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The Origin of the Vajrakilaya Tantras

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In the tantric system of the tradition of the earlier trans- lations, the principal meditational deities are: the eight Herukas of Kagye, the Gongdii and Phurba. The subject here is one of these three principal meditational deities, Phurba or Vajrakilaya, and I shall treat it in three parts: first the origin of the Vajrakilaya tantras, then the manner in which this deity came into existence, and finally how we practise Vajrakilaya.1

The Origin of the Vajrakilaya Tantras

There are two explanations given of the origins of the Vajrakilaya tantras in our world according to the two divisions of the Mahayoga vehicle to which the

Vajrakilaya traditions belong: the tantra series, or Gyiide, and the accomplishment or sadhana series or Drupde. 1.1 The Explanation According to the Tantra Series

The origin of the Phurba tantras in this world involved three methods: the initial mind-direct transmission of the victorious ones, the transmission

through indica- tion or signs of the vidyadharas, and finally the trans- mission of the yogins, which is by word of mouth. The lineage of the mind-direct transmission began with the dharmakaya Samantabhadra. When Samanta-

bhadra expresses himself as theForm Body or rupakdya, he becomes "the sixth lineage teacher Samantabhadra", who pervades the other five lineages. This "expression" is in fact nothing other than the self-expression of the Buddha, within the Akanistha pure realm. His retinue appears separately as the five male and female buddhas

and bodhisattvas, but from an absolute point of view they remain as one single continuity with the mind of the Buddha. On those occasions when the sixth lineage teacher Samantabhadra teaches Dharma to this retinue, it is not through such means as words or sounds. In- stead, teacher and retinue simply abide together within a single enlightened purpose without any divisions, and this is termed "teaching the Dharma". The content

of these teachings is exclusively the unsurpassed secret mantra, and never the sutras or lower tantras. The retinue—primarily the bodhisattvas Manjusri, Avalokitesvara, Vajrapani, and the five sambhogakaya buddhas—may appear from one point of view to be other than the teacher, yet their appearance in fact

is merely provisional in order to elicit the teaching of the Dharma, and ultimately they are only the expression of the enlightened mind. Out of all the unsurpassed

secret mantras, the eighteen tantras of Mahayoga and the 6,400,000 verses of the Great Perfection tantras of Dzogpachenpo are taught by the teacher Samanta- bhadra in the Akanistha pure realm in this way. The eighteen tantras of Mahayoga can be correlated to the five-fold set of the enlightened body,

speech, mind, noble qualities and activity of the Buddha. Each category is sub-divided into three, and correlated to the enlight- ened body, speech and mind, so that for the enlightened body, for example, there is a triad of the enlightened body of the enlightened body, the enlightened body of the en-

lightened speech, and the enlightened body of the en- lightened mind. This same pattern is reproduced in the other four categories: speech, mind, noble qualities and activity. The resulting fifteen categories correspond to the first fifteen tantras, while the remaining three tantras are termed "general tantras"1, which are also divided to correspond with the triad of the enlightened body, speech and mind.

The Vajrakilaya tantra belongs to the enlightened mind sub-category of the enlightened activity category, or, in other words, "the enlightened activity of the en- lightened mind"2. This tantra is called the Vidyottama Tantra, and has one hundred thousand sections, all on the subject of Vajrakilaya. The famous Guhyagarbha Tantra is, on the other hand, classified as "the general tantra of the enlightened mind"3.

Now, we will turn to the second transmission, the symbolic or sign transmission of the vidyadharas. In gen- eral, the bodhisattvas Manjusri, Vajrapani and Avalokitesvara are responsible for disseminating the teachings of the unsurpassed tantras from the highest pure realm of Akanistha into the ordinary world

sys- tem. This they do in two ways, one for human beings, and one for non-human beings. Manjusri went to the realm of the gods to teach the gods, and particularly the god Drakden Chok Kyong4. Avalokitesvara went

