THE MAHĀMĀYĀ TANTRA
The Mahāmāyā Tantra
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The Mahāmāyā Tantra
The First Instruction
The Second Instruction
The Third Instruction
The Mahāmāyātantra, named after its principal deity Mahāmāyā, is a tantra of the Yoginī class in which Mahāmāyā presides over a ma ṇḍala populated primarily by yoginīs and ḍākinīs, those semidivine female figures known throughout South Asian tantric traditions for the power they derive from being propitiated with blood, flesh, and sex. The practitioner engages the antinomian power of these beings through a threefold system of yoga involving the visualization of the maṇḍala deities, the recitation of their mantras, and the direct experience of absolute reality. As well as practices involving the manipulation of the body’s subtle energies, the Mahāmāyātantra incorporates the transgressive practices that are the hallmark of the earlier tantric systems such as the Guhyasamājatantra, specifically the ingestion of sexual fluids and other polluting substances. The tantra promises the grace of Mahāmāyā in the form of mundane and transcendent spiritual attainments to those who approach it with diligence and devotion
This text was translated by the Dharmachakra Translation Committee.
The translation was prepared by Ryan Damron with the assistance of Catherine Dalton, and was edited by Andreas Doctor.
The Mahāmāyātantra, named after its principal deity Mahāmāyā, belongs to the class of Yoginī tantras. According to the post-tenth-century classification scheme of the Tibetan New Schools (gsar ma), the Mahāmāyātantra is categorized as a Mother tantra (ma rgyud) among Highest Yoga tantras (bla na med pa’i rnal ’byor gyi rgyud, yoganiruttaratantra). It earns this classification due both to the importance placed on female divinities in the tantra’s ma ala and to its inclusion ṇḍ of practices focused on the manipulation of the body’s subtle energies. In this tantra, Mahāmāyā presides over a maṇḍala populated primarily by yoginīs and ḍākinīs, those semi-divine female figures known throughout South Asian tantric traditions for the power they derive from being propitiated with blood, flesh, and sex. The practitioner engages the antinomian power of these beings through a threefold system
of yoga involving the visualization of the maṇḍala deities, the recitation of their mantras, and the direct experience of absolute reality. The Mahāmāyātantra also incorporates the transgressive practices that are the hallmark of earlier tantric systems such as the Guhyasamājatantra,1 specifically the ingestion of sexual fluids and other polluting substances. The tantra promises the grace of Mahāmāyā in the form of mundane and transcendent spiritual attainments (siddhi) to those who approach it with diligence, courage, and devotion.
Though it is difficult to pinpoint precisely when the Mahāmāyātantra first began to circulate within Buddhist tantric communities, the work rose to prominence toward the end of the first millennium CE as part of an efflorescence of new tantric material associated with yoginīs, ḍākinīs, and other female divinities. The designation “Yoginī tantra” was conferred on these texts precisely because of their incorporation of a more feminized vision of divinity and power. Yoginī tantras vary in style and content, ranging from somewhat disordered and obscure works like the Cakrasaṃvaratantra to refined and doctrinally coherent texts such as the Kālacakratantra. With its distinct narrative style, focus on
the mundane spiritual attainments, and near total absence of clearly articulated Buddhist doctrine, the Mahāmāyātantra demonstrates a thematic and rhetorical similarity to theCakrasaṃvaratantra, one of the earliest Yoginī tantras.2 Additionally, considering instances of intertextuality with the earlier Guhyasamājatantra,3 and a seeming lack of awareness of more doctrinally and structurally developed Yoginī tantras such as the Hevajratantra and Kālacakratantra, it is reasonable to assume that theMahāmāyātantra was among the earlier of the Yoginī tantras, appearing in Buddhist tantric circles in the late ninth or early tenth centuries. It had certainly gained enough popularity by the eleventh century to draw the attention of the prominent monastic scholars of the period.
