Sun Oct 29 23:00:03 UTC 2000

Lance Cousins wrote:

> On an impressionistic basis I had thought Mantrayaana to be earlier
> or at least earlier in general usage than Vajrayaana. What is the
> situation for, say pre-ninth century material ?

This corresponds with my own experience.  The problem is of course
with dating the material.  One can perhaps establish a rough relative
chronology and also make some educated guesses on that basis.
Obviously, commentorial literature should be easier to date but this
is not always the case.  My own readings have centred on texts one can
reasonably date from the mid-600s down to the early years of the 9th
century.   One of the best representatives is Buddhaguhya whose period
of activity we can date to around the 760s.  In several of his
commentaries he makes certain explicit statements about the "state of
play" regarding tantric material.   To be brief these points are worth
1.    Most of the texts he comments on which belong according to the
later classification system to the kriyaa / caryaa / yoga categories
are not entitled tantras per se although he occasionally uses the
2.    He views mantra practice as a sub-division of Mahaayaana -- he
says that Mahaayaana practice can be divided according to the
inclinations of the practitioners into paaramitaa-naya and
mantra-naya.   He then goes on to say that there are *two* levels of
mantra-naya -- kriyaa and yoga with the
Mahaa-vairocana-abhisa.mbodhi-suutra/tantra occupying a unique
anomalous position which he calles "ubhaya" (this alter becomes
caryaa).  Texts which later were deemed to be anuttara-yoga-tantras
are included in his yoga-mantra-naya group.

To determine when the term mantra-yaana as opposed to mantra-naya (or
even vajra-yaana) can into vogue would require an extensive reading of
slightly later commentators like Aanandagarbha and others to see what
their usage is.  It could aalso be the case that different terminology
was used in different "tantric" circles, given that the production of
the tantras was not a monolithic process but must have happened in
diverse areas.

On final point.  The use of the term "vajra" has a long history in
Buddhism but I wonder what the sudden attraction was to the vajra
imagery when the tantras started appearing.  There is strong evidence
that a major heartland of Buddhist tantras is to be located in
northern Orissa.  The upstream region known as Sambhola of the River
Mahanadi was famed even as far away as Rome as THE place for diamond
production in ancient India -- given the local importance of diamonds
in that area, could the people responsible for developing tantric
imagery has latched on the vajra as diamond for this reason ?

Further to Ven Tantra's suggestions about a "vajra-vaada", I wonder
whether this is actually feasible given that in Buddhism -- at least
in what I have read -- the tantras are not so much a "vaada" but, as
Buddhaguhya states, a "naya".  A "vaada" in Buddhism seems to me to
denote a doctrinal position as in Sarvaastivaada, Pudgala-vaada,
Theravaada and so forth rather than a practice system such as we see
with the tantras.  It is commonly stressed in texts that what is is
taught in the tantras does not differ in theory from Mahaayaana but
only in praxis -- though of course, we with hindsight could say that
some aspects of "vajra-yaana" do indeed differ doctrinally as well.

Best wishes,
Stephen Hodge

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