into the realm of the naga serpent spirits, where he gave teachings primarily to the king of the nagas, King Jokpo Nakpo5, along with many others. Vajrapani principally taught the teachings to the yaksa Kuntuzangpo6, along with his retinue, in the yaksa realm. This transmission takes place solely through the display of symbols and signs, rather than discourse, and as a result, the entire group of listeners in each realm attain enlightenment

together. This is a brief summary of how the lineage was propagated in the realms of non-human beings. For both humans and non-humans, the way the tantras were first propagated in this world is as follows. Twenty-eight years after Lord Buddha Sakyamuni passed into nirvana, five holy individuals of very

special backgrounds, from five different classes of sen- tient beings, convened through their miraculous power on the peak of Mount Malaya. The peak is inaccessible by any other means. Of these five, one was the king of the gods, Drakden Chok Kyong, one was the naga King Jokpo, one was the yaksa Karda Dong7, one was the raksasa Lodro Tapden8, and one was a human being called Drime Drakpa9.

These five knew that, since the Buddha had passed into nirvana, the teaching was in decline, and so they prayed to the Buddhas of the Ten Directions, lament- ing from the depths of their hearts. All the buddhas then came together in the form of Vajrapani, who ap- peared to the five and brought them all

the teachings directly from the pure realm of Akanistha. Having col- lected every category and class of tantra to be found in the Akanistha pure realm, he transmitted them to these five holy sages through symbolic indications. Lodro Tapden wrote all these teachings down on gold paper

using lapis lazuli ink, and then hid them in space as a treasure. There were seven different "thoughts" behind his actions10: the sublime basis for the letters was gold paper; the sublime agent for writing them was molten lapis lazuli; the sublime vessel to contain them was a chest made of five precious

materials; the sublime location was the sky which is beyond destruction; the sublime protectors were the wisdom dakims; the sub- lime master of the teachings was King Ja; and the sub-

lime upholders of the lineage were his disciples, the fortunate ones who would maintain the tradition. Subsequently, the blessings of this transmission and concealment manifested directly in the third lineage, the oral transmission lineage of individuals. This began when King Ja, the king of Zahor at the time,

witnessed the miracle of the scriptures of the eighteen Mahayoga tantras descending onto the roof of his palace, along with a cubit-sized image of Vajrapani. It seems that these tantras were probably the ones written down by Lodro Tapden. At the same time, King Ja also had seven

very auspicious dreams. He then prayed to the image of Vajrapani, and so naturally came to realize the mean- ing of the chapter entitled The Chapter of Seeing Vajrasattva's Face™, from the Mahayoga tantras. When he subsequently evoked Vajrasattva in contemplation, Vajrasattva actually appeared to him and blessed King Ja's body, speech and mind with his own enlightened body, speech and mind, thereby granting him the tantric transmissions.

King Ja gave these teachings to Kukkuraja, who trans- mitted them to King Indrabodhi12, who passed them on to Simharaja, who in turn transmitted them to the

hundreds of thousands of disciples who accomplished the teachings they received. All of them, without ex- ception, achieved the state of deathlessness: without even needing to leave their bodies behind, they simply took to space and passed directly into the pure realms as vidyadharas, accomplishing the highest level of realization.

In time, these teachings came to the great Orgyen Khenpo Padmasambhava, the extraordinary master Vimalamitra, and the great master Silamanju, each one of whom received and transmitted all eighteen classes of the Mahayoga tantras. According to Jamgon Kong-

trul, Padmasambhava also received these teachings di- rectly from King Ja himself. All of these masters be- came one with the wisdom mind of the yidam deity, in the essence of the integration of space and wisdom13, thereby attaining the level of vidyadhara.

Now with regard to these three lineages, if we con- sider the Vajrakilaya tantras alone, according to the teaching of Lobpon Langlab14 there are some thirty- seven "self-sufficient volumes" on the phurba cycle, and sixteen more concise, shorter volumes. The mean-

ing of "self-sufficient" here is that these tantras con- tain the entire range of relevant topics, without need- ing to be supplemented by any other tantric sources. The Mahayoga tantras are inconceivably numerous, and the corpus of eighteen represents those which have been principally transmitted in

this world of ours. Out of this vast range of Mahayoga tantras, Vajrakilaya be- longs, as we saw, to the cycle of enlightened activity. Guru Padmasambhava received the authorizing mandate15 to become the main lineage holder of this

Vajrakilaya Tantra, along with all its tantras, scriptures and precepts16. When we look at the great Vajra Guru Padmasambhava from the point of view of definitive truth, he is originally and primordially enlightened, and indivisible from Vajrakilaya, from whom he has never been separate. However, for the

benefit of living be- ings needing to be trained, he went through the actions of practicing Vajrakilaya, experiencing direct visions of Vajrakilaya as an

external presence, receiving the teachings of the Vajrakilaya Tantra from the deity him- self, being introduced to space and wisdom through Vajrakilaya's enlightened mind, and finally coming to know all objects of knowledge without impediment.

In this way, he received the entire transmission of Vajrakilaya directly from Vajrakilaya himself. However, to maintain the gradual transmission of the lineage, he also received the empowerment and transmission of the tantra from the vajra master Prabhahasti. Guru Padmasambhava was invited to Tibet by King Trisong Detsen, and he was still on the road to central Tibet, when he was obliged, there and then, to manifest as Vajrakilaya to subjugate the intractable gods and demons of the country and bind them by oath. He com- pelled them to act thereafter as supporters of the propa- gation of the Dharma in Tibet. Once

he had arrived in central Tibet, he blessed the site where the king had been trying to build Tibet's first buddhist temple, and so finally, Samye monastery was able to be constructed.

The first instructions he then gave to his twenty-five heart disciples were teachings of the unsurpassed se- cret mantrayana on Vajrakilaya practice, to enable them to remove obstacles to their practice of Buddhadharma. To some he gave concise teachings, and to others expan- sive ones, but all concerned the practice of Vajrakilaya.

This is how there came to be three traditions which stemmed from Padmasambhava's original transmis- sion of the Vajrakilaya instructions. They are referred to as "The Tradition of the King" (Trisong Detsen), "The Tradition of Jomo" (his Tibetan consort, Yeshe Tsogyal), and "The Tradition of Nanam" (Nanam Dorje Dudjom, one of the twenty-five disciples). The names of these

traditions refer to the individual through whom Padmasambhava originally transmitted the particular Vajrakilaya teaching. If we relate these three traditions to the terma treasures in which they were subsequently revealed in Tibet, "The Tradition of the King" was revealed by Jikme Lingpa in his Vajrakilaya treasure revelation. "The Tradition of Jomo" is found in the trea- sure buried by Yeshe Tsogyal and later discovered by

Ratna Lingpa. Finally, the Vajrakilaya termas discov- ered by the treasure revealer Terton Lerab Lingpa be- long to "The Tradition of Nanam". In fact they were buried by Nanam Dorje Dudjom, who later reincar- nated as Lerab Lingpa and rediscovered them. So the Gur Khukma17 Vajrakilaya treasure of Khenpo Jigmey Phuntsok also belongs to this tradition of Nanam Dorje Dudjom. This is how these three traditions, all of which are valid and all of which belong to the treasure tradi-

tion, stem from those initial teachings on Vajrakilaya conferred by Padmasambhava in Tibet. As termas, they were buried, to be discovered later by the tertons at the appropriate time and in accordance with the indi- cations given in the prophecies.

This completes our account of the origin of the Vajrakilaya tantras in this world according to the Tantra Series. 1.2 The Explanation According to the Sadhana Series

In the Akanistha pure realm, the primordial Buddha Samantabhadra manifested as the eight Heruka teach- ers, who remained inseparable from the Buddha. They taught the teachings of the sadhanas of Kagye18 to a perfectly pure retinue of buddhas and bodhisattvas who were no different from them, by means of "vajra words", meaning through their wisdom mind” or be-

yond words. The "Keeper of the Secrets", known as Vajradharma, then compiled all of these enlightened transmissions and miraculously wrote them down in script, placing them inside a jewelled casket which he took to the Deche Tsekpa Stupa20. In the presence of the great dakini Lekyi Wangmo21, and an ocean of other dakinis, they were buried as a treasure inside the holy stupa (the site of which is in present day India), and the dakinis themselves were appointed as their guardian.