THE MAHĀMĀYĀ TANTRA
In India the Mahāmāyātantra probably circulated within both the major monastic institutions and the communities surrounding charismatic tantric masters. Foremost among the monastic scholars who commented on the text was Ratnākaraśānti (fl. 11th century),4 whose Guṇavatīṭīkā (A Commentary Endowed with Qualities) grounds the often enigmatic verses of the Mahāmāyātantra in mainstream Buddhist philosophy, especially that of Yogācāra. Kṛṣṇavajra’s (fl. 11th century) commentary,5 the Mahāmāyātantrasya Vṛtti Smṛti (Recollection: A Commentary on
the Mahāmāyā Tantra), frequently cites the oral tradition, pointing to the body of unwritten instructions that present the practical techniques almost completely absent in the Mahāmāyātantra itself. Contributions to theMahāmāyātantra corpus came from outside the walls of the monastery as well.Kukkuripa and Kṛṣṇācārya, both of whom would eventually be counted among the eightyfour mahāsiddhas, composed practice liturgies (sādhana) for the tantra, while the siddhasNāropa and Ka ha are ṇ said to have taught the tantra to Marpa, thus facilitating its transmission to Tibet.6 The Mahāmāyātantra arrived in Tibet in the early eleventh century as part of the second wave of Buddhist teachings to reach the Land of Snows. It appears to have entered Tibet via two distinct lines of transmission, through Marpa Chökyi Lodrö (mar pa chos kyi blo gros, 1012–1097) and Gö
Lhetsé (’gos lhas btsas, fl. 11th century). The lineage ofGö Lhetsé, a prolific translator and important teacher of the Guhyasamājatantra,7appears to have died out, though the translation of the Mahāmāyātantra and the majority of its associated texts preserved in the Kangyur and Tengyur are his. The converse is true of Marpa; if he ever produced a translation of the Mahāmāyātantra, it has been lost, and yet it is his lineage, as passed through his disciple Ngoktön Chöku Dorjé (rngog ston chos sku rdo rje, 1036–1102), that continues to be transmitted to this day. The Mahāmāyātantra also received a great deal of attention from the Tibetan polymath Tāranātha (1575–1634), who composed two commentaries and a practice manual for it.8
The Mahāmāyātantra describes, in verses both terse and enigmatic, the practices and attainments associated with the deity Mahāmāyā and her retinue of yoginīs. Yoginīs, and their close counterparts the ḍākinīs, are renowned for their ability to grant mastery of temporal and transcendent spiritual attainments to devoted and courageous practitioners who are willing to brave an encounter with these often ferocious beings. In this tantra Mahāmāyā is invoked as the queen of ḍākinīs, the queen of the
yoginīs, and the supreme secret of these secret goddesses, making her the paramount source of spiritual attainment. The tantra promises the accomplishment of such powers through the visualization of its deities and their maṇḍalas, the manipulation of the body’s subtle energies and the cultivation of the power of transgression through the ingestion of impure substances. And yet these practices are only hinted at within the tantra itself; the specifics are reserved for initiates and are to be spoken only by a lineage holder. Thus, as is the case with most tantras, this text is meant to be practiced only after receiving initiation and instruction from a qualified master.
The Mahāmāyātantra’s three chapters and eighty-one verses depart from the traditional narrative structure of Buddhist scripture. Buddhist tantras typically follow the sūtra tradition by beginning with a formulaic introduction meant to establish the time, place, audience, and above all the authority of a given scripture. This formula, which begins “Thus I have heard...” (evaṃ mayā śrutaṃ), is absent in the Mahāmāyātantra, which begins instead with a perfunctory “Now...” (ataḥ).9 This deviation is in part explained by the fact that this is not a discourse of the Buddha, but rather a dialogue between two deities associated with the tantra. However, the lack of a formal introduction leaves it unclear precisely who these deities are. The interlocutor appears to be none other than Mahāmāyāherself; verse 1.25
invokes her by name as the recipient of the tantra’s instruction. The speaker, however, is never explicitly identified within the text. Kṛṣṇavajra ventures a guess, suggesting Vajraḍākinī as the source of the teaching.10 Ratnākaraśānti takes a different approach and, instead of concerning himself with identifying figures not explicitly named in the text, considers the Mahāmāyātantra to be derived from a much larger mythical compendium of tantras (which he refrains from identifying).11 It is in that collection, he declares, that one may find the traditional introduction that establishes the important details of the Mahāmāyātantra’s setting.
From this abrupt beginning, the first chapter continues with several verses invokingMahāmāyā’s qualities and describing the powers acquired through her successful propitiation. Tantras centered upon yoginīs and ākinīs, whether Buddhist or non-Buddhist, typically emphasize ḍ the attainment of mundane powers over the transcendent; in this theMahāmāyātantra is no different. The yogī who masters the practices of Mahāmāyā will, the text promises, be able to magically influence and attack others, acquire whatever he desires, fly through the sky, travel through other realms, become invisible, possess the bodies of others, and become immortal. Compared to this comprehensive and repetitive list of mundane attainments, the tantra makes only passing reference to the more altruistic and transcendent attainments. Only once does the text mention that its attainments can be used to benefit others (v 1.28),
and only once does it explicitly announce that its practice can result in buddhahood (v. 3.25). Following this exhaustive account of the attainments, the first chapter closes with a description of a short sequence of visualization. The reader may be puzzled at this point to find that Mahāmāyā, who had, up to this point, been invoked using explicitly feminine epithets, is suddenly referred to using undeniably masculine terms. Though some suggest this is the tantra of a male deity with a feminine name,12 Mahāmāyā is a female deity, as the verses of invocation make clear—she is the great Queen Mahāmāyā, the mother of theguhyakas, and the queen of yoginīs. She is consistently addressed using a specifically feminine epithet, vidyā, that simultaneously invokes her status as the embodiment ofknowledge and as the female deity presiding over a maṇḍala. And yet here, and in the third chapter where her iconography is fully described, she becomes the male Heruka, the Virile One (vīra) embracing the consort Buddha Ḍākinī.
