Part 4

Buddhist and Hindu Tantra

by PR Sarkar Icon

It is absolutely wrong to make a distinction between Hindu Tantra and Buddhist Tantra.

  • Tantra is one.
  • It is based on one sentiment, on one idea.

The Buddhist and Hindu Tantras express the same thing in different words.

For example, Hindu Tantras use the following words:

  • kulakuńd́alinii is the dormant unit force
  • id́a, piuṋgalá and suśumná are the 3 psycho-spiritual channels.

The kulakuńd́alinii pierces through the 6 cakras:

  1. Múládhára, above the perineum
  2. Svádhiśt́hána, in the genital organ
  3. Mańipura in the navel
  4. Anáhata in the region of the heart
  5. Vishuddha in the region of the vocal cord
  6. Ajiṋá between the eyebrows

It finally unites with Paramashiva at the seventh cakra, the sahasrára cakra [at the crown of the head].

  • This gives the sádhakas, or intuitional practitioners, the bliss of Cosmic Consciousness.

The Buddhist Tantras say the same thing in different words:

  1. mańipura cakra, nirmáńa cakra anáhata, dharma cakra the vishuddha, sambhoga cakra the sahasrára, uśniiśa kamala or mahásukha cakra.

Some have named the múládhára, mańipadma.

In both the Buddhist and Hindu Tantras, hummm is the acoustic root of the unit force, the kulakuńd́alinii, lying dormant in mańipadma.

The so-called Buddhist Tantrics also say, Oṋḿ mańipadme hummm.

To them id́á, piuṋgalá and suśumná are lalaná, rasaná and avadhútikárespectively. So where, in reality, is the ideological difference between the Hindu Tantras such as Mahánirváńa Tantra, Kulárńava Tantra, Ajiṋána-bodhinii Tantra, Jiṋána-saḿkalinii Tantra, Rudrayámala Tantra, Bhaerava-yámala Tantra, Niila Tantra, etc., and the Buddhist Tantras such as Hevajra Tantra, Vajra-váráhii Kalpamahá Tantra, Ekallaviira Cańd́arośańa Tantra, D́ákárnava Tantra, Advaya Siddhi Tantra, etc.? Kauṋkalamálinii Tantra cannot be called either a Hindu Tantra or a Buddhist Tantra with any clear certainty.

Even the popular assumption that the Hindus borrowed idolatry from the Buddhists is totally wrong. Although there was a conception of gods and goddesses among the Aryan Vedics, there was no custom of modelling images for worship. But in the lowest stratum of Tantra sádhaná (that is, the lowest of the low grade) idolatry was prescribed:

Uttamo Brahmasadbhávo Madhyamá dhyána dháŕańá; Japastúti syádhadhamá Múrtipújá dhamádhamá. –Kulárńava Tantra

[Ideation on Brahma is the best, dhyána and dhárańá are second best, repetitious incantation and eulogistic prayer are the worst, and idol worship is the worst of the worst.]

The word uttama in the first line of the shloka is interchangeable with sahajávasthá. Sahajáavasthá, the “tranquil state” of the Buddhists, is no different from the ideation on Brahma of the Hindus.

According to their respective intellectual strata, the primitive non-Aryan Tantrics utilized all the practices, from the lowest-of-the-low image worship to the highest-of-the-high Brahma sádhaná. Thus idolatry is as much a part of Hindu Tantra as it is of Buddhist Tantra. Neither has borrowed it from the other.

The ultimate object all Tantra is to merge the unit force in the introversial force and the introversial force in Parama Puruśa.

The Hindu Tantras call the Supreme Consciousness as:

  • Paramashiva
  • Puruśottama
  • Krśńa
  • Paramá

Prakrti has been called:

  • Kálii
  • Rádhá, etc.

In the Buddhist Tantras, Supreme Consciousness is called:

  • Bhagaván Sarveshvara
  • Shriiman Mahásukha
  • Vajrasatva
  • Vajradhara
  • Vajreshvara
  • Heruka or Hevajra
  • Cańd́arośańa in some places

Prakrti has been called:

  • the Maháshakti of Mahákaola
  • Bhagavatii Sarveshvarii
  • Vajraváráhii
  • Vajradhátviishvarii
  • Prajiṋá Páramitá
  • sandhyá bháśá,(9)
  • D́ombii
  • Cańd́álii, etc.

