Vajrayana (Tantric Buddhism)
Vajrayana or Tantric Budhism has been described as the latest phase in development and evolution of the Buddhist thought, although that during a long time of period the Buddhist thought had been misunderstood as a “degenerate phase”. When Buddhism is considered just a simple moral message or as a mere humanistic teaching, when one is confront with the entire system of knowledge and practice that has all the magic and elements that rationalism rejects, it could only be explained as a some sort of “degenerate phase”. Fortunately are many those who had access to the study of Vajrayana (Tantric Buddhism) and today there is a better appreciation and a much more mature respect towards this noble tradition.
The metaphysics of Vajrayana are similar to Indian Tantrism, a hybrid compound: a coming together of Indian Tantrism, Mahayana Buddhism and the original aboriginal Shamanism (the Bon tradition) of Tibet. Vajrayanists postulate a subtle iconographic of the body, compose of chakras, nadis and subtle winds. Same as Indian Tantrism, in order to attain enlightenment has been intent to manipulate the forces of the subtle body through yoga. The Tantric Buddhism diverged very early from India Tantrism. Instead the later seven chakras model, they retain an earlier four chakras: navel, heart, throat, and head centers. Tantric Buddhism like Indian Tantrism built up a much elaborated system of correspondence.
There are a number of important differences between both types of Tantrism. In Indian Tantrism, one begins on the base chakra and progress up. In Buddhism Tantric, one begins from the head, which is considered the “lowest” level of consciousness, and progresses down to the heart, which is the “highest” level of consciousness.
In Indian Trantism the Kundalini is awakened through specific breathing practices and yoga postures. The prana or vital force of the subtle body is thus manipulated through the breath and the physical body through and extension of Hatha yoga which was associated from the beginning with Indian Tantrism. In contrast, Vajrayana practice involves manipulating the vital force through the mind and concentration. Through intense visualization of deities and the practice of the Six Yogas of Naropa, one activates the inner “winds” (prana or çi) and the “nectar”.
Instead of the Kundalini or “Serpent Fire”, Buddhism Tantric teach the Inner Heat Yoga (Tummo). Through intense visualization in the “lower point” (the minor chakra at the tip of the sex-organ) the wind (prana) is drawn into the lower opening of the central channel, producing an intense heat, called Tummo. As a result of the Tummo, the “nectars” melt and enter the central channel. The “nectars” red “female” in the navel chakra ascends to the heart chakra, while the white “nectars” in the crown chakra descend to the same chakra. The bliss of the “nectars” flowing in the central channel is said to be a hundred times greater than that of orgasm. The “nectars” moving up or down the central channel, finally melted in the “indestructible nectar”, so called because is the “nectar” that passes from life time to life time, taking with it the “subtle mind” and the “subtle wind”, that finally enter in the heart chakra.
The entire visualization or meditation stage is called the stage of Generation, as its purpose is to construct or generate and actual enlighten Buddha body, the stage of Completion. Because of it Vajrayana is known as the practice that takes the result as a path. The purpose is to attaint an “illusory body” (see Illusory Body Yoga), so called because is an immaterial body rather of a physical body, and at death, instead of being caught up by it, one remains in full consciousness, attaining in this way Buddhahood.
Vajrayana, often considered as the third vehicle (yana), is an extension of Mahayana Buddhism, only differing in its practices, but not in its philosophy. According to Buddhism there are “three turns of the Dharma”. In the first turn, Sakyamuni Buddha taught the Dharma through the Four Noble Truths at Sarnath, near Varanasi. This first wheel of Dharma brought the origin of the Hinayana School, popularly known as Theravada. The second turn of the wheel of Dharma, at the Vulture’s Peak mountain, near the ancient Nalanda University, the Prajna Paramitra Sutra was taught and was the origin of the Mahayana schools. The teaching that constitutes the third wheel of Dharma, was given at Shravasti and it explains that all beings have the Buddha Nature. This turn of the wheel of Dharma brought the origin of Vajrayana.
(Extracted from the Web page www.kheper.org and reviewed by Trikaya)