Vajrayāna ( Bengali: বজ্রযান; Devanagari: वज्रयान; Sinhala: වජ්රායන; Malayalam: വജ്രയാന; Oriya: ବଜ୍ରଯାନ; Tibetan: རྡོ་རྗེ་ཐེག་པ་, rdo rje theg pa; Mongolian: Очирт хөлгөн, Ochirt Hölgön; Chinese: 密宗, mì zōng), also known as Tantric Buddhism, Tantrayāna, Mantrayāna, Secret Mantra, Esoteric Buddhism and the Diamond Way or Thunderbolt Way, is a complex and multifaceted system of Buddhist thought and practice which evolved over several centuries.
According to Vajrayāna scriptures "Vajrayāna" refers to one of three vehicles or routes to enlightenment, the other two being the Hinayāna and Mahayana. Note that Hinayāna (or Nikaya) is not to be confused with Theravada (a practice lineage); although is sometimes equated to it. Founded by the Indian Mahāsiddhas, Vajrayāna subscribes to Buddhist tantric literature.
Although the first tantric Buddhist texts appeared in India in the 3rd century and continued to appear until the 12th century, scholars such as Hirakawa Akira assert that the Vajrayāna probably came into existence in the 6th or 7th century, while the term Vajrayāna itself first appeared in the 8th century.
Mahasiddha (Tibetan: གྲུབ་ཐོབ་ཆེན་པོ, Wylie: grub thob chen po; or Tibetan: ཏུལ་ཤུག, Wylie: tul shug; Sanskrit Devanagari: महासिद्ध; IAST: mahāsiddha, maha meaning "great" and siddha meaning "adept") is a term for someone who embodies and cultivates the "siddhi of perfection." They are a certain type of yogin/yogini recognized in Vajrayana Buddhism.
Mahasiddhas were tantric practitioners, or tantrikas who had sufficient empowerments and teachings to act as a guru or tantric master.
A siddha is an individual who, through the practice of sadhana, attains the realization of siddhis, psychic and spiritual abilities and powers. Their historical influence throughout the Indic and Himalayan region was vast and they reached mythic proportions which is codified in their songs of realization and hagiographies, or namthar, many of which have been preserved in the Tibetan Buddhist canon.
The Mahasiddhas are the founders of Vajrayana traditions and lineages, such as Dzogchen and Mahamudra.
The Tibetan word bardo means literally "intermediate state"—also translated as "transitional state" or "in-between state" or "liminal state". In Sanskrit the concept has the name antarabhāva. It is a concept which arose soon after the Buddha's passing, with a number of earlier Buddhist groups accepting the existence of such an intermediate state, while other schools rejected it.
Used loosely, the term "bardo" refers to the state of existence intermediate between two lives on earth. According to Tibetan tradition, after death and before one's next birth, when one's consciousness is not connected with a physical body, one experiences a variety of phenomena. These usually follow a particular sequence of degeneration from, just after death, the clearest experiences of reality of which one is spiritually capable, and then proceeding to terrifying hallucinations that arise from the impulses of one's previous unskillful actions. For the prepared and appropriately trained individuals the bardo offers a state of great opportunity for liberation, since transcendental insight may arise with the direct experience of reality, while for others it can become a place of danger as the karmically created hallucinations can impel one into a less than desirable rebirth.
The term bardo can also be used metaphorically to describe times when our usual way of life becomes suspended, as, for example, during a period of illness or during a meditation retreat. Such times can prove fruitful for spiritual progress because external constraints diminish. However, they can also present challenges because our less skillful impulses may come to the foreground, just as in the sidpa bardo.
Thubten Gyatso (February 12, 1876 – December 17, 1933), was the 13th Dalai Lama of Tibet.
In 1878, he was recognized as the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama. He was escorted to Lhasa and given his pre-novice vows by the Panchen Lama, Tenpai Wangchuk, and named "Ngawang Lobsang Thupten Gyatso Jigdral Chokley Namgyal". In 1879, he was enthroned at the Potala Palace, but did not assume political power until 1895, after he had reached his majority.
Thubten Gyatso was an intelligent reformer who proved himself a skillful politician when Tibet became a pawn in the great game between Imperial Russia, China, and the British Empire. He was responsible for countering the British expedition to Tibet, restoring discipline in monastic life, and increasing the number of lay officials to avoid excessive power being placed in the hands of the monks.
Mahākāla is a Dharmapala ("protector of dharma") in Vajrayana Buddhism, and a deity in Chinese and Japanese Buddhism, particularly in the Vajrayana school. He is known as Daheitian (大黑天) in Chinese and Daikokuten (大黒天) in Japanese. Mahākāla belongs to the fourth hierarchy of deities.
Mahākāla is a Sanskrit bahuvrihi of mahā (महत्; "great") and kāla (काल; "time/death"), which means Shiva is beyond the timeline ( past-bhoot kāla, present-vartmāna kāla and future- bhavishya kāla) or death. The literal Tibetan translation is "Nagpo Chenpo" (Tibetan: ནག་པོ་ཆེན་པོ།) though, when referring to this deity, Tibetans usually use the word "Goinbo" (མགོན་པོ།—the translation of the Sanskrit word Nāth meaning "lord" or "protector") instead.
Mahākāla is relied upon in all schools of Tibetan Buddhism. However, he is depicted in a number of variations, each with distinctly different qualities and aspects. He is also regarded as the emanation of different beings in different cases, namely Avalokiteshvara (Tib: spyan ras gzigs) or Chakrasamvara (Tib: Korlo Demchog, Wylie: ’khor lo bde mchog).
Mahākāla is typically black in color. Just as all colors are absorbed and dissolved into black, all names and forms are said to melt into those of Mahakala, symbolizing his all-embracing, comprehensive nature. Black can also represent the total absence of color, and again in this case it signifies the nature of Mahakala as ultimate or absolute reality. This principle is known in Sanskrit as "nirguna", beyond all quality and form, and it is typified by both interpretations.
Mahākāla is almost always depicted with a crown of five skulls, which represent the transmutation of the five kleshas (negative afflictions) into the five wisdoms.
The most notable variation in Mahākāla's manifestations and depictions is in the number of arms, but other details can vary as well. For instance, in some cases there are Mahakalas in white, with multiple heads, without genitals, standing on varying numbers of various things, holding various implements, with alternative adornments, and so on.