This gender ambiguity is clarified when we consider that the tantra describes Mahāmāyāas a feminized form of absolute reality. She is said to pervade everything in the three worlds, to be the source of all the gods, and to create, sustain, and destroy the universe. Most importantly, she is exactly what her name suggests, the “great illusion” that constitutes apparent reality. When she takes embodiment, she can do so in any form necessary, which in the context of this tantra is Heruka, the male deity most frequently found at the center of tantric maṇḍalas. Ratnākaraśānti makes explicit the ontological primacy of the feminineMahāmāyā; in his commentary he equates her with Vajradhara, the embodiment of absolute reality, who is typically male, and identifies her as “she who has the form of Heruka.”13
The second chapter is the tantra’s shortest and most challenging. Its verses only hint at the techniques and visualizations to which they refer. The communities in which theMahāmāyātantra circulated would have guarded their teachings and techniques closely, making complete explanations accessible only to an intimate circle of initiates. The tantra’s verses—especially those that appear to refer to specific techniques—are not meant to be edifying, only allusive. It is the role of the tantric master to unpack each verse and convey its practical content to those prepared to receive it. Thus in this chapter we are offered only the barest of introductions to what was likely a complex sequence of techniques.
The fifth verse of the second chapter introduces the primary structure of the tantra’s practices, one the later Tibetan commentators would identify as a framework for thedevelopment stage (utpattikrama) and completion stage (niṣpannakrama) practices unique to the Mahāmāyātantra.14 Verse 2.5 states: The threefold practice is said to be essentially mantra, appearance, and reality. Through three aspects of wisdom he will not be stained by the faults of existence. Kṛṣṇavajra provides the necessary elaboration:
Mantra refers to those mantras such as oṃ and so forth that are fixed in the six places, the eyes and the rest. Appearance refers to the [[[deity’s]]] manner of appearance as explained below—his color, form, posture and faces. Reality refers to the fundamental nature which is completely free from all conceptual fabrication.15
The remainder of the chapter presents a series of practical techniques for attaining mastery over the phenomenal world and generating bodily energies and fluids for use in ritual practice. Each verse from 2.7 to 2.14 alludes to a specific visualization centered on a single mantric syllable and its associated deity, the practice of which leads to the stated outcome. Yet it is impossible to determine, based on the verses alone, what practices are being described. It is left to the commentators and the oral tradition to fill in the detail. Consider verse 2.7:
This is explained as follows: once the vulva of Buddha ākinī and so Ḍ forth is rendered red like saffron, imagine the syllable oṃ red like saffron in the vessel of the Virile Oneand fix the Virile One in the subtle sphere. Once the Virile One has been made red by the light of the syllable oṃ, two rays of red light emerge from the Virile One. Imagine a noose on the tip of the first and a hook on the second. Binding the neck of the object to be accomplished with the noose and piercing its heart with the hook, imagine that it is quickly summoned.16
It thus becomes apparent that the words of the tantra itself provide merely an outline, a shorthand version for tantric practitioners already well versed in its practices. Likewise, each of the subsequent verses of this chapter points to complex meditation techniques, a type of knowledge that is, as verse 2.17 indicates, “secret, obscure, and unwritten.”
The third and final chapter brings the tantra to a close with a description of the rites for preparing and consuming impure substances, followed by a complete presentation of the iconography of Mahāmāyā and her retinue. The cultivation of the power of transgression through deliberate consumption of impure, polluting substances is an important aspect of Buddhist tantra. Notions of purity and pollution have been formative elements of South Asian identity since Vedic times. Such an identity is destabilized through contact with and ingestion of impure substances and bodily fluids. Indian Buddhist tantras, especially those of the later Yoga tantra class such as
the Guhyasamājatantra,17 positioned the consumption of sexual fluids at the climax of the ritual process so as to harness the force of the transgressive act into a powerful soteriological moment. The same holds true for the ingestion of illicit meats: their ritual consumption negated a social identity formed through the observation of dietary and behavioral proscriptions. Through the eating of taboo substances, practitioners’ bonds with mundane society are fully severed and their acceptance into the community of spiritual adepts is confirmed.
Yoginī tantras, including the Mahāmāyātantra, carried on the transgressive practices that developed in tantras such as the Guhyasamājatantra and the Guhyagarbhatantra. In the Mahāmāyātantra, the consumption of sexual fluids is presented at the end of the second chapter and the ingestion of illicit meats in the early verses of the third. The final two verses of the second chapter describe, in a typically occluded fashion, the ingestion of sexual fluids that marks the culmination of the meditation sequence. The verses instruct the yogī to keep his mind free of concepts and take the “wish-granting jewel”
between his thumb and ring finger and place it in his mouth. Kṛṣṇavajra explains that this refers to the ingestion of “relative bodhicitta” (kun rdzob kyi byang chub sems, i.e., semen) after its prolonged retention in the tip of the penis.18 In the parlance of the later tradition, this marks the completion stage section of the practice. In the words of the tantra itself, the ingestion of sexual fluids triggers “everlasting spiritual attainment.”
