet. Also, Dzogchen is a form of Tantra; it positions itself as the highest form of tantra. When it claims to be beyond tantra, it specifically means beyond lower forms of tantra. Does that theoretical explanation find congruence with your experience?
  4. I would be curious to know if this is combined in you practice with generation stage/illusory body yoga for you, or is practiced strictly as a manipulation of the drops. I get the impression that different tantras do things differently, but I don't know any details.
  5. Standing Qigong pain issue

    Thanks for these, they are very appropriate for me at the moment. Also, hello, it's nice to see you around.
  6. Hi Mr. Pilgrim, I'm answering from book knowledge here but it struck me how your realization that there is no such thing as doing the dishes because it is dependent on innumerable causes and conditions is precisely what Buddhists call the "emptiness" of doing the dishes, and in fact, realizing the emptiness of all things is the primary goal of all Buddhist practices, including tummo. Most Tibetan schools of Buddhism actually teach that the animating principle underlying ordinary things is empty in the same way that ordinary things are.
  7. Buddhist Historical Narrative

    Very good. I read somewhere, but can't dig up the reference, about a definitive dating of the period Tantra becoming popular in Indian Buddhism coming from a mention of "some (few) practicing the way of mantra" in one of Santideva's works, and the Chinese pilgrim Yijing reporting that the way of mantras had become very popular in India. So that puts the explosion of tantra's popularity in mid 7th century. Another interesting thing I read (where in the world was I reading this stuff?) is a scholar of Chinese Buddhism discovered the earliest known mention something resembling deity yoga in a Buddhist context in an apocryphal Chinese Buddhist sutra that actually plagiarized a Daoist scripture (n.b. both groups appropriated and reworked each other's scriptures). The Daoist scripture instructed to visualize one's self as a Celestial Official when performing an exorcism rite, and the Buddhist copy changed this to visualizing one's self as a Buddha with the 32 major and minor marks. At any rate, one key to making sense of Buddhist tantra is that it is structured like a system of ceremonial magic, in which visualizing one's self as a deity is a way to attain magical power. This is not just practiced in Hindu and Buddhist tantra, but also in Western ceremonial magic and Daoist magic. That Buddhahood is the supreme power ("Siddhi") is the foundation for Tantra being an independent vehicle of Mahayana. Now, as Weinberger's thesis on Yoga Tantra and the Tattvasamgraha Tantra explains, Tantra as an independent vehicle of Mahayana separate from the Paramitayana did not exist prior to the central Yoga Tantra, the Sarvatathagata-Tattvasamgraha. This text introduced empowerment and deity yoga as a complete path to Buddhahood, complete with a tantric reworking of Shakyamuni's enlightenment under the Bodhi tree (which I mention in a previous post), and a five-family mandala of peaceful deities and a five-family mandala of wrathful deities (prefiguring the Guhyagarbha/Shitro mandala). These wrathful deities are not Herukas (which presumably were a import from Shaivism) but "Wisdom Kings". As for tantras "lower" than Yoga Tantra, texts that were later classified as Kriya tantra were precisely those late Mahayana sutras that were manuals for magical rituals invoking Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, and the only Carya tantra is the Mahavairocana tantra, which was like a bridge between these sutras and the full fledged "Vajrayana" of the Tattvasamgraha Tantra. Now, a Chinese transmission of Yoga tantra has the Tattvasamgraha Tantra as the central tantra of a cycle of tantras which include the Guhyasamaja, which is the first tantra to introduce sexual ritual and the concept of the completion stage practiced after the generation stage (which was initially synonymous with the sexual ritual, i.e. no tummo yet). Note the deity Guhyasamaja is not a Heruka. So the Guhaysamaja is the bridge between Yoga tantra and the Mahayoga and Yogini tantras, which center around Herukas and sexual/energetic practices in the completion stage. These are the tantras that were definitely influenced by Shaivism, but there is not any evidence that I have seen that the Tattvasamgraha (and maybe the Guhyasamaja) was anything other than an internal development of Mahayana. And in the spirit of sharing thought provoking articles: "Proto-Tantric Elements in The Gandavyuha sutra"
  8. Buddhist Historical Narrative

    Right, that's the one thing I said they disagree on. It's the rest of the Yogacara teachings that are not incompatible with Madhyamaka. For instance, a Madhyamika can use the eight consciousness model, just not claim that the alaya-vijnana exists ultimately. As for tantra, that is a tricky issue because the tantras seem to admit true existence of Buddha-jnana, but commentators such as Tsongkhapa who are committed to Madhayamaka are very careful to not to do so in their exegesis. Speaking of Tsongkhapa, he went as far as to say the ultimate Prasangika system does not admit the use of any Yogacara concepts such as alaya-vijnana, but others (Mipham for instance) do not agree. Actually, the Lanka says first you meditate on mind only, then you let go of the existence of mind. Two tiered system was formalized as Yogacara-Madhyamaka by Shantarakshita and Kamalashila, who were the first Indian Panditas to teach in Tibet.
  9. Buddhist Historical Narrative