In both the Hindu and Buddhist Tantras, men and women are permitted to do sádhaná together.

In the Hindu Tantras:

  • males are advised to ideate that they are Bhaerava
  • sádhikás [female spiritual aspirants] to ideate that they are Bhaeravii.

Buddhist Tantras prescribe the same thing. There the sádhaka is Vajradhara and the sádhiká is Vajrayośita.

Naráh Vajradharákáráh śośitah Vajrayośitah.

–Ekallaviira Cańd́arośańa Tantra [The male aspirants are called Vajradhara, and the female aspirants Vajrayośita.]

Tantra is one.

Therefore it is as much a mistake to distinguish between the Hindu and the Buddhist Tantras as it is to grope in vain for any differences in the inner import or final goals of the Hindu Tantras such as Shaeva Tantra, Shákta Tantra, Saora Tantra, Gáńapatya Tantra, Vaeśńaviiya Tantra (Rádhá Tantra), etc.

The similarity between the gods and goddesses of the Hindu Tantras and those of the Buddhist Tantras is also particularly noteworthy. Each Tantra has either absorbed or discarded the other’s gods and goddesses according to its own convenience. Tárá is one of the famous deities of the Buddhist Tantras.

The following worships are very ancient:

  • Bhrámarii Tárá in China
  • Ugratárá or Vajratárá in Mongolia
  • Niila Sarasvatii Tárá or Ekajátá Devii in Tibet
    • Tibet’s Niila Sarasvatii Tárá has been absorbed in Hindu Tantra as the second Mahávidyá of the Ten Mahávidyás
    • Today, the Hindus who worship idols do not regard Tárá as a non-Hindu deity.

Káliká Devii is the first Mahávidyá of the so-called Hindu Tantras. This has been accepted by Buddhist Tantra. Clad in betel leaves (parńa means “betel leaves” or “turmeric leaves”), Parńa Shavarii Devii of the Buddhist Tantra is one of the names of the goddess Durgá of Hindu Tantra.

Prajiṋá Páramitá, the Buddhist deity, continues to be worshipped in post-Buddhist India as Sarasvatii.

The bull-mounted Sarasvatii of the Vedas has not even a hint of similarity with the swan-mounted Sarasvatii, either in appearance or in nature.(10)

There are some goddesses whose sources – Buddhist or Hindu – are impossible to determine. That is to say, they are deities common to both schools of Tantra, such as Váráhii, Kaoveŕii, Bhiimá, Kapálinii, Chinnamastá, etc. Goddesses of the Hindu Tantras such as D́ákinii, Rákinii, Lákinii, Kákinii, Shákinii, Hákinii, etc., have been accepted by the Buddhist Tantras.

The savikalpa samádhi [trance of determinate absorption – or vacuity] of the Hindu Tantras is the prabhásvara shúnyatá [luminous vacuity] of the Buddhists. The Hindus’ nirvikalpa [trance of objectless or indeterminate absorption – or vacuity] is the Buddhists’ vajra shúnyatá [complete vacuity].

The goddess of vajra shúnyatá, of the unmanifest Prakrti, is Vajraváráhii, D́ombii, Naerátma Devii or Naerámańi in the language of the Buddhists. The different stages of savikalpa samádhi related to the upward movement of the kulakuńd́alinii are called sálokya [within the same loka], sámiipya [closest proximity], sárupya [identity], sarśt́hi [the stage between savikalpa and nirvikalpa], etc., in the Hindu Tantras; and in the Buddhist Tantras, viśáyánanda [objective bliss] in the nirmáńa cakra, paramánanda [supreme bliss] in the dharma cakra, virámánanda [intermittent bliss] in the sambhoga cakra and sahajánanda [absolute bliss] in the mahásukha cakra.

In this mahásukha cakra, Naerátma Devii is Bhagavatii Prajiṋá Sarveshvarii, an embodiment of sahajánanda [bliss]. This sahajánanda is the Brahmánanda [absolute bliss] of the Hindu Tantras.


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