Test Your Knowledge of Vajrayāna Buddhism



9 Questions

What is Vajrayāna?

What is deity yoga?

What is the Vajrayāna's philosophical view based on?

What is the significance of mantras in Vajrayāna practice?

What is the fundamental practice of Buddhist Tantra?

What is the Vajrayāna Yogini tantras?

What is the Tendai school in China and Japan known for?

What is the Shingon school in Japan known for?

What is the Vajrayāna's view on the separation of samsara and nirvana?


Buddhist tantric traditions, also known as Vajrayāna, Mantrayāna, Guhyamantrayāna, Tantrayāna, Secret Mantra, Tantric Buddhism, or Esoteric Buddhism, developed in medieval India and spread to Tibet, Nepal, other Himalayan states, East Asia, and Mongolia. Vajrayāna practices are connected to specific lineages in Buddhism, through the teachings of lineage holders, and include practices that make use of mantras, dharanis, mudras, mandalas, and the visualization of deities and Buddhas. Contemporary historians of Buddhist studies argue that Vajrayāna does not predate the tantric era of medieval India. According to Vajrayāna scriptures, the term Vajrayāna refers to one of three vehicles or routes to enlightenment, the other two being the Śrāvakayāna and Mahāyāna. There are several Buddhist tantric traditions that are currently practiced, including Tibetan Buddhism, Chinese Esoteric Buddhism, Shingon Buddhism, and Newar Buddhism. The Vajrayāna is associated with groups of wandering yogis called mahasiddhas in medieval India and is a response to the feudal structure of Indian society in the early medieval period. The Vajrayāna Yogini tantras draw extensively from the material also present in Shaiva Bhairava tantras classified as Vidyapitha. The philosophical view of the Vajrayana is based on Mahayana Buddhist philosophy, mainly the Madhyamaka and Yogacara schools, and the importance of the theory of emptiness is central to the Tantric Buddhist view and practice. The Buddhist emptiness view sees the world as being fluid, without an ontological foundation or inherent existence, but ultimately a fabric of constructions.Overview of Vajrayāna Buddhism

  • Vajrayāna is a third yana, next to Śrāvakayāna and Mahayana.

  • Vajrayāna is a method of taking the intended outcome of Buddhahood as the path.

  • Vajrayāna is esoteric in the sense that the transmission of certain teachings only occurs directly from teacher to student during an empowerment (abhiṣeka).

  • Vajrayāna rituals traditionally included the use of certain taboo substances, such as blood, semen, alcohol and urine, as ritual offerings and sacraments.

  • Vajrayāna rituals also include sexual yoga, union with a physical consort as part of advanced practices.

  • The special tantric vows vary depending on the specific mandala practice for which the initiation is received and also depending on the level of initiation.

  • Vajrayana techniques include mantras, mandalas, mudras, deity yoga, other visualization based meditations, illusory body yogas like tummo and rituals like the goma fire ritual.

  • A central feature of tantric practice is the use of mantras, and seed syllables (bijas).

  • The fundamental practice of Buddhist Tantra is "deity yoga" (devatayoga), meditation on a chosen deity or "cherished divinity".

  • According to the Tibetan scholar Tsongkhapa, deity yoga is what separates Tantra from Sutra practice.

  • Transformation is a fundamental theory of Tantric practice in which negative mental factors such as desire, hatred, greed, pride are used as part of the path.

  • According to Buddhist Tantra, there is no strict separation of the profane or samsara and the sacred or nirvana, rather they exist in a continuum.Overview of Vajrayana Buddhism

  • Vajrayana Buddhism is a form of Buddhism that emerged in India and spread to Tibet, Bhutan, Mongolia, and parts of China and Japan.

  • Vajrayana practices include deity yoga, which involves identification with a divine reality through the visualization of a deity, and completion practices, which use energetic schemas of human psycho-physiology to produce blissful experiences that are then applied to the realization of ultimate reality.

  • Other practices include dream yoga, practices associated with the bardo, transference of consciousness, and Chöd, in which the yogi ceremonially offers their body to be eaten by tantric deities in a ritual feast.

  • Vajrayana uses a rich variety of symbols, terms, and images that have multiple meanings according to a complex system of analogical thinking.

  • The vajra is a central symbol in Vajrayana, representing the ultimate nature of things and the power of tantric methods to achieve its goals.

  • Representations of the deity, such as statues, paintings, or mandala, are often employed as an aid to visualization in deity yoga. Mandalas are symbolic depictions of the sacred space of the awakened Buddhas and Bodhisattvas as well as of the inner workings of the human person.

  • Vajrayana texts include the "tantras" themselves, tantric commentaries and shastras, sadhanas, ritual manuals, dharanis, poems or songs, termas, and so on.

  • Today, the Vajrayana exists primarily in the form of the two major traditions of Tibetan Buddhism and Japanese Esoteric Buddhism in Japan known as Shingon.

  • The Shingon school in Japan includes practices, known in Japan as Mikkyō, which are similar in concept to those in Vajrayana Buddhism.

  • The Tendai school in China and Japan does employ some esoteric practices, but these rituals came to be considered of equal importance with the exoteric teachings of the Lotus Sutra.Overview of Vajrayana Buddhism across different regions and countries:

  • Tendai Buddhism in Japan focuses on chanting mantras, maintaining mudras, and practicing certain forms of meditation to attain enlightenment within the current lifetime.

  • Shugendō, founded in 7th-century Japan by En no Gyōja, evolved as a sort of amalgamation between Esoteric Buddhism, Shinto, and several other religious influences including Taoism.

  • Korean milgyo, or Esoteric Buddhism, arrived in Korea during the initial introduction of Buddhism to the region in 372 CE. During the Goryeo Dynasty, esoteric practices were common within large sects like the Seon school, and the Hwaeom school as well as smaller esoteric sects like the Sinin (mudra) and Ch'ongji (Dharani) schools.

  • Vajrayāna Buddhism was initially established in Tibet in the 8th century and reflects the later stages tantric Indian Buddhism of the post-Gupta Early Medieval period. There are four major traditions or schools: Nyingma, Sakya, Kagyu, and Gelug.

  • Newar Buddhism in Nepal is the only form of Vajrayana Buddhism in which the scriptures are written in Sanskrit, and its priests do not follow celibacy and are called vajracharya.

  • Indonesian Esoteric Buddhism refers to the traditions of Esoteric Buddhism found in the Indonesian islands of Java and Sumatra before the rise and dominance of Islam in the region (13-16th centuries).

  • "Southern Esoteric Buddhism" or Borān kammaṭṭhāna is a term for esoteric forms of Buddhism from Southeast Asia and has no direct connection to the Indian Tantric Movement of the Mahasiddhas.

  • Serious Vajrayana academic study in the Western world is in early stages due to the secrecy of tantric initiation and the difficulty in understanding the terminology and symbolism of Vajrayana Buddhism.


How much do you know about Vajrayāna Buddhism? Take this quiz to test your knowledge of the esoteric and mystical practices that developed in medieval India and spread to Tibet, Nepal, other Himalayan states, East Asia, and Mongolia. From mantras and mudras to deity yoga and completion practices, this quiz covers the key concepts, practices, and traditions of Vajrayāna Buddhism. Explore the rich symbolism, complex analogical thinking, and diverse practices of Vajrayā

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