Moving into the third chapter, the tantra introduces a sequence of verses outlining the rites associated with the ingestion of sacramental substances (samayadravya). The yogī is instructed to gather the five illicit meats (elephant, horse, cow, dog, and human), roll them individually into pellets, and store them for seven days. Next they are mixed together and stored in the cavity of a rotting jackal for an additional seven days. Finally they are taken out and consumed, resulting in an experience of “the great fruitions” (mahāphalāni, v. 3.6), which Ratnākaraśānti identifies as “the state of wisdom.”19 Though
the five illicit meats are common enough in tantric literature, the especially polluting addition of a jackal corpse appears to be a unique contribution of the Mahāmāyātantra. We can understand this distinctly unpalatable process as intended to collapse the binaries of pure and impure, precipitating a more complete rejection of dualistic concepts and, as verse 3.1 states, leading to “omniscience.” The final section of the tantra concerns the method of practice (sādhana) for the deity, including the details of the visualization of Mahāmāyā and her maṇḍala. The stages by which a tantra is to be
practiced are frequently concealed within the text—the order will be scrambled and the details elided.20 The act of organizing these elements is left to tantric teachers and lineage masters, who composed independent ancillary texts to codify the proper sequence of practice. These texts incorporated practices drawn from the oral tradition and embedded the basic outline provided by the tantra within an established sādhana framework that normally included common Buddhist elements
such as refuge in the Three Jewels, the generation of the aspiration for awakening, the offering of confession, and so forth. Thus while the core material for a sādhana is found within the tantra itself, each sādhana is unique, reflecting styles and interpretations that are as diverse as their authors. Sādhanas composed on the Mahāmāyātantra by the Indian authors Ratnākaraśānti,Kukkuripa, Ratnavajra, and Kumé Dorjé (sku med rdo rje), as well as a number composed by Tibetan authors, have been preserved in Sanskrit and Tibetan.
Within the Mahāmāyātantra, although verse 3.7 announces the commencement of the sādhana, the majority of practices have already been introduced in the preceding two chapters. But it is only here, at the end of the tantra, that we are finally given the complete iconographic description required for the self-visualization of the deity that precedes all other practices.21 The visualization begins by imagining a red lotus flower with four petals, in the middle of which sits a single subtle sphere. From this sphere, four additional subtle spheres emerge and come to rest on each of the four petals. These four spheres
then transform into four yoginīs, each distinct in color and wielding the specific implements described in the tantra. They sing a song of invocation in the language of the yoginīs22 to the central subtle sphere, summoning Mahāmāyā and consort from their essential state, first in the form of mantra syllables, then in full iconographic detail. Mahāmāyā takes the dark blue form of Heruka embracing the red Buddha Ḍākinī. (S)he has four faces—blue in the east, yellow in the south, red in the west, and blue-green in the north. (S)he has four hands, each holding a different implement: a skull cup, a khaṭvāṅga, a bow, and an arrow.
Once this five-deity maṇḍala has been fully imagined, the practitioner is prepared to apply any of the diverse practices that have been described throughout the work: the visualization of mantra syllables and additional maṇḍala deities, the manipulation of subtle energies, or the consumption of sexual fluids and illicit meats. Through identification withMahāmāyā and engagement in these potent practices, the diligent practitioner will be rewarded with mundane powers, reach “highest attainment of suchness” (v. 3.25), and, as we are told in the tantra’s final verse, be forever protected by Mahāmāyā, “the queen of the yoginīs.”
About the Translation
This translation is based upon a comparative edition, made by the translator, of the Tibetan recensions of the Mahāmāyātantra drawn from the Degé (sde dge), Lhasa, Nartang (snar thang), Peking, and Tog Palace (stog pho brang) editions of the Tibetan Kangyur. Though the tantra itself no longer exists in Sanskrit, Ratnākaraśānti’s important commentary, the Guṇavatīṭīkā, is preserved in two Sanskrit manuscripts held in Nepal’s Royal Archive, which have been edited by the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies. Because the Guṇavatīṭīkā attests to the majority of the Sanskrit terms, it allows access to much of the Mahāmāyātantra in its original language. We have therefore given careful consideration to both the Sanskrit edition of this commentary and the manuscripts upon which it is based. Where the Sanskrit term is available, we have privileged the semantic range of the Sanskrit over that of the Tibetan, allowing us to recapture something of the flavor of the original Sanskrit. The commentaries of Ratnākaraśānti and Kṛṣṇavajra were consulted throughout the translation process and greatly
influenced our reading of the root text. The Mahāmāyātantra is a challenging text. It is thematically inconsistent and disjunctive in places, and at times the referent of a given verse is unclear. Though this is certainly due in part to attempts by its authors to conceal the meaning or proper sequence of the tantra, it is clear that a grammatically
flawed work is hiding behind the Tibetan translation. This is common among Buddhist tantras, as their authors did not always possess a solid command of the Sanskrit language. Where possible we have clarified the text to make it more readable, but there remain passages that are enigmatic and difficult to follow.
In the translation, numbers within square brackets preceded by F. indicate the folio numbers of the Degé edition of the Tibetan; numbers without letters indicate the page numbers of the dpe bsdur ma (comparative) edition of the Tibetan (see bibliography).
