nAstika notes-2

Some enquirers had asked about the classification of nAstika tantra-s of the bauddha variety. Hence, we shall briefly discuss this, while mentioning the caveat that there are many classifications, just as in the case of Astika systems. I must also stress that the literature of the tAthAgata tantra-s is vast and much of it is beyond my very limited education and it is being presented here only for comparative purposes to study the evolution of Astika practice.

Usually, tradition holds that the bauddha tantra-s have 4 divisions: kriyA-charyA-yoga-yoginI. This division is good enough to describe the basic evolutionary scenario but has been further expanded to account for the diversity lying in between the groups.

-the kriyA tantra-s: These comprise remarkable material that any student of the mantra shAstra should examine because they preserve several aspects of the early development of the tAntrika mantra system. In a sense they may be seen as evolutes of the Astika mantra systems, such as those presented in the parishiShThas of the atharva veda, the auxiliary sAmavedic literature (we will discuss the kaumara elements in this at some point) and the medical texts like the kashyapa tantra. Some well-known tantra-s of this layer of the tantra-s are:
mahAmegha sUtra; Aryama~njushrI-mUla kalpa; subAhu-paripR^ichCha sUtra; susiddhi; sAmAnya-vidhInAm-guhya; dhyAnottara; aparimitaayur-j~nAna-hR^idaya dhAraNI; sitAtapatrA vidyA-rAj~nI
We have evidence that these were the first to be translated into chIna bhAShA. One of them, the mahAmegha sUtra, is known from a Chinese translation from before 439 CE. This gives a general marker for the age of these tantra-s. The Aryama~njushrI-mUla kalpa is somewhat distinct from the rest and along with the mahAmayurI-vidyA-rAj~nI might represent early influx of the kaumara material in the nAstika realm. The mahAmegha sUtra has rain-making rituals that invoke various nAga-s and could be seen as an evolute of the old Astika sarpa-bali ritual. In the later surviving practice there seem to be 3 major kula-s of kriyA sAdhana-s: 1) the tathAgata kula with mahApratisarA and the 5 devI-s, the nAstika pratya~NgirA vidyA, i.e. sitAtapatrA vidyA-rAj~nI, mArIchi; 2) the padma kula centered on jetAri amitAyus as expounded in the aparimitaayur-j~nAna-hR^idaya dhAraNI; 3) the vajra kula which is centered on vajrapANi bhutaDAmara and vajravidAraNa. The former has links with the Astika bhUtaDAmara tantra, as we have briefly discussed before on these pages. Other kula-s are mentioned in the kriyA literature but some of them do not seem to have survived. The tantrika material in the suvarNa-prabhAsa, such as the mantra-s and the ritual for the worship of sarasvatI, also belong to the kriyA layer. Some of the kriyA material is related to early siddhi-acquiring rites. Some of these are taught by individuals other than the sugata. For example, the susiddhi and subAhu-paripR^ichCha sUtra are teachings of individuals named susiddhi and subAhu – both have a major focus on abhichAra rites. Given that even the historical tathAgata was supposed to be a mantra-vAdin performing abhichAra rites and displaying siddhi-s this material is probably in continuity with the early interest in abhichara among the bauddha-s.

