Hevajra Tantra

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Hevajra Tantra (ཀྱེ་རྡོ་རྗེའི་རྒྱུད་, ཀྱཻ་རྡོ་རྗེ་རྒྱུད་, or alternatively དགྱེས་པ་, Wyl. kye rdo rje'i rgyud, kyai rdo rje rgyud or dgyes pa) (Toh. 147) — an important Mother tantra [1], said to be the essence of the six classes of Mother tantras, and is especially popular in the Sakya and Kagyü schools. It emphasises the completion phase, in contrast to for example the Guhyasamaja Tantra, which is said to teach mainly the generation phase. In the Sakya tradition the Hevajra tantra is non-dual so it emphasises both practices.

As with other tantras, the Hevajra tantra that we know is said to be derived from a much larger, original tantra called the Hevajra root tantra (Skt. Hevajramūlatantra; Wyl dgyes pa rdo rje rtsa ba'i rgyud) or the Tantra in 500000 verses. The current tantra has two segments or chapters, which some say were the first two chapters of this larger tantra, yet others say they were the last two chapters. Because of the two segments, the tantra is often referred to as the Two Segments (Wyl. brtag gnyis). It's first appearance is estimated around 900 CE.[2]

Origin

There are different accounts of the origin of the tantra. Regarding the spread of the tantra in India, Jamgon Kongtrul says:

Many different traditions of Hevajra, the ultimate mother tantra, appeared in India. The seven principal ones were complete in empowerments, teachings, and pith instructions: those of Master Saroruha, Krishna-samaya-vajra, Durjayachandra, Ratnakara, Naropa, Métripa, and the Kashmiri Yashobhadra.[3]Twelve commentaries to this tantra are known, including Vajragarbha’s commentary and the Lotus Commentary Elucidating the Difficult Points.The three traditions from Saroruha, Krishna-samaya-vajra, and Durjayachandra each formed an independent tradition. The others resemble compilations of the best aspects of those three. It seems that “the Kashmiri Yashobhadra” is considered to be one of Naropa’s names.[4]

Text

  • Hevajra Tantra, the King of Tantras (Skt. Hevajranāmatantrarāja; Tib. ཀྱེའི་རྡོ་རྗེ་ཞེས་བྱ་བ་རྒྱུད་ཀྱི་རྒྱལ་པོ་, Wyl. kye'i rdo rje zhes bya ba rgyud kyi rgyal po D 417). It was translated into Chinese by *Dharmapala (Fahu) in 1055 CE and in Tibetan around the same time by Drokmi Lotsawa and Gayadhara.[5]
    • English translation: Snellgrove, David, trans. The Hevajra Tantra: A Critical Study. Hong Kong; Enfield: Orchid Press, 2011.
    • English translation: Farrow and Menon, 1992. Farrow, G. W. The Concealed Essence of the Hevajra Tantra: With the Commentary Yogaratnamala. Edited by I. Menon. 1st edition. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Pub, 2003.

Commentaries

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Jamgon Kongtrul says that there were around 35 commentaries on the root tantra in India. The first commentary was written by Vajragarbha, who is also the interlocutor in the Hevajra Tantra.

In his autobiography, Jamgon Kongtrul, while explaining his motivation for writing his own commentaries, gives an excellent overview of the most important commentaries:

I had planned to write a commentary on the Hevajra Tantra, and to request permission for this I performed the guru sadhana of Marpa in conjunction with more than a hundred repetitions of rituals to purify myself of obscurations. I also practiced means to gather merit and deepen awareness, prayed, and performed feast offerings and fulfillment rituals. I began writing methodically, beginning with the chapter on the vajra family in the first section. In the tradition of explanation deriving from Marpa and Ngok, there has been no one definitive method of exegesis as there is, for example, in the Sakya tradition. Nowadays, the two commentaries most widely used are Ngok’s Like a Jeweled Ornament and the venerable Rangjung Dorjé’s commentary. But the former is entirely an explanation of the “hidden import” (Wyl. sbas don) of the text, while the latter emphasizes the meanings of the words themselves, but the description of the deity is somewhat embedded, which makes it difficult to use when one is explaining it (or listening to the explanation) in connection with the basic tantra. Chen-nga Chökyi Drakpa (the 4th Shamar Rinpoché, 1453-1524) bases his treatment on so many Indian commentaries that his explanation is not easy to understand. Such ancient explanations as the commentaries of Ram and Tsak are extremely unclear. The commentary by Thrinlépa (Karma Thrinlépa (1456-1539) was a student of the 7th Karmapa Chödrak Gyatso ) is somewhat clearer, and the excellent commentary by Dakpo Tashi Namgyal is so fine that I kept it aside as an overview (Wyl. spyi don). Taking the meