The study and research undertaken by Dr. Tomy Augustine on Yoga Tantra Theory and Praxis in the Light of the Hevajra Tantra, a Metaphysical Perspective contained in this book makes a unique statement about the development of Tantric Buddhism in Indian culture and Philosophy.
The author's precise and meticulous analysis of the text of the Hevajra Tantra applying the Madhyamika and Yogacara metaphysics and the simultaneous attempt to highlight therein the synthesis of Tantric bipolarities delves into rediscovering the vibrant emergence of the Vajrayana Buddhism. Dr. Augustine's claim that "Vajrayan has contributed to the advancement of human thought in regard to the development of new vision of God, world and (wo)man in general and to Buddhist thought and praxis in Particular" is fully substantiated in this work.
This book will attract scholars in the field of religion, psychology and culture besides proving valuable to students of Philosophy and those who see the increasing interface between philosophy and the social science.
Dr. Tomy Augustine is a lecturer of philosophy and English at Salesian College, Sonada, Darjeeling. He holds his M.A. both in philosophy and English, and P.D. in Philosophy and religion from Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi, India. He has presented papers and published articles on various aspects of Buddhism and is interested in Philosophy, Religion and Literature.
Vajrayana is a difficult and delicate theme to explore. The main difficulty arises from its secretive and esoteric nature and the mystery surrounding the tantric texts and tantric lore. The cautious attempts to interpret these texts have been made with great apology, reluctance, and compunction. On account of its overtly erotic elements it is disowned in scholarly circles as an illegitimate child of Mahayana's tryst with Tantrism. Hence most scholars refuse to stand squarely by tantric tradition, let alone consider it as a viable template for human life.
In recent years scholars of diverse of cultural, religious and ethical provenance have pitched in to interpret and possible rehabilitate tantrism in the galaxy of Indian religio-cultural tradition. Work on Vajrayana ha been limited mainly to editing and translating tantric texts. The area of analysis and systematization of the doctrine and praxis contained in these texts remains largely a virgin territory. The orientalists, cultural anthropologists, philologists, sociologists, archaeologists, and historians have had their say on tantrism in general and Vajrayana in particular yet, they have said almost nothing about, how Vajrayana appeals to a student of Buddhist philosophy and how he 'makes sense' out of the tantric tradition.
The task, albeit an uphill one and the path lonely, as Vajrayana is a road less traveled by, has proved to be a most rewarding research experience. From the plethora of ideas and practices, a system of Vajrayanic theory and praxis seems to emerge. The eclectic and syncretic tendency of Vajrayana is responsible for the catholicity of its ideas, practices, and goals, which are mundane as well as supra mundane. The influence of tantrism in general and Vajravana in particular, has been so immense that it has genetically modified the Indian way of life, if not the view of life. Art, architecture, sculpture, painting and literature have all been flavoured by tantrism. Vajrayana has been able to enter the innermost chambers of the human psyche and satisfy certain vital aspirations and yearnings of man as no other system hitherto. So much so, even its amoral appearance attracts the ire only of the scholar, not of the commoner.
At the completion of this research project I am moved by profound gratitude and reverence for my revered Guruji, Prof. Ashok Kumar Chatterjee, witout, without whose scholarly help and advice this thesis would not have come into existence. The numerous rounds of discussions that we have had helped me understand the intricacies and the nuances of Mahayana philosophy on the one hand and of tantric tradition on the other, which (intricacies and nuances) are the bases on which Vajrayana, particularly the Hevajra Tantra, has been analysed. A doyen of Mahayana philosophy, versatile in Indian philosophy as well as in western thought, Guruji has been a source of incisive insights and inspiration. His paternal prodding, uncompromising commitment t o quality and scholarly precision will I cherish for years to come.
I owe an immense debt of gratitude to my supervisor Dr. Munni K. Agrawal, Reader in the department of philosophy and religion, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi. She has accompanied me closely throughout the research period with able advice and maternal encouragement. In spite of her busy teaching schedules, she has gone through the manuscript patiently and offered suggestions and recommendations, pointing out areas for further elaboration and clarification.
The research work has been financed by the Junior Research Fellowship awarded to me by the Indian Council of Philosophical Research (I.C.P.R.), New Delhi, under the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India. I place on record my sincere thanks and profound gratitude to the Council for the financial assistance given to me to complete this project.