-charyA tantra-s: These are supposedly tantra-s relating to observances, unlike the kriyA group which is described as prescribing ritual action. However, it is hard to draw a clear line between the two. Nevertheless, this group contains texts such as:
mahAvairochanAbhisaMbodhi; Arya-aShTa-devI-dhAraNI; vajrapANyabhisheka; achala tantra.
One of the key deities of this group of tantra-s (as in the first of the above) is mahAvairochana, who may also be called jina or nAtha. He is depicted with knotted hair bearing a jewel on the crest. He is golden or yellow with colored rays emanating from him and is seated on a lotus. He holds a peculiar mudra and is shown meditating on the shUnyatA in the middle of the great maNDala. In the mahAvairochana-centric charyA material there are several tAthagata deities some of which are associated with kula-s of goddesses. These are arranged thus around the central deity: 1) The circle of 4 parama-buddha-s in 4 petals of an eight-petalled lotus (ratnasaMbhava, amoghasiddhi, akShobhaya and amitAbha). 2) These are associated with the bhagavatI praj~nApAramitA who is the east of the next circle. 3) In the west is achala (later chaNDamahAroShaNa). 4) In the north is avalokiteshvara with his kula of goddesses: tArA, bhrukuTI, yashodharA and pANDaravAsinI. 5) In the south is vajrapANi with his kula of goddesses: mAmakI, vajrasUchI and vajrashR^i~NkalA. 6) Below these is the circle of shAkya muni with the 10 vaidika devatA-s and skanda condescendingly placed in their bauddha directions. 7) shAkyamuni has two kula-s of goddess buddhalochanA, vidyorNA and aparAjitA comprise the first; kAlarAtri, nirR^iti, pR^ithivI and sarasvatI make the second; 8) Below this level is the circle of kumAra ma~njushrI with his attendant jAlinIprabha in the east, sarva-nirvANa-viShkambhin in the south; kShitigarbha in the north and AkAshagarbha in the west. 9) Of them ma~njushrI alone has a kula of devI-s: keshinI, upakeshinI, chitrA, vasumatI and AkarShaNI.
There are more complex expansions of this basic structure dealt with in detail in the mahAvairochanAbhisaMbodhi, but we simply describe the above as the core template. In the other charyA tantra-s deities like vajrapANi or achala are central in place of vairochana.

We have some evidence that these tantra-s followed the early kriyA group and appear to marked the beginning of the emphasis on the special dIkSha into complex maNDala-s. They appear to have been transmitted among others by the great kShatriya mantravAdin shubhakara-siMha of oDDiyAna to the chIna-s and other prAchya-s who joined the nAstika-mata. The tradition of the Tibetan lamas states that the two Indian authorities on the kriyA and charyA classes of tantras are the mantravAdin-s buddhaguhya and varabodhi, masters of abhichAra and siddhi-s, who were apparently revered in jambudvIpa like sUrya and soma.