The First Instruction
Homage to the Glorious Vajraḍākinī!
1.13.He beguiles and paralyzes, slays, dissuades, and more. He tames, magnetizes, and so forth; he flies through the sky.
He enters the citadel of another, is invisible, and so on.
1.33.Vidyā! In the three worlds there is nothing equal to my knowledge.37 This transmission of all tantras has been explained to you, Magnificent One! This completes the first instruction on the signs of spiritual attainment of The Great Vidyā, Queen of the Yoginīs.
The Second Instruction
Therefore this wisdom is secret, obscure, and unwritten.
The Third Instruction
3.3.Mixed with the great one and also the five wisdom nectars, From the fourteenth to the eighth they are combined and mingled together.49
3.4.Left inside a jackal for seven days, remove them.  Roll the five into pellets the size of mustard seeds.
3.5.Indeed this tantra teaches that from the eighth to the fourteenth Cultivate them individually for seven days, mix them, and place them in a jackal.50
3.8.In the east he shines like a blue lotus, to the south he is yellow, To the west whitish red, and in the north he glows emerald.51 Shrouded in a garland of flames, he is beautiful with three eyes, four faces, and four arms.
3.9.Imagine that the goddess in the east has three eyes and holds a khaṭvāṅga and bell in her left hands and a vajra and skull cup in her right hands. The goddess in the south wields a trident, a jewel, a banner, and a jackal. The goddess in the west holds a bow, an arrow, a multi-colored lotus, and a skull cup. [F.170.a] The goddess in the north wields a sword, a noose, a hand drum, and a skull cup.
3.13.Plunder from the buddhas and enjoy sublime celestial girls.54 With vajra eyes one will see, like an āmalaka fruit in the palm of one’s hand. Buddhas equal to grains of sand in the Ganga residing in their vajra realms,55
3.17.In perfect union with the yoginī take possession of the first syllable. If desiring accomplishment through the vajra holder, a yogī consumes the manifest mantra seven times . 3.18.The last of the three syllables sits clearly at the end of the eight. Endowed with the ū and bindu it remains as the supreme syllable.
3.24.Adorned with all perfect ornaments and wreathed with flowers and perfume, So the spiritual attainment that bestows the sublime three bodies is certainly attained, Causing its perfect illumination within a hundred miles.
3.26.Now, in verse form:
3.27.Whoever keeps this tantra at home, keeps it with him always, and chants and meditates upon it will no longer experience illness, aging, obstacles, or death. He will be forever protected from obstacles by the queens among yoginīs.
This completes the third instruction on the method of practice and ancillary activities, the supreme secret of secrets, that are the intent of the great vajraḍākinīs. [F.171.a] This completes the Mahāmāyā Tantra. It was translated and edited by the Indian paṇḍita Jinavara and the great Tibetan translator Gö  Lhetsé.
For abbreviations (G, S, SM), see bibliography.
The Mahāmāyātantra clearly postdates the Guhyasamājatantra because of the instances of intertextuality indicated below in notes 3 and 35–38. The Guhyasamājatantra, and similar works like the Guhyagarbhatantra, demonstrate significant iconographic and ritual innovations over those works typically identified as Yoga tantras, such as the Sarvatathāgatatattvasaṃgraha. Beginning in approximately the eighth century CE, the pacific and regal Vairocana was replaced at the center of tantric maṇḍalas by deities associated with the vajra family, frequently in the wrathful form of Akṣobhya known as Heruka. This shift is related to the introduction of transgressive practices and a wrathful, mortuary aesthetic into the established structure of the Yoga tantras, leading some Indian Buddhist commentators to begin to refer to mahāyoga, or “Great Yoga,” tantras. In the later Tibetan doxographical schemes of the New Schools these tantras would be identified as Father tantras (pha rgyud), joining the Yoginī tantras in the class of Highest Yoga tantra (yoganiruttaratantra). The Yoginī tantras would build upon the framework of these tantras as they introduced their own unique iconographies and practices.
On the dating of the Cakrasaṃvaratantra, see Gray 2007, pp. 11–14 and Sanderson 2009, pp. 158–69. Verses 3.12–14 of the Mahāmāyātantra contain a number of close correspondences with verses 12.52, 53, and 55 of the Guhyasamājatantra.
Regarding Ratnākaraśānti’s dating, see Isaacson 2001, p. 458, n. 4.
For the dating of Kṛṣṇavajra, see Isaacson 2001, p. 457, n. 2.
See The Lamp of Suchness: A Detailed Explanation of the Glorious King of Tantras, the Mahāmāyātantra (dpal rgyud kyi rgyal po sgyu ’phrul chen mo ma ha ma ya’i rgya cher bshad pa de kho na nyid kyi sgron ma); The Excellent Path of the Victorious Ones: The Instruction Manual for Mahāmāyā (sgyu ’phrul chen mo’i khrid yig rgyal ba’i lam bzang zhes bya ba); andThe Jeweled Sprout: A Practice Manual for the Maṇḍala of the Glorious Mahāmāyā (dpal ma ha ma ya’i dkyil ’khor gyi sgrub thabs rin chen myu gu).
