performing life-cycle rites for deities

Dipak Bhattacharya dbhattacharya2004 at YAHOO.CO.IN
Wed Mar 25 03:21:20 EDT 2009

Dear Professor Rospatt,
The available descriptions do not confirm that the ritual representation of the samskāras is a general feature of Hindu initiation/initial rites. They are not enacted in the Vedic Agnyādheya. As far as I could study a meticulous representation will be missed also in the smaarta samskaaras. It is the professedly tantric fire generation, also called homa, in its pañcopāsanā variety that enacts with every detail.
Perhaps it will be difficult to establish that they formed part of the initial ritual of  Buddhsit tantra from the beginning. Homa is Vedic after all. In the Buddhist tantric texts we do find reference to homa. It was also carried abroad with Buddhism. But this should reflect a late situation.
I cannot help a bit of involuntary self propaganda in stating that matter in both the varieties came for discussion by me in the seventies. The pañcopāsanā variety was dealt with in some detail  in a chapter on the Śākta and Vaishnava tantric initiations in 'Mythological and ritual symbolism' (Calcutta 1984,chapters 4 and 5, pp.194-208; published ten years after writing). 
[I caution you that you will find the entire fourth chapter plagiarized in a multi-volume publication by Cosmo Publications that appeared in 1999. I got compliments from a well-wisher who judged that the plagiarism meant that my study had some worth. But you will miss a lot by consulting the material from the Cosmo publication. Its dropping of the fifth chapter means that the copyist had not understood the matter which would be incomplete and not fully intelligible from the fourth chapter alone.]
The available Kālacakrayāna material for the parallel seka was dealt with by me in 'The Catu.skāya doctrine in the mantranaya'(Journal of research, Visva Bharati, 1977-78). This is ascribed to Nāropā. That means even as late as the tenth century the smārta samkāras, reported by you were missing in Buddhist mantranaya though one finds the word homa there.
Perhaps this is enough
Best for all
Dipak Bhattacharya

--- On Wed, 25/3/09, Alexander von Rospatt <rospatt at BERKELEY.EDU> wrote:

From: Alexander von Rospatt <rospatt at BERKELEY.EDU>
Subject: performing life-cycle rites for deities
Date: Wednesday, 25 March, 2009, 6:45 AM

As I am studying Newar Buddhist consecration rituals for images, caityas and so on, I am wondering how much of a tradition of performing the saṃskāra life-cycle rites  as part of such consecration rites there is outside (Newar) Buddhism. I am aware that such rites are indeed performed for the generation of Agni when installing the fire, but it is not clear to me to which extent the saṃskāras (not just conception and birth, but also further rites up to the wedding) are also performed for the consecration of images. The saṃskāras do form an integral part of the consecration ceremony performed in the Śaiva tradition preserved among the Newars. Hence, I suppose that such practice exists (or existed) also in other Hindu traditions, but I have no hard evidence in support. Any help to identify such evidence would be much appreciated.
Alexander Rospatt

Alexander von Rospatt, Professor
Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies
Group in Buddhist Studies
University of California
7233 Dwinelle Hall # 2540
Berkeley, CA 94720-2540

Phone: +1-510-6421610
Fax: +1-510-6432959
Email:  rospatt at

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