Eighteen tantras of Mahayoga

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The eighteen tantras of Mahayoga (མ་ཧཱ་ཡོ་གའི་རྒྱུད་སྡེ་བཅོ་བརྒྱད་, Wyl. ma hA yo ga'i rgyud sde bco brgyad) were divided by the great Indian master Kukkuraja. They are also known as the eighteen great tantrapitaka (ཏནྟྲ་ཆེན་པོ་སྡེ་བཅོ་བརྒྱད་, Wyl. tantra chen po sde bco brgyad).[1] The tantra that synthesizes the meaning of all of them is the principal Tantra of the Web of Magical Illusion (aka Guhyagarbha Tantra).

Classifications

According to Longchen Rabjam

There are several ways of classifying the eighteen tantras. Longchen Rabjam in his Thunderous Melody of Brahma: An Overview of Mantra[2] classifies them into a "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 enlightened 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 enlightened speech, and the enlightened body of the enlightened 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’, which are also divided up to correspond with the triad of the enlightened body, speech and mind."[3]

Enlightened Body

  • Langchen Rabok, representing the body aspect of enlightened body (sku'i sku rgyud glang po rab 'bog)
  • Langpo Churjuk, representing the speech aspect of enlightened body (sku'i gsung rgyud glang po chur 'jug)
  • Sarvabuddhasamayoga, representing the mind aspect of enlightened body (sku'i thugs rgyud sangs rgyas mnyam sbyor)

Enlightened Speech

  • Riwo Tsekpa, representing the body aspect of enlightened speech (gsung gi sku rgyud ri bo brtsegs pa)
  • Pema Wangchen, representing the speech aspect of enlightened speech (gsung gi gsung rgyud padma dbang chen)
  • Dasang Tiklé, representing the mind aspect of enlightened speech (gsung gi thugs rgyud zla gsang thig le)

Enlightened Mind

  • Tsemo Düpa, representing the body aspect of enlightened mind (thugs kyi sku rgyud rtse mo 'dus pa)
  • Chik Lé Tröpa, representing the speech aspect of enlightened mind (thugs kyi gsung rgyud gcig las 'phros pa)
  • Guhyasamaja, representing the mind aspect of enlightened mind (thugs kyi thugs rgyud gsang ba 'dus pa)

Enlightened Qualities

  • Drönme Barwa, representing the body aspect of enlightened qualities (yon tan gyi sku rgyud sgron me 'bar ba)
  • Dutsi Samaya Bumde, representing the speech aspect of enlightened qualities (yon tan gyi gsung rgyud bdud rtsi samaya 'bum sde)
  • Palchok Dangpo, representing the mind aspect of enlightened qualities (yon tan gyi thugs rgyud dpal mchog dang po)

Enlightened Activity

  • Paltreng Karpo, representing the body aspect of enlightened activity (phrin las kyi sku rgyud dpal phreng dkar po)
  • Mamo Gyülung, representing the speech aspect of enlightened activity (phrin las kyi gsung rgyud ma mo rgyud lung)
  • Vidyottama Bumdé, representing the mind aspect of enlightened activity (phrin las kyi thugs rgyud bidyotama 'bum sde)

General Tantras

  • Tabshak, representing the body aspect in general (spyi'i sku rgyud thabs zhags)
  • Damtsik Köpa, representing the speech aspect in general (spyi'i gsung rgyud dam tshig bkod pa)
  • Guhyagarbha Māyājāla, representing the mind aspect in general (spyi'i thugs rgyud gsang ba sgyu 'phrul).

Pawo Tsuklak Trengwa (1504-66) also follows this sixfold division in his Scholar’s Feast (chos ’byung mkhas pa'i dga' ston), but with some slight differences in the sequence of the texts.

According to Patrul Rinpoche

Another way of classifying them, followed by Shechen Gyaltsab in his Pool of White Lotuses: A Brief Explanation of the Origin of the Eight Chariots of the Practice Lineage[4] and by Patrul Rinpoche in Garland of Scriptural Transmissions of the Aural Lineage[5]is as follows:

Five major tantras (which are the roots of the eighteen)

  • (1) Enlightened body: Union with Buddha (Skt. buddhasamāyoga; སངས་རྒྱས་མཉམ་སྦྱོར་, Wyl. sangs rgyas mnyam sbyor)
  • (2) Enlightened speech: Secret Vital Essence of the Moon (Skt. śrīcandraguhyatilakanāmamahātantrarāja; ཟླ་གསང་ཐིག་ལེ་, Wyl. zla gsang thig le)
  • (3) Enlightened mind: Gathering of Secrets (Skt. guhyasamāja; གསང་བ་འདུས་པ་, Wyl. gsang ba 'dus pa)
  • (4) Enlightened qualities: Glorious Supreme Beginning (Skt. śrīparamādya; དཔལ་མཆོག་དང་པོ་, Wyl. dpal mchog dang po)
  • (5) Enlightened activity: Garland of Activity (Skt. karmamāla; ཀརྨ་མཱ་ལེ་, Wyl. karma mA le)