G, pp. 2–4. English 2002, p. 47.
G, p. 6: saiṣeti herukarupā mahāmāyā. Elsewhere [G, p. 20] Ratnākaraśānti identifies Mahāmāyā as the fundamental identity of both the male Heruka and his consort, Buddha Ḍākinī. He writes, “The lord of the maṇḍala is the glorious Heruka, who is Mahāmāyā; the vidyā Buddha Ḍākinī is alsoMahāmāyā because they both possess a singular intrinsic nature (maṇḍalādhipatiḥ śrīheruko mahāmāyā, tadvidyā api buddhaḍākinī mahāmāyā tayoḥ ekasvabhāvatvāt).”
See particularly Jamgön Kongtrul (2008, pp. 69–70 and pp. 183–86), who writes: “The Mahāmāyāand other tantras set forth the threefold [formulation consisting of] appearance, mantra and reality [[[yogas]]]. These three apply to both path and result; and within the path itself, to both the creation phase and completion phase.” (We have emended “shape” to “appearance” to conform with the terminology used in this translation.) Though the concepts of the development and completions stages were present in the Indian Buddhist tantric tradition, they never reached the degree of uniformity there that they did in the Tibetan tradition. The terms appear nowhere in the commentarial literature of the Mahāmāyātantra.
S, p. 109b.3–4: sngags zhes bya ba ni mig la sogs pa’i gnas drug tu bkod pa’i oṃ la sogs pa’i sngags so / dbyibs zhes bya ba ni og gnas ’byung ba’i tshul dang / mdog dang dbyibs dang phyag dang zhal gyi bdag nyid can no / chos zhes bya ba ni kun brtags pa thams cad las rnam par grol ba’i rang bzhin nyid do.
G, p. 28: etaduktaṃ bhavati buddhaḍākinyādiyogaṃ kuṅkumāruṇaṃ kṛtvā vīrabhājane kuṅkumāruṇaṃ praṇavaṃ vicintya tadbindau vīraṃ vinasya praṇavaraśmibhirvīramaruṇīkṛtya vīrādaruṇaraśmirekhādvayaṃ niḥsārya ekasyā agre pāśaṃ dvitīyasyā aṅkuśaṃ vicintayet / sādhyaṃ pāśena kaṇḍe baddhvā aṅkuśena hṛdi viddhvā kśipramākṛṣymāṇaṃ vicintayet.
S, f. 213a. G, p. 37: mahāphalāni tāni jñātvetyarthaḥ.
The fact that the language of the yoginīs’ song (v. 3.21) is different from that of the root verses is entirely lost in the Tibetan translation. Ratnākaraśānti’s sādhana preserves the original, which is composed in a form of Prākrit distinct from the rest of the Sanskrit verses.
Who destroys all that exits: this translates the Sanskrit bhūtasaṃhārakāriṇī (Tib: ‘byung ba yang dag sdud mdzad ma). We have pushed translation towards the more extreme end of the term’s semantic range in a nod to Ratnākaraśānti’s gloss of the term with (Skt: pralayakartī), “she who causes annihilation.” [G, p. 5] This refers to the dissolution of the universe that comes at the end of the cosmogonic stages of emanation, absorption and dissolution of the universe that standard in Brahmanical cosmology.
Are to be praised: here we have followed the Sanskrit attested by Ratnākaraśānti which is quite different than the Tibetan translation: the methods (Skt: upāyāḥ) of those who are endowed with the five wisdoms (Skt: pañcajñānināṃ) are to be praised (Skt: pragīyante). [G, p. 9-10] This is an interesting verse as it seems thematically disjuntive with the preceding and subsequent lines and may have been inserted here by a later redactor. Krṣṇavajra, who is otherwise attentive to every verse, does not acknowledge it at all. Ratnākaraśānti, on the other hand, uses this verse as the basis for an extensive discourse linking into Yogācāra philsophy.
The second line of this verse begins a new sequence of verses that indentify the accomplishments that will come to the yogī who successfully accomplishes the practices of the Mahāmāyā Tantra. It concludes in verse 1.15.
The Sanskrit term vidyā (Tib: rig pa) appears twice in this verse with different connotations. According to Ratnākaraśānti, the first instance is as the techinical term for the central female deity of the maṇḍala, Mahāmāyā, and has therefore been left untranslated. The second instance is in specific reference to the knowledge (Skt: prajñā) that arises from meditation and has here been translated as knowledge [G, p. 13].
This verse is complicated by a two substantial variants. Where the Tibetan translation reads “practice of supreme benefit” (mchog tu phan pa), Ratnākaraśānti reads “practice of supreme settling” (Skt: paramāhita / Tib: mchog tu bzhag pa) [G, p. 19]. The similarity of the Sanskrit terms for supreme benefit (parama hita) and for supreme settling (Skt: parama āhita) probably led to a scribal error resulting in different versions of the verse. Because the version found in the Tibetan translation is attested in Kṛṣṇavajra’s commentary, it was followed here, though Ratnākaraśānti’s reading seems clearer. Where the Tibetan translation reads sangs rgyas kun gyi rang bzhin ’bab(“become the nature of all
Buddhas”), Kṛṣṇavajra reads sangs rgyas rang bzhin thams cad ’gyur, (“everything becomes the nature of the Buddha”) [S, f. 206b] which is in agreement with the Sanskrit attested by Ratnākaraśānti and which is followed here. Ratnākaraśānti and Kṛṣṇavajra are unanimous in identifying the spiritual attainment of the greatcommitment with the perfection of the great pill. This relationship is not clear in the Tibetan translation.