The yoga tantra-s appear to have made their advent with the sarva-tathAgata-tattva-saMgraha. The noted Acharya buddhaguhya wrote a commentary on the system expounded by this tantra titled the tantrAvatAra. The main maNDala of this system is the vajradhAtu-maNDala with vairochana at its center just as in the case of the vairochanAbhisaMbodhi. A version of this text with illustrations of the mantra-devatA-s was produced by the great shubhakara-siMha and transmitted to the chIna-s. This system formalized a series of associations of the five parama-buddha-s: vairochana’s consort became vajradhAteshvarI and his bIja mantra was OM; akShobhya’s consort became lochanA and his bIja mantra was hUM; ratnasaMbhava’s consort became mAmakI and his bIja mantra was traM; amitAbha’s consort became pANDaravAsinI and his bIja mantra was hrIH; amoghasiddhi’s consort became tArA and his bIja mantra was AH. This tantra was soon followed by several other yoga tantra-s such as:
sarva-durgati-parishodhana; sarva-rahasya; ma~njushrI-nAma-saMgIti; vajrashekhara-mahAguhya.
In the vajrashekhara the deity vajradhara assumes prominence as a sixth Adi-buddha who emanates the remaining five, whereas in the nAma-saMgIti the deity ma~njushrI makes a reappearance. The paNDita vilAsavajra composed a commentary on the nAma-saMgIti which was also an important tantra of this class. Amongst the yoga tantra-s, the nAma-saMgIti appears to occupy an important place in terms of being the link between the older bauddha tantra and the great developments that were to soon emerge. The nAma-saMgIti teaches several distinct maNDala-s: 1) the maNDala of the 4-faced dharma-dhAtu-vagIshvara or ma~njugoSha. The faces of ma~njugoSha, here, are suffused with the sentiment of shR^i~NgAra, the first hint of the future developments towards the incorporation of the yoga of maithuna. Interestingly, this maNDala also tries to completely incorporate the Astika devatA samUha by placing them as a peripheral outermost ring. Here are also placed the pA~ncharAtra vyUha-s of vAsudeva headed by balabhadra. 2) The vajradhAtu-maNDala with vairochana in the center, but in the tradition of this tantra he is identified with the 3-headed ma~njushrI. 3) The maNDala of a-ra-pa-cha-na sadyonubhAva who is accompanied by the male attendants jAlinIprabha and chandraprabha and the female attendants keshinI and upakeshinI. 4) The maNDala of trailokyavijaya, which features the primary deity vajrahuMkAra or trailokyavijaya, who, through lateral interaction with the shaiva world, developed into the deity vajrabhairava, who was to emerge as a major deity in the tantra-s that were to follow. 5) The maNDala of vAdisiMha or ma~njushrI as vajratIkShNa. Here the ma~njushrI is single-faced and two-armed. The Tibetan tradition of this ma~njushrI depicts him in the company of devI sarasvatI. 6) The maNDala of vAdirAj in which ma~njushrI is accompanied by two deities sudhana-kumAra and the ferocious yamArI. He is the mantra-devatA of the famous nAstika mantra: OM dharma-dhAtu-vAgIshvara-muH svAhA || 7) The maNDala of ma~njuvajra, where the ma~njushrI is with three heads. This ma~njushrI embraces a 3 headed praj~nA, which again points to the beginning of the yAmala of the deity and the praj~nA which were to become dominant very soon. He is shown associated with 10 ferocious deities who surround him on the vertices of an octagonal bipyramid arrangement.