Subsequently, the eight great vajra mastersHumkara, Manjusrimitra, Nagarjuna, Padmasam- bhava, Dhanasamskrta, Vimalamitra, Rambuguhya and Santigarbha—all convened at the appropriate time in the terrifying charnel ground known as the Cool Grove22, and together became absorbed in a state of one-pointed contemplation. As a result, the treasure

caskets inside the stupa containing the eight Heruka transmissions began to emit rays of light, and count- less rainbows and other astonishing signs appeared to the masters gathered there. Then, the dakinis and pow- erful spirits, who were circumambulating the stupa in their role as guardians of the

treasure, became visible to them on account of the master's clairvoyance. The masters realized that all of this indicated the presence in the stupa of instructions that could either devastate

the entire world through wrathful mantras, or grant the highest satisfaction, both in terms of mundane goals and ultimate enlightenment. By focusing their wisdom, they realized that the time had come to give consecrated substances23 such as torma, rakta, medicinal substances and so on, to the spirits and

dakinis, and bind them with an oath, in order to bring them under the power of the teachings. So the dakinis approached them and asked what commands they required them to fulfil. The vajra masters replied that they were required to bring out the treasure caskets that were contained within the

great stupa, and to hand these caskets over to them. One of the caskets was made of silver and it con- tained all the teachings of the Tantra of the Enlightened Mind Manifestation of Yangdak Heruka; the dakinis brought this out and handed it over to the vajra master Humkara. Then they brought out an

iron casket con- taining all the teachings on the Tantra of the Enlightened Body Manifestation of Manjusri, which they gave to Manjusrimitra. A copper casket containing the teach-

ings of the Tantra of the Enlightened Speech of Padma was given to Nagarjuna.24 A turquoise casket containing the teachings of the Tantra ofthePhurba—Vajrakilaya—was given to the vajra master Padmasambhava. A gold cas- ket containing the Teachings ofChemchok Heruka was given to Vimalamitra. A rhinoceros

horn casket containing instructions for accomplishing the teachings of the Tantra of the Mamos was given to Dhanasamskrta. An agate casket, inside which lay the teachings of the Tantra of Offering and Praise for Worldly Deities was handed to

Rambuguhya. Finally, a zi stone casket containing the teachings of the Tantra of Wrathful Mantras was brought out and given to Santigarbha. There was one additional casket made from five different precious materials and studded with precious gems, within which were eight divisions corresponding to the eight

Kagye. Unlike the other teachings, which were for the separate practice of each individual deity, these teachings were for the joint integrated practice of all eight simultaneously, This casket was put in the center of the eight vajra masters, withoutbeing given to any one in particular. The teach-

ings that came from this chest were the Kagye Deshek Diipa: "The Gathering of the Sugatas of Kagye". When each one of these vajra masters had received his particular chest, he opened it and extracted the teachings. However, none of them were able to open the final casket containing the eight-sectioned Kagye

Deshek Diipa, so for seven days the vajra masters dwelt together in meditative equipoise, and prayed one-point- edly to the dakinis to assist them. As a result, when the seven days had elapsed, the seal of the last casket sprang free and the lid opened of its own accord. This

is how they were able to extract the teachings of Kagye Deshek Diipa. Another historical account records how, since this re- ceptacle could not be opened by the eight vajra mas- ters, it was placed back inside the Deche Tsekpa stupa

and buried once again. Then at a later date Guru Padmasambhava returned to open the seal and reveal it. When he extracted the Kagye Deshek Diipa from the

casket, the dakinis guarding the treasure asked Padmasambhava to practice these teachings and trans- mit them to others. According to yet another account,

the Vajrakilaya teachings were brought out and passed by the dakinis into the hands of the vajra master Prabhahasti, who then later transmitted them to Guru Padmasambhava. However, the casket of five precious substances containing the Kagye Deshek Diipa was given directly by the dakinis to theVajraGuru Padmasambhava.