Mahāmāyā: though the Tibetan verse reads rgyu ’phrul chen po here, Ratnākaraśānti attests tomahāmāyā [G, p.20]. This verse appears to be slightly different in the recension of the tantra used by Ratnākaraśānti. A tentative prose reconstruction would read: “To you (Skt: tvām), the Vidyā Mahāmāyā who is the means for accomplishing the three worlds (Skt: mahāmāyāṃ vidyāṃ trailokyasādhanīṃ) I will explain (tad ahaṃ vakṣyāmi) the Vīra, the most excellent among the great yogīs (Skt:mahāyoginām divyam) along with the garland of syllables (Skt: akṣarapaṅktibhiḥ).” [G, p. 21].
Tathāgatas, or “thus-gone ones” here: where the Tibetan translation reads de bzhin gshegs pa kun, Ratnākaraśānti attests to the Sasnkrit tāthāgātī, a feminine derivative adjective formed fromtathāgata [G, p. 22]. In his reading the term is in the singular. Thus in at least one recension of the text the line would read “the splendor of the thus-gone lady.” Kṛṣṇavajra reads a different line here. In the recension of the root text available to him, the final line of the text as translated in Tibetan is gar ni thugs rjes bsams bzhin mdzad (“He dances with compassion according to his whim”) [S, f. 208a].
There are a couple of noteworthy variants of this verse found in commentarial works. The version from the Degé edition translated here, which is supported in Kṛṣṇavajra’s commentary, reads “Vidyā! In the three worlds (Tib: ’jig rten gsum po na) there is nothing equal to my knowledge(Tib: nga yi rig dang mnyam pa med).” The recension of the tantra used by Ratnākaraśāntiappears to state that there is nothing (Skt: nāsti) like you (Skt: te sadṛśī) in the triple worlds (Skt:triṣu lokeṣu) [G, p. 21]. Taranātha attests to yet another variation. In his Lamp of Suchness [f. 2b] he cites the same line as “Vidyā! In the three worlds there is nothing like you apart from me (Tib:rig pa ’jig rten gsum po na / khyod dang mnyams pa nga las med).
Ratnākaraśānti reads “restriction” (Skt: yantraṇa) in place of “garland” (Skt: mālā) [G, p. 27]. In his commentary he connects both restriction and retention with the movements of the breath (yantraṇā dhāraṇā ca prāṇavāyoḥ). A variant of the first line of this verse is attested, in Sanskrit, in a sadhāna associated with the Mahāmāyātantra found in the Sādhanamālā (#221 in SM vol.2, 434–36): na japaṃ na vrataṃ tasya nopavāso vidhīyate. Kṛṣṇavajra confirms this variant in his commentary.
Wisdom syllable: according to Ratnākaraśānti, this term only appears in some recensions of the text [G, p. 27]. As he does not gloss it in his commentary it seems it did not appear in his recension of choice. Ratnākaraśānti attests to the syllable ā [G, p. 27], which has been used here instead of the syllablea as given in the Tibetan translation.
Kṛṣṇavajra reads kṣa in place of khe [S, f. 211a]; Ratnākaraśānti reads white in place of red [G, p. 30]. All Tibetan recensions give the syllable tsi in place of ci. Because tsi is not a letter in the Sanskrit alphabet it has been restored to ci following Ratnākaraśānti’s commentary [G, p. 30]. The Tibetan syntax differs significantly from the Sanskrit, which has been translated here. In the Sanskrit the subject, the yogīs, is in the plural, not the instrumental as in the Tibetan. The object, the posture (mudrā), is in the accusative
singular, not the genitive as in the Tibetan, which construes with the term “sporting lion” (siṃhavikrīḍitā). The Sanskrit attested by Ratnākaraśānticould read as follows: siṃhavikrīḍitāṃ mudrāṃ bandhayanti yoginaḥ [G, p. 32]. Movement of breath: this translates the Sanskrit term prāṇāyāma, which is rendered in Tibetan assrog dang rtsol ba. The Tibetan translation misunderstands the internal syntax of the compound, reading it as two distinct terms, “life force (Tib: srog) and exertion (Tib: rtsol ba).” The Sanskrit compound refers to the movement or manipulation (Skt: āyāma; lit. to extend or restrict) of the breath/vital energy (Skt: prāṇa).
Awakened ones: the Sanskrit word here is saṃbuddhāḥ, which conveys a slightly different sense than the Tibetan term used, sangs rgyas rnams. Whereas the latter could easily be translated as ‘buddhas,’ the former is best rendered as ‘awakened ones.’