As the nAma-saMgIti was already distinct in its system from the other yoga-tantra-s, some teachers like vilAsavajra called it a mahA-yoga tantra, and placed along with it in this category new tantra-s that emerged after the yoga class. These new tantra-s were eventually termed the higher tantra-s or the yogottara tantra-s, superseding the older yoga tantra-s. Another peculiar tantra that arose around the same time as the yogottara tantra-s was the sarva-buddha-samAyoga-DAkinI-jAla-shambara. This text had the central deities of the maNDala as emanations of the buddha-s engaged in actual maithuna with their praj~nA-s and surrounded by a kula of DAkinI-s. This tantra was to be the precursor of the final group of tantra-s the yoginI tantra-s. I am of the opinion that a version of this text and examples of the yogottara tantra-s (see below) were in place by 650 CE.

-yogottara tantra-s: Examples of these tantra-s are-
guhyasamAja; vajramahAbhairava; mAyAjAla; vajrakumAra; kR^iShNayamArI.
These tantra-s are prototyped by the guhyasamAja and the central deities of the maNDala-s are considered emanations of akShobhya. While Tibetan tradition tends to associate the saMpuTa tantra with the yoginI tantra-s, the saMpuTa instead appears to have a relationship with the guhyasamAja, which it presupposes and should in reality be in the yogottara class. This group of tantra-s are a high-point of bauddha yoga and mantra practice and can be discussed briefly by considering the most remarkable guhyasamAja. Studying the guhyasamAja is also important for an Astika mantravAdin because it contains the key to the bauddha challenge against both the philosophical positions as well as the mantra deployment found amongst the Astika-s. The guhyasamAja opens with the celebrated nidAna, which in a single cryptic statement sums up the secret yoga practice and philosophy of the yogottara tantra. The nidAna runs thus:
evam mayA shrutam | ekasmin samaye bhagavAn sarva-tathAgata-kAya-vAk-chitta-hR^idaya-vajra-yoShid-bhageShu vijahAra ||
Literally this would translate thus: Thus I have heard; once upon time the bhagavAn had penetrated the bhaga[-s] of the damsels [who are] the [vajra] body, the speech, mind, heart and [phallus] of all tathAgata-s. The reference to the maithuna of the buddha with the ladies of the kula is at the surface an explicit indicator of shR^i~NgAra being the upAya of becoming a siddha. However, the 40 syllables of the above nidAna are also a mnemonic for the initial letters of 40 kArikA-s of guhyasamAja:
e | vam | ma | yA | shru| tam e | ka | smin | sa | ma | ye | bha | ga | vAn | sa | rva | ta| thA | ga| ta | kA | ya | vAk | chit| ta | hR^i | da | ya | va | jra | yo | Shid | bha| ge | Shu | vi| ja | hA | ra ||
Thus, they are in sense reminiscent of the saMvartAmaNDala sUtra-s with which the Astika kubjikA tantra-s, like kubjikA-mata or ShaTsAhasra saMhitA, open. The kArikA-s themselves are not explicitly provided in the tantra itself; however, they occur in separate works like the pradIpoddyotana and the vajramAlA tantraM (known only in Tibetan translation). Separate explanations, which are different from the mnemonic expansion of the nidAna, are also given in the exegesis of paNDita vilAsavajra. Thus, in addition to the literal sense, the nidAna can be interpreted severally within the bauddha way of mantra-s. We shall not go into all the kArikA-s here because they are an enormously complicated text, requiring deep study. It goes into heart of the philosophical system of these nAstika-s as well as their challenges to the Astika-s [On a historical note, a big question, which is still not completely solved is: Did sha~Nkara bhagavatpAda and his successors take on the attack from these bauddha-s and whether it was in someway related to the symbiosis between the Astika kulA tAntrika-s and the sha~NkarAdvaitin-s].
The first kArikA:
e : ekAro.api satI praj~nA virAmAdi-kShaNAtmikA | etan-mUlaM vinirdiShTaM parij~nAnaM bhava-traye || (For this kArikA, I am using the text edited and emended by late Alex Wayman, the great American scholar)
It might be roughly rendered thus (With a text like this one cannot be too sure one captures the nuances correctly): ‘e’ is verily the lady praj~nA (the nAstika equivalent of shakti or dUtI) having the nature [or of the form] of the instant of the pause and the like [virAma=the consonantal end like k or g without a vowel]; this root is pointed out as [said to be] the experience [perception] in the three worlds.