Five tantras of sadhana

  • (6) Yamantaka (Tib. Shinjé), enlightened body, in his black and red forms: Manifestation of Compassion[Source?] (སྙིང་རྗེ་རོལ་པའི་རྒྱུད་, Wyl. snying rje rol pa'i rgyud)
  • (7) Hayagriva (Tib. Tamdrin), enlightened speech: Manifestation of the Hayagriva Tantra (རྟ་མཆོག་རོལ་པའི་རྒྱུད་, Wyl. rta mchog rol pa'i rgyud)
  • (8) Vishuddhaheruka (Tib. Yangdak Heruka), enlightened mind: Manifestation of the Heruka Tantra (ཧེ་རུ་ཀ་རོལ་པའི་རྒྱུད་, Wyl. he ru ka rol pa'i rgyud)
  • (9) Amritakundali (Tib. Düdtsi Yönten), enlightened qualities: Manifestation of Amrita Tantra (བདུད་རྩི་རོལ་པའི་རྒྱུད་, Wyl. bdud rtsi rol pa'i rgyud)
  • (10) Vajrakila, enlightened activity: Tantra of the Twelve Kilayas (ཕུར་པ་བཅུ་གཉིས་པ་འབྱུང་བའི་རྒྱུད་, Wyl. phur pa bcu gnyis kyi rgyud)

Five branch classes of tantra of activity

  • (11) Arrangement Like a Mountain (རི་བོ་བརྩེགས་པ་, Wyl. ri bo brtsegs pa)
  • (12) Magnificient Wisdom Lightning (ཡེ་ཤེས་རྔམ་གློག་, Wyl. ye shes rngam glog)
  • (13) Arrangement of the Three Samayas (དམ་ཚིག་བཀོད་པ་, Wyl. dam tshig bkod pa)
  • (14) Single-Pointed Samadhi (ཏིང་འཛིན་རྩེ་གཅིག་, Wyl. ting 'dzin rtse gcig)
  • (15) Rampant Elephant Tantra (གླང་ཆེན་རབ་འབོག་, Wyl. glang chen rab 'bog)

Two tantras of accomplishment or Two Later Tantras (རྒྱུད་ཕྱི་མ་, Wyl. rgyud phyi ma)

  • (16) Vairochana's Magical Manifestation Matrix (རྣམ་སྣང་སྒྱུ་འཕྲུལ་དྲྭ་བ་, Wyl. rnam snang sgyu 'phrul drwa ba), which serves as a branch for engaging with mandala practice
  • (17) Lasso of the Arya's Method Entitled "A Garland of Lotuses" (འཕགས་པ་ཐབས་ཀྱི་ཞགས་པ་པདྨོའི་ཕྲེང་བའི་དོན་བསྡུས་པ་, Wyl. 'phags pa thabs kyi zhags pa pad+mo'i phreng ba'i don bsdus pa), which serves as a concise branch for the accomplishment of siddhi during sadhana practice

Root tantra

  • (18) Secret Essence Tantra (Skt. Guhyagarbha Tantra; རྡོ་རྗེ་སེམས་དཔའ་སྒྱུ་འཕྲུལ་དྲྭ་བ་རྩ་བའི་རྒྱུད་གསང་བའི་སྙིང་པོ་, Wyl. rdo rje sems dpa' sgyu 'phrul drwa ba rtsa ba'i rgyud gsang ba'i snying po)[6]

Notes

  1. Source: Dudjom Rinpoche's History of the Nyingma School.
  2. sngags kyi spyi don tshangs dbyangs 'brug sgra
  3. Khenpo Namdrol, Vajrakilaya (Dharmakosha, 1997 or Snow Lion: 1999), pages 8-9.
  4. sgrub brgyud shing rta brgyad kyi byung ba brjod pa'i gtam mdor bsdus legs bshad padma dkar po'i rdzing bu
  5. རྣ་རྒྱུད་ལུང་གི་ཕྲེང་བ།, Collected works of Patrul Rinpoche, Vol. 2, p.293-307.
  6. Tulku Thondup (1996), page 360 lists this one as first, but the Essence of Clear Light (2010), Light of Bairotsana Translation Group, pages 383-384, lists this one as last.

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