Mothers of the spirits: here I have followed Ratnākaraśānti in reading the Sanskrit termgūḍhamātaraḥ [G, p.36], which appears as ’byung po mi rnams in Tibetan translation. In South Asian mythology, the gūḍhas are a class of beings that attend upon Kubera, the lord of wealth.
Kṛṣṇavajra identifies this line as corrupt [S, f. 213b]. He notes that it should read “from the eighth until the fourteenth,” which is the span of seven days mentioned in the next verse.
Ratnākaraśānti cites a different line of verse here, which collapses this line and the first line of the next verse: “On the night of the spirits (Skt: bhūtarau) these fruits of accomplishment (Skt:siddhārthaphalāni) are to be placed inside a jackal (Skt: śivāṅgamadhye sthāpyānti).” [G, p. 37].
According to Ratnākaraśānti’s commentary, the deity has a purely white face in the west [G, p. 39]. Yoginī: Ratnākaraśānti reads ‘yogas’ (Skt: yogāḥ) [G, p. 41] where the Tibetan has ‘yoginī’ (Tib:rnal ’byor ma). This line corresponds closely with verse 12.52, line 2 of the Guhyasamājatantra. Ratnākaraśānti reads siddhānāṃ kanyām, “the maidens of the siddhas” [G, p. 41]. This line corresponds closely with verse 12.52, line 3 of the Guhyasamājatantra.
This line corresponds closely with verse 12.53, line 2 of the Guhyasamājatantra.
This line corresponds closely with verse 12.55, line 1 of the Guhyasamājatantra.
This line corresponds closely with verse 12.55, line 2 of the Guhyasamājatantra.
In his commentary on verse 3.18 Kṛṣṇavajra gives the mantra as oṃ a guhya aguhya bhakṣa abhakṣe huṅg [S, f. 216a]. Both Ratnākaraśānti [G, p.160] confirms a gentive relationship between the terms ‘vajra yoginīs’ and ‘realization,’ which has been followed here. The Tibetan editions all contain the agentive kyis. This song has been translated from the Prākrit as it appears in Ratnākaraśānti’s sādhana [SM #239, p. 460]: hale sai viasia kamalu pabohiu vajjeṅg / a la la la la ho mahāsuheṇa ārohiu ṇacceṅg / ravikiraṇeṇa paphulliu kamalu mahāsuheṇa / a la la la la ho ma.
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dpal sgyu ’phrul chen po’i rgyud kyi rgyal po. bka’ ’gyur (dpe bsdur ma) [[[Comparative Edition of the Kangyur]]], krung go’i bod rig pa zhib ’jug ste gnas kyi bka’ bstan dpe sdur khang (The Tibetan Tripitaka Collation Bureau of the China Tibetology Research Center). 108 volumes. Beijing: krung go’i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang (China Tibetology Publishing House), 2006-2009, vol. 80 (rgyud ’bum, nga), pp 536-547.
Kṛṣṇavajra. sgyu ’phrul chen mo’i rgyud kyi ’grel pa dran pa (*Mahāmāyātantrasya vṛtti smṛti) [[[Recollection]]: A Commentary on the Mahāmāyā Tantra]. Toh. 1624, Degé Tengyur vol. 25 (rgyud ’grel, ya), ff. 201.a–219.a. (S)
(2) Mahāmāyātantram with Guṇavatī by Ratnākaraśānti. Rare Buddhist Text Series vol. 10. Edited by Samdhong Rinpoche and Vrajavallabh Dwivedi. Varanasi: Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, 1992. (G)
(3) Kaiser Library, Kathmandu (ms. 226). Palm leaf manuscript in Golmola script. (4) Nepal National Archives, Kathmandu (ms. 2–906). Nepali paper manuscript in Devanāgarī script. ____________. Mahāmāyāsādhanam [A Sādhana for the Mahāmāyātantra]: (1) sgyu ma chen mo’i sgrub thabs (Mahāmāyāsādhanam). Toh. 1643, Degé Tengyur vol. 25 (rgyud ’grel, ya), folios 269b–273b. (2) In Sādhanamālā vol. 2. Edited by Benoytosh Bhattacarya. Baroda: Oriental Institute, 1968. pp. 458–64. (SM)
Tāranātha. dpal rgyud kyi rgyal po sgyu ’phrul chen mo ma ha ma ya’i rgya cher bshad pa de kho na nyid kyi sgron ma [The Lamp of Suchness: A Detailed Explanation of the Glorious King of Tantras, the Mahāmāyātantra]. In gsung ’bum, ’dzam thang par ma ed., vol. da, folios 1a–97a. ’gos lo tsa wa gzhon nu dpal. deb ther sngon po. New Delhi: International Academy of Indian Culture, 1974. Translated as The Blue Annals, see below
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’gos lo tsa wa. The Blue Annals. Translated by George N. Roerich. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1988. Gray, David B. The Cakrasaṃvara Tantra (The Discourse of Śrī Heruka): A Study and Annotated Translation. New York: American Institute of Buddhist Studies, 2007.
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