My sincere gratitude to the members of the Faculty at the department of philosophy, Banaras Hindu University, Prof. D.A. Gangadhar, Prof. U.C. Dubey, Prof. S. Vijay Kumar, Prof. A.K. Rai, Prof. Mukul Raj, Prof. Urmila Chaturvedi, Dr. K.P. Mishra and Dr. Deobrat Chaubey, Dr. Kripa Shankar Ojha, and Dr. Abhimanyu Singh.
I am greatly indebted to Dr. Francis Alencherry S.D.B.M the provincial, Fr. Jhon Berger, S.D.B., and the Salesian province of Kolkata for permitting me to undertake my doctoral studies at BHU. I owe a debt of gratitude to the former professors of philosophy at Salesian College, Sonada, Fr. Nicholas Logroi, S.D.B., Fr, Joseph Verzotto, S.D.B., Dr. Scaria Thuruthiyil, S.D.B., and Dr. Joseph Alapurackal, S.D.B. I express my heartfelt thanks to my uncle Dr. Anthony Mookenthottam, M.S.F.S., for all the help and inspiration to study Indian Philosophy.
Mahayana Buddhism flourished during the period between the second and the eighth century A.D., while between the seventh and the twelfth centuries, it was tantric Buddhism that dominated the scene. The creative activity of the latter period was almost exclusively devoted to tantras. S.k Ramchandra Rao points out that "Nalanda, Vikramsila and Odantapura Universities were well-known centres of Tantrik studies". According to tradition some of the greatest minds of Buddhist doctrine like Santaraksita, Santideva, and even Nagarjuna and Asanga were great scholars as well as tantric adepts.
Tantric Buddhism took the world of Buddhist thought by storm. It baffles the student of Buddhist philosophy how a system known for its speculative sophistication could now degenerate, if it does as some allege, into mere esoteric and occult practices. Thos makes the scholar suspect that there is more to Vajrayana than what meets the eye. But certain pertinent questions have to be answered before he can arrive at definite conclusions. What is the essence of Vajrayana? Is it merely a set of obscure practices performed for nefarious purposes? Is there a definite theory, which informs its prescribed praxis?
1. Yoga Tantra
The name 'Yoga Tantra' is generally applied to the third and higher grade of Buddhist tantras. But here the term 'Yoga Tantra' is not employed to refer to this class of tantra, nor is it used to refer to the Hevajra Tantra itself, for, the latter does not belong to this grade of Yoga Tantras at all but to the Anuttarayoga Tantras and more precisely, to the Yogini Tantras. At times, the term 'Yoga Tantra' is also used to refer to the common elements of the Yoga and Anuttarayoga Tantras. The Blue Annals called the Yoga and Anuttarayoga Tantras as 'outer' yoga tantra and 'inner' yoga tantra. However, I have used the term 'Yoga Tantra' to refer to the Vajrayanic theory and praxis of Anuttarayoga Tantra leading to the mystic union (yoga), of polarities within the individual, which is the essence and goal of Vijarayana.
Yogic practices existed long before the advent of Tantric Buddhism. The term 'yoga' has several meanings, such as Samadhi, union etc. Patanjali describes yoga as the cessation of mental modifications (yogas citta-vrtti-nirodhah). The Bhagavad Gita characterizes it as 'equanimity in all circumstances' (samatvam yoga ucyate) or as 'skill in action' (yogah karmasu kausalam). Yoga is the goal for the Buddhists as well, but understood in a quite different sense from that of their Hindu counterparts. For the Hinayanists, as Stcherbatsky states, 'yoga' is profound meditation in which the infinite unmber of separate evanescent entities (dharmas), the ultimate constituents of reality, gradually setter into quiescence leading to an absolute annihilation of all life. It is concentrated thought (Samadhi) or fixing the attention on a single point (ekagrata) and persisting in that state (punah punah cetasi nive sanam). Dasabhumikasutra advocates the practice of yoga in the first stage called vimala for achieving the purification of all forms. For the Madhyamika, it would mean the cessation of views about reality, and for the Yogacara, the cancellation of subject-object duality. The Madhyamika and Yogacara understanding of yoga, albeit near to the 'citta vitti nirodha' of Patanjali, is from a different metaphysical stock; the former is monistic and absolutistic, while the latter springs from the dualism of purusa and prakrti.
In all, the Buddhist conception of yoga is far from those of the Brahminical theist and monist as well. For the theist it is union with God or at least being in his presence, while for the monist, yoga is merging into the impersonal absolute (brahma Veda brahmaiva bhavati). For the Bddhists, yoga does not mean to be united with God or be swallowed up by the Absolute. Evan-Wentz speaks of Buddhist yoga as essentially overcoming ignorance by being yoked to knowledge. While it is some form of cessation for the Hinayanist and the Mahayanist, (of dharmas for the Hinayanist, of views for the Madhyamika, of subject-object duality for the Yogacara), yoga for the Vajrayanist, is defferent, In Vajrayana, yoga is the mystic union of the bi-polarity within the psyche of the sadhaka, and the consequent re-integration of the individual. In vajrayana, the state of mystic union (yoga) or yuganaddha is expressed through the symbol of 'sexual embrace', the most intimate of relationships.