    There are a few different ways that Yogacarin authors relate alaya-vijnana and Buddha-jnana. 1. Alaya-vijnana is the same as pure Buddha-jnana, manas is what contains all the defilement, destruction of manas is buddhahood 2. Alaya-vijnana contains both pure and impure seeds, when only pure seeds remain you are a Buddha 3. Alaya-vijnana is completely defiled, and Buddha-jnana is the pure mind underlying it. Paramartha called this underlying pure mind amala-vijnana, in Mahamudra, Lamdre, and Dzogchen Semde (which were imported from India) it is called kungzhi (alaya-vijnana being kungzhi-namshe). (There is a pattern here, and the next step would be to say kungzhi actually has a pure part and an impure part. This is basically the step that Dzogche Mennagde takes with "One basis, two paths", they separate kungzhi and gzhi. But this was not done by Yogacarins in India) So in 1, alaya-vijnana is tathagatagarbha in the sense that it is the Buddha-jnana already being present underneath the defiled consciousness, in 2 alaya-vijnana is tathagatagarbha in the sense that it contains the potential to become Buddha-jnana, and in 3 alaya-vijnana is not tathagatagarbha, but amala-vijnana/kungzhi is. That's my understanding at least...
  10. Buddhist Historical Narrative

    Whoever revealed the Mahyana sutras were definitely advanced Bodhisattvas, so is it not possible that they connected with Buddhas? If you look into channeled material, it is clear that some of the information comes from more advanced beings than others, and the more advanced the consciousness of the channel the more advanced of a being they can connect to. So there is a similarity. Right. For Westerner scholars who don't grant the possibility of revelation, saying most Mahayana sutras can't date to the time of the Buddha is tantamount to saying someone just made it up and called it Buddhavacana. But if you allow revelation, you can accept the findings of text criticism without negating the Mahayana as Buddhavacana. I will, however, say that Vajrayana, the basis of which is deity yoga, definitely was substantially new practice when it was introduced. So you find the tantras reworking Shakyamuni's enlightenment narrative to justify the new practice: in lower tantra the new narrative is Shakyamuni receiving abhisheka and chanting a mantra under the Bodhi tree, and of course there is the even more radical reworking of the narrative in Higher Tantra with the milk maid. But it was an outgrowth of things that developed in late Mahayana sutras, for instance in the Gandavyuha Sutra you have, IIRC, Vairocana grants Suddhana to see things with as he sees them, and Vasumitra the prostitute enlightening her customers through union. So I guess I would say it is a formalization or systematization of things that had been developing in Maahyana for some centuries prior.
  11. Buddhist Historical Narrative

    About Madhyamaka and Yogacara, briefly: Yogacara, being the school of Yoga practitioners, introduces something like Abhidharma for the Mahayana: detailed maps of explaining how one goes from a sentient being all the way to Buddhahood. So eight consciousnesses on one side and five wisdoms and three kayas on the other, and how the former become the latter across the Bhumis. None of this is present in Madhyamaka, and all of it is compatible with Madhyamaka: it can be viewed as a sort of addendum. The place where they conflict is Yogacara claimed the interpretation emptiness espoused by Madhyamaka was too nihilistic, basically that you had to leave something un-negated to not be nihilism. Madhyamaka says even non-dual conciousness is empty like everything else, Yogacara says it is not empty in the same way as defilement are, but is like the ocean and defilement are like waves on the ocean. In Chinese Buddhism, almost everyone was Yogacarin. The only Madhyamikas were early Tiantai, Sanlun (which only lasted a couple centuries before dying out), and maybe one or two subschools of Chan mentioned by Zongmi which have not survived to the present day.
  12. Buddhist Historical Narrative

    Most Mahayana Sutras could not have been taught by the physical historical Buddha due to the content of the texts themselves. Granting that visionary encounters and teachings in other realms are possible (as most in this thread would grant, I think), it makes much more sense to see the Mahayana sutras are accounts of such. For instance, if Maitreya, Avalokiteshvara, or Manjurshri is present as interlocutor, or there are lengthy descriptions of the appearances of celestial mansions and details of the ornaments of all the Bodhisttvas present. There is just no way these things were orally transmitted records of teachings in the physical realm like the Pali sutras. If it was, some Pali text somewhere would have mentioned these other teachings, at least in passing. To add to this, Mahayana sutras sometimes speak about the merit of possessing a written copy of the sutra, which of course makes no sense if they were originally transmitted by oral recitation. Similarly for Vajrayana Tantras. I see Mahayana Buddhism as a religion of continuing revelation, from the Sutras to Dzogchen termas.
  13. Common history of yoga and qigong