This is better understood by considering it in the context of the fundamentals of the mantra-shAstra expounded in the saMpuTa tantra. One way of understanding the first kArikA is that the root cause of the experience of the worlds is due that great lady, the goddess of the system (sparshavajrA), who is the experiential goddess of akShobhya [The Rubin museum in navyarkapura in krau~nchadvIpa has an extraordinary painting of akShobhya conjoined with sparshavajrA that is worth seeing]. She is depicted as the vowel ‘e’, which in the brAhmi script (or nAgarI) has the shape of the yonI by which she is symbolized. Of course, this is also the symbolism behind ‘e’ in shrIvidyA’s first kUTa. The virAma kShaNa appears to indicate that instant of the consonantal pause, or the hiatus where the “pure experience” is manifest. A full explanation for this not easy to render in words because it requires, in addition to a knowledge of texts of the Indic tradition, a certain gnosis shared only by mantra-shAstra insiders.

Multiple maNDala-s are laid out in the guhyasamAja tantra, e.g. akShobhya, kumAra ma~njushrI and lokeshvara. The most notable of these in extant practice is that of akShobhya, which is comprised of 32 deities – 9 female (the yoShit-s) and 23 male. The central deity is the tathAgata akShobhya who is described in the first chapter of the guhyasamAja as being emanated by mahAvajradhara. He is 3-headed, with black, white and red faces. He holds in his hands: vajra, chakra and padma(right); bell,chintAmaNi and sword(left). He embraces sparshavajrA, also three-headed, and they kiss each other via their central head. In the heart of akShobhya is seated a deity called the j~nAna-sattva (not included in the 32) and he embraces a red praj~nA. In the heart of j~nAna-sattva is found the bIja hUM in a black color. In the heart of sparshavajrA is found the bIja khaM.

Finally, we find that in the yogottara tantra-s the nAstika-s become extremely aggressive in organizing abhichAra rituals in support of the buddha-sainya and to destroy the Astika mantra-vAdin-s. This goes in parallel with the doha-s of the nAstika-s like talika-pAda, the fallen brAhmaNa, who condemns the worship of prajApati, rudra and viShNu and other deva-s. The most important of these prayoga-s in the guhyasamAja is the vajra-stambhana, which is actually a deadly mAraNa prayoga. It claims that it can succeed even if an Astika mantravAdin paralyzed the buddha-sainya with his own prayoga. Here the nAstika invokes vajradhara to paralyze of all Astika and jaina Acharya-s by imagining vajradhara and his attendants at the point of a 3-pronged vajra placed on the head of the enemy like a mountain to crush him. Similarly, the vajramahAbhairava tantra of this category also pays considerable attention to abhichAra rituals using the 10-syllabled secret mantra of the bhairava. This tantra has been lost in its saMskR^ita original and is not available to us for study, but translations of the text in Tibetan and Mongolian are available (translated from them by B.Siklos) and describes the buffalo-headed deity vajrabhairava as a manifestation of ma~njushrI. The abhichAra rites here include those such as mAraNa prayoga with a yantra placed between two kapAla-s, and another involving poisoning of the victim using dhattUra.