2. Theory and Praxis
The Vajryanic theory is the confluence of two distinct streams of thought, namely the Mahayana and the Tantra. By Mahayanic thought we mean the general notions of Madhyamika and Yogacara, without going into further distinctions of the different branches of these schools. Tantric unsights found in Vajrayana spring from the general stock of ideas collectively called Tantrism to which both the Hindus and the Buddhists had recourse. The praxis also has elements from both Mahayanic and tantric traditions. The practice of virtue, the study of Madhyamika and Yogacara notions are incumbent on the Vajrayanist as well. Tsong-kha-pa writes
Intelligence which apprehends the profound nature of all that is, is the same in Mantrayana as it is in the two lower courses (Hinayana and Paramitayana), because without understanding existentiality it is impossible to cross the ocean of samsara by exhausting our emotional reactions.
The early Buddhism and the later Mahayana tradition become preparatory stages for the practice of Vajrayan. Yogi C.N. Chen points that, "he who is not well accomplished in the Hinayana meditation of purification and in the Mahayana meditation of sublimation should not practice of Vajrayana meditation either of Hevajra or of any other Heruka.
The term 'praxis' sums up the entire realm of tantric practices adopted by the Vajrayanists. The term 'praxis' is more comprehensive than the term 'practice' as the former refers also to the principles that inform the various practices. 'Praxis' is closer to principles than to practices' it is applied principles as distinct and differentiated from static theories. This work does not enumerate or describe the various Vajrayanic practices but attempts to reveal the principles, which are applied therein. The happy marriage between the Mahayanic and the tantric notions gave birth to this unique form of tantra called the Vajrayana.
3. The Hevajra Tantra
Hevajra Tantra has been chosen as the constant reference in our effort to delineate the theory and praxis of Vajrayana. According to A.K. Warder, it is one of the most significant Vajrayanic texts, on account of the number of commentaries written on them, the most important of which are the Yogaratnamala of Krsnacarya and the Muktavali of Ratnakarasanti. I have made extensive use of these commentaries, thanks to the efforts of D.L. Snellgrove, G.W. Farrow and I. Menon, and Ram Shankar Tripathi and Thakur Sain Negi. The text and its commentaries help us to interpret the theory and praxis in the light of Mahayana philosophy as well as to explain the tantric insights informing them. Hevajra Tantra is a product of the mature years of Vajrayana and is respected as an authoritative test on tantric theory and praxis, and is oft quoted by scholars.
4. Nature and Scope
Vajrayana has been analysed mostly by the Buddhologists, Orientalists, Indologists and Archaeologists. Great has been the contribution of tantric scholars like Mm. H.P. Shastri, Benoytosh Bhattacharyya, S.B. Dasgupta, P.C. Bagchi, Mm. Gopinath Kaviraj, Chintaharan Chakravari, Agehananda Bharati, David snellgrove, Arthur Avalon, Mircea Eliade, W.Y. Evans-Wentz, Giuseppe Tucci, Herbert V. Guenther, Lama Anagarika Govinda, F.D. Lessing, Alex Wayman and others. Their efforts have shed much light on such issues as the origin and development of Vajrayana, the date and authorship of tantric texts, identity of tantric deities, masters and tantric sites (pithas). Some of their possible links with other traditions and religious observances. They have corroborated their findings with historical, textual and archaeological evidences. The laudable efforts of these eminent scholars have furnished us with a great amount of useful data for deeper analysis and interpretation.
The present study does not focus on the historical and Indological specifics associated with texts, authors, places, and the like. We do not enter into the rewarding enterprise of comparing Hevajra Tantra with other tantric texts or attempt to relate Vajrayana with Hindu tantras and other religious traditions. Issues of exegesis and hermeneuties, if and, that crop up in a textual analysis, are mentioned and bypassed. The present study is not a textual analysis but a themeatic one. Our effort is only to accentuate the universal and fundamental themes of Vajrayana and relate it with the basic notions of Mahayana and tantrism. This is a humble contribution to the construction of a vajryanic theory and praxis in the light of the insights found in the Hevajra Tantra.
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Tantric Buddhism (90)
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