    It is interesting and deserves to be more widely known that there were Western systems of spiritual gymnastics, but just because there were British and Swedish systems of exercises with postures identical to modern yoga poses does not mean Indians derived their yoga poses from such. Really, that's just unfair to native Indian traditions. The main scholar whose name is associated with this kind of research is Mark Singleton, and a lot of people think he claims that Yoga poses have Western origin, but he actually doesn't. He merely points out certain historical connections and similarities. For instance, an Indian Yoga teacher criticized him for seeming to claim this, and he replies at length to give a more nuanced view of his research: Much of what is passed off as the history of Yoga posture practice today is completely false, such as the connection between modern posture practice and Patanjali, but completely denying the Indian origin of modern Yoga is throwing the baby out with the bathwater. If you look at the complete teachings of Krishnamacharya, the "Father of Modern Yoga", on bandha, pranayama, and chanting, you would see that he is teaching something very Indian and in line with Medieval Hatha Yoga scriptures, just with the parts he deemed inappropriate for modern householders cut out. As for the Theosophical Society, they promoted the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, not Hatha Yoga, which was taboo in the period in question.
  14. Common history of yoga and qigong

    This is false. India has native dance, acrobatics/gymnastics, and martial arts traditions that have been doing this stuff forever. That's probably where the first Hatha Yogis got most of their postures from. What is recent is the promotion of the postures as an intrinsically spiritual form of physical culture appropriate for Hindu householders, and from there of course to spiritually minded Westerners. Hey, This is a huge topic, but in short a common history is extremely unlikely, although there was some mutual influence (e.g. Shaolin). The conception of the subtle body informing their practices is just too different. The Chinese system is based on the five phases associated to organs and acupuncture meridians and the three treasures of jing, chi, and shen. The Indian system is based on the left, right, and central channels, and the concept of bindu (inner sun and inner moon). Certain systems of qigong practice like the eight brocades and five animal frolics, which are unlike any Indian system of movements, just don't make any sense outside of the 5 phases and associated meridians. Similarly, many yoga postures just look like contortionism until you understand the logic of how sequencing them combining them with breath retention works to bring prana into the central channel and move bindu around. For some extreme examples that weren't practiced in any non-Indian spiritual system, see mulabandhasana, kandasana, and yoganidrasana. Even to the extent that similarly intense postures they were practiced in China (e.g. Shaolin) they were used as physical conditioning.
  15. I would like to propose some things to keep in mind about these debates. Monistic Hinduism (Advaita and Kashmir Shaivism) and Buddhism differ from every other spiritual path (including Dharmic ones like Samkya/Yoga) in that they propose the highest form spiritual attainment is not a state such as Union with God or Nirvikalpa Samadhi, but a realization of the nature of all states and experiences. Be it "All is Brahman" or "All is not-self, impermanent, unsatisfactory", or "All is primordially pure" or "All is consciousness" or "All is Shiva". This is a huge point of commonality that often gets pushed aside in debates. The debate, then, when boiled down to it's most absolute essential point, is between an understanding of the ultimate realization as seeing the substratum of all experience (whether called Brahman or Non-Dual Awareness), or seeing that experiences (no matter how subtle, e.g. consciousness) have no substratum. When put this way, you can see why people may insist that these are actually different realizations. But the other salient point that gets pushed aside the Buddhism-Advaita debates I have seen, is that this debate is also internal to Buddhism. Certain sects of Buddhism taught that the "no substratum view" was nihilism, and emptiness of self only refers to conditioned phenomena, not the non-dual consciousness that is the foundation of all experience. So for some schools of Buddhism, Buddhism and Advaita are in fact saying the same thing about the ultimate (though details of teaching on the conventional differ); it is then not "Buddhism vs. Advaita" but "Some schools of Buddhism vs. Advaita and the other schools of Buddhism". Now, about the substratum vs no-substratum debate: Here you are espousing what I am calling a substratum view, and so as I explained, you will find Advaita and Buddhism to be basically saying the same thing. But consider this: Dwai can correct me if I'm wrong, but in Vedanta conceiving of Atman as space is not correct understanding. The fundamental qualities of the Atman are Sat, Chit, and Ananda. Particularly, Chit means the pure subjectivity, the pure knowingness that is always present in all experience. Space is something known by awareness, so it is not the Self. As one contemporary Non-Duality teacher that I like explains, Awareness is not what things occur in, it's what things occur too. Now, circling around to Buddhism, the Buddha taught that there are four levels of absorption without form: Infinite space, infinite consciousness, infinite nothingness, and neither perception nor non-perception, and for those who have glimpsed Nirvana, there is an even higher level called the cessation of feeling and perception. At each level you let go of what previously seemed like an un-negatable infiniteness. So letting go of infinite space, you realize that actually that was negatable after all, because infinite consciousness without a sense of space is behind that. This is related to the distinction I made above. I won't claim to understand about the import of the levels beyond that, except to say that it makes you wonder if the things people insist are absolutely un-negatable are in fact so. It is even said that Nisargadatta Maharaj began speaking of "Nothingness" toward the end of his life, Shri Atmananada in one of his last works said "In the end, there isn't even consciousness". Now, to this humble sadhaka who has absolutely no realization, the lesson here is just "keep your mind open, don't fixate on any view". Which, of course, also means not focusing on emptiness as a view.