-yogini tantra-s:
These represent the last phase of the evolut-s: 1) A close imitation of the bhairava tantra-s of the shaiva-mantra mArga and 2) In the opposite direction a virulent anti-Astika streak, mainly directed at shiva, but also viShNu, brahmA, indra, manmatha and others. We get the sense of the nAstika-s as our rebellious and bellicose child wanting to overthrow the parent, yet unable to break free from the pervasive parental bond and dominance. This element is seen throughout the evolution of the nAstika-s but the “tension” is most apparent in the evolution of the yoga tantra-s and their successors, the yoginI tantra-s. As we noted before the Astika devatA-s are accommodated as a peripheral component of the maNDala-s of the charyA tantra-s. In the yoga/yogottara tantra-s the counter-currents heat up: The bauddha-s created myths of destruction and transformation of the Astika devatA-s [we have described some of these on these pages before] but simply cannot give their identification with the Astika devatA-s. This is best illustrated by a statement in the yogottara tantra, the guhysamAja:
kAya-vajro bhavet brahmA vAgvajras tu maheshvaraH | chitta-vajra-dharo rAjA saiva viShNur maharddhikaH || GST 17.19 [I have emended chitta-vakra in the va~Nga paNDita Benoytosh Bhattacharya’s edition to the obvious chitta-vajra ]
Here the “vajrification” process involves vajrapANi who is mentioned as becoming brahmA through the vajra body, maheshvara through the vajra speech and viShNu of great opulence through the vajra mind [Note a similar vajrification we described earlier on these pages in the chANDamahAroShaNa tantra of the yoginI group].

It was within this matrix that a minor deity of the crematorium,heruka, rose to be the center of the yoginI tantra-s. His beginnings are suggested by the Astika kAlikA purANa (63.135-137.5):
shmashAnaM herukAkhyaM cha raktavarNaM bhaya~NkaraM | asi-charma-dharaM raudraM bhu~njAnaM manujAmiSham || tisR^ibhir muNDa-mAlAbhir galad-raktAbhi rAjitam| agni-nirdagdha-vigalad-danta-preto-paristhitam || pUjayech-chintanenaiva shastra-vAhana-bhUShaNaM |
Here, in the kAlika purANa, heruka is described as a deity in the shmashAna who is of blood-red complexion, frightful and fierce, holding a sword and shield and eating human flesh. He is mentioned as being decked with 3 garlands of severed heads with dripping gore. He is mentally worshiped in the crematorium upon a burning corpse. The kAlikA purANa 67.69 states that heruka was also worshiped in a li~Nga in a shmashAna at kAmAkhya. I was informed by the vaiShNava that in the original sarva-buddha-samAyoga-DAkinI-jAla-shambara, which is a precursor of the yoginI-tantra category, heruka is described as a similar shmashAna deity who fights against mAra-s and such demons. In the core yoga tantra, the sarva-tathAgata-tattva-saMgraha, we note that an elaborate myth is created to describe the subjugation of rudra by using anti-maheshvara mantrAstra-s like “OM sumbha nisumbha hUM” or “OM nisumbha vajra hUM” (clearly the bauddha-s are adopting Astika asura-s as elements of their mantra-s; we have described some of this before). This myth was combined with heruka to create a new story in which heruka specifically emerges as an emanation of vajradhara as an imitation or reflection of shiva, while being his nemesis. Though akShobhya is admitted as the “head tathAgata” of the yoginI tantra-s in continuation with the yogottara tantra-s, it was deities in this heruka form and their wives, the yoginI-s, who were to emerge as the central focus of this system. The heruka form in the foundational myth of these tantra-s is depicted as fighting shiva who is at the head of a retinue of 62 beings: 24 bhairava; 24 yoginI-s, wives of the bhairava-s; 4 multi-colored umA-s; the 8 mAtR^ikA-s; umA-devI; shiva. The 24 bhairava-s are depicted as being in the 24 great shiva-sthala-s, which are subsequently conquered by the heruka and his forces for the bauddha-mata. The 24 sthala-s are:
4 pITha-s: 1) oDDiyAna; 2) jAlandhara; 3) pullIyamalaya (here a Tamil word is used: most likely the rudra temple in chidambaram) 4) arbuda-parvata (the temple on mount Abu in Rajasthan)
4 upa-pITha-s: 5) kapAlishvara on the godAvarI; 6) rAmeshvara; 7) devIkoTa (most likely the city in Bengal ruined by the Moslems); 8) mAlava
2 kShetra-s: 9)kAmAkhya; 10) oDra; 2 upakShetra-s: 11) trishAkuni;12) ayodhyA (koshala)
2 Chandoha-s: 13) kali~Nga; 14) lampAka; 2 upach-Chandoha-s: 15) kA~nchipuri; 16) kailAsa (himAlayA)
2 melApaka-s 17) pretapuri (Tibetan sources state that this is Tibet); 18) gR^ihadevatA;
2 upa-melApaka-s: 19) saurAShTra; 20) suvarNadvIpa (generally taken as Indonesia)
2 shmashAna-s: 21) nAgara; 22) sindhu; 2-upashmashAna-s: 23) maru; 24) kulatA
In each of these spots there are supposed to be svayambhu-li~Nga-s in which the bhairava-s are venerated. To take them out, vajradhara emanated 62 beings headed by heruka and his consorts, including mahAsukhadevI-s to counter the umA-s and samayadevI-s to counter the mAtR^ikA-s. They started behaving like maheshvara and his gaNa-s, wearing tiger-skins, osseous ornaments, imbibing blood and holding gaNa-chakra-s in crematoria. Then they absorbed the consciousness of rudra and his gaNa-s, so that rudra would become the tathAgata of ash in the future, and sat on the preta-s of their counterparts and removed the duality between them. The 24 bhairava-s are usually stationed in 3 circles of 8 each around the central deity of the heruka maNDala-s. Likewise, they may also be surrounded by 8 DAkinI-s corresponding to the 8 mAtR^ikA-s. Thus, from relatively transparent myth preserved by the Tibetan Lamas we can see that the bauddha-s appropriated bhairavAchAra whole scale via the medium of the heruka deities of the yoga tantra-s.

