What is Vajrayana?
Vajrayāna (Sanskrit: वज्रयान; Bengali: বজ্রযান; Devanagari: वज्रयान; Sinhala: වජ්රයාන; Malayalam: വജ്രയാന; Oriya: ବଜ୍ରଯାନ; Tibetan: རྡོ་རྗེ་ཐེག་པ་, rdo rje theg pa; Mongolian: Очирт хөлгөн, Ochirt Hölgön; Chinese: 金剛乘, pinyin: Jīngāng chéng), 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 deity Kalachakra with consort Visvamata.
Kālachakra (Sanskrit: कालचक्र, IAST: Kālacakra; Telugu: కాలచక్ర Kannada: ಕಾಲಚಕ್ರ; Tibetan: དུས་ཀྱི་འཁོར་ལོ།, Wylie: dus-kyi 'khor-lo; Mongolian: Цогт Цагийн Хүрдэн Tsogt Tsagiin Hurden; Chinese: 時輪) is a Sanskrit term used in Vajrayana that literally means "time-wheel" or "time-cycles". The spelling Kālacakra is also used.
Kālachakra refers both to a tantric deity (yidam) and to the philosophies and meditation practices contained within the Kālachakra Tantra and its many commentaries. The Kālachakra Tantra is more properly called the Kālachakra Laghutantra, and is said to be an abridged form of an original text, the Kālachakra Mūlatantra which is no longer extant. Some Buddhist masters assert that Kālachakra is the most advanced form of Vajrayana practice; it certainly is one of the most complex systems within Tantric Buddhism.
The Kālachakra tradition revolves around the concept of time (kāla) and cycles (chakra): from the cycles of the planets, to the cycles of human breathing, it teaches the practice of working with the most subtle energies within one's body on the path to enlightenment.
The Kālachakra deity represents a Buddha and thus omniscience. Since Kālachakra is time and everything is under the influence of time, Kālachakra knows all. Whereas Kālachakri or Kālichakra, his spiritual consort and complement, is aware of everything that is timeless, untimebound or out of the realm of time. In yab-yum, they are temporality and atemporality conjoined. Similarly, the wheel is without beginning or end.
The Kālachakra deity resides in the center of the mandala in his palace consisting of four mandalas, one within the other: the mandalas of body, speech, and mind, and in the very center, wisdom and great bliss. The Kālachakra sand mandala is dedicated to both individual and world peace and physical balance. The Dalai Lama explains: “It is a way of planting a seed, and the seed will have karmic effect. One doesn’t need to be present at the Kālachakra ceremony in order to receive its benefits.”
Padmasambhava (Tibetan: པདྨ་འབྱུང་གནས།, Wylie: pad+ma 'byung gnas (EWTS), ZYPY: Bämajungnä; Mongolian ловон Бадмажунай, lovon Badmajunai, Chinese: 莲花生大士, pinyin: Liánhuāshēng) (lit. "Lotus-Born"), also known as the Second Buddha, was a sage guru from Oddiyana, northwestern Classical India (in the modern-day Swat Valley of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan).
Padmasambhava is said to have transmitted Vajrayana Buddhism to Tibet, Bhutan and neighboring countries in the 8th century AD. In those lands, he is better known as Guru Rinpoche (lit. "Precious Guru") or Lopon Rinpoche, or as Padum in Tibet, where followers of the Nyingma school regard him as the second Buddha.
He is, moreover, considered to have been an emanation of Buddha Amitabha, Shakyamuni Buddha, and Guanyin Bodhisattva.
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.