The heruka-s and their corresponding yoginI-s of the yoginI tantra-s assumed several distinct forms which resulted in the proliferation of several distinct forms of these tantra-s:
chakrasamvara with vajravArAhI – chakrasamvara-tantraM
hevajra with nairAtmyA – hevajra tantraM
chaNDamahAroShaNa with vajrI – chaNDamahAroShaNa tantraM
buddhakapAla with chitrasenA – buddhakapAla tantraM
kAlachakra with vishvamAtR^I – kAlachakra tantraM
mahAmAyAhva with buddhaDAkinI – seen in sAdhana-mAlA

Additionally, the vibhava of viShNu, hayagrIva, who was already incorporated into the bauddha maNDala-s in charyA layer, came of his own as a heruka figure: hayagrIva with his yoginI who is either mArIchI or vajravArAhI. However, the root yoginI tantra of hayagrIva appears to have been lost (though there are clear allusions to it in Tibetan sources) and his sAdhana-s appear in the sAdhana mAla.

The eight yoginI-s who in the heruka myth are supposed to counteract the 8 mAt^ikA-s of rudra’s assembly and surround the central heruka figure also might differ from maNDala to maNDala. This arrangement also might not be something new to the yoginI tantra-s. In an earlier period they (as saptamAtR^ikA-s) were incorporated into a maNDala from an obscure kriyA tantra, the vidyottama-tantra. Here the tathAgata, calls the Astika goddesses rAkShasI-s and asks them to be a part of his maNDala, surrounding the bodhisattva vajrapANi. They are to be worshipped on the day before a full-moon with mada, mAMsa and rakta by a bauddha mantra-vAdin in order to attain extraordinary siddhi-s. However, in the yoginI tantra layer they are no longer the sapta-matR^ikA-s called rAkShasI-s by the buddha but accommodated for the siddhi-giving rituals. Instead, they come of their own as major goddess, just as the aShTa-yoginI-s and their derivatives of the kaula system among the Astika-s. Thus, we encounter octagonal assemblages such as:
Clockwise from 6 o’clock position (south) surrounding hevajra: chaurI, chaNDAlI, vetAlI, DombinI, ghasmarI, pukkasI, gaurI and shabarI.
Clockwise from 6 o’clock position (south) surrounding buddhakapAla: kAminI, AkAshavAsinI, pAtAlavAsinI, pitAmbarA, saubhadrA, sauNDinI, chitrasenA and chaturbhujA.
As the yoginI-tantra-s developed we find that the yoginI-s (i.e. the female consort of the central heruka and their female retinues) assume prominence and take a life of their own as the sole deities of their maNDala-s. Thus, these maNDala-s become ekavIrA or with the goddess alone at the center. This evolution may mainly be traced through the “explanatory” tantra-s that sprung out of the chakrasaMvara substratum and include the following main tantra-s:
abhidhAnottara; vajraDAka; saMvarodaya; DAkArNava; yoginI-saMchAra; chatur-yoginI-saMpuTa; herukAbhyudaya.
Of these tantra-s the major move towards the ekavIrA maNDala-s are seen in yoginI-saMchara and chatur-yoginI-saMpuTa and feature the mighty goddess vajravArAhI. In addition, tArA, a female deity of the charyA tantra layer (in all likelihood she had a charyA tantra of her own but I am not aware of one surviving in Sanskrit), started rising tremendously in parallel with the yoginI tantra developments and broke free as an ekavIrA deity of her own. She moved away from her charyA beginning and via lateral interactions with her Astika form and the yoginI-tantra-s and kaula tantra-s(Astika) started acquiring a distinct system of her own. Along with her, her attendant ekajaTA also rose to prominence.

The Astika interactions in the yoginI-tantra layer are pretty clear and we shall only very briefly touch on them here. The development within the shaiva system, where the female deity acquires prominence in the kubjikA, trika, kAlI, and tripurA systems, was mirrored in the bauddha system with the rise of vajra-vArAhI. The yoginI tantra’s foundations seem to be clearly direct lateral transfers of the shaiva bhairava tantra-s and this interaction continued through the kaula developments. The yoginI tantra-s also appear to have been influenced by pA~ncharAtra, especially the north-eastern flavors of it: The incorporation of hayagrIva as heruka is one element of this. It is especially correlates with his form as the devatA of the hayagrIvAstra mantra-s, which might be amongst most powerful of the Astika astra mantra-s. The hevajra tantra also appears to have incorporated the nR^isiMha of the 8-headed type into its 8-headed hevajra vidyA. As we alluded to earlier, saura elements appear to have been incorporated too. The kAlachakra tantra is the clearest example of this, where the initial sections on calendars seem to come from the Astika saura version. As we speculated before chaNDamahAroShaNa might have also shown saura syncretism.

Towards the end of the yoginI-tantra period a new geopolitical scenario was facing the dharma – the catastrophic whirlwind of the Meccan demons. The marUnmatta-s and their turuShka followers had already smashed many of the centers of the nAstika-mata and it was much worse than iconoclasm of their sthaviravAdin cousins from shrI-lankA and sindhu who were also demolishing the temples of hevajra in Bodhgaya. Their only hope was reuniting with the parent. I am not sure if this was the cause (I suspect it was so), but we anyhow see certain late syncretic bauddha-Astika systems. From the viewpoint of the yoginI-tantra-s the most important of these was the system of ChinnamastA, wherein both the Astika and nAstika forms are well-mixed through reciprocal lateral influences. A similar phenomenon also began within the independent tArA system as mahAchina-krama-tArA was incorporated in the Astika system. The last of the core yoginI tantra-s was the kAlachakra tantra which is written in good saMskR^ita and is a very comprehensive system. It appears to represent the pinnacle of the bauddha yoginI system, and was probably composed by a well-educated brAhmaNa. After this period we mainly see compilation of mantra manuals, which were usually termed the sAdhana mAlA-s. They contain series of sAdhana-s irrespective of the layer of the tantra they belong to, but mainly the yoga, yogottara and yoginI layers. By the time of the kAlachakra we note that the bauddha-s have realized the evils of the marUnmatta-s and pretAchArin-s and are already hoping for the coming of kalkin, who along with the Astika deities will destroy these plagues of the world.

~ by mAnasa-taraMgiNI on February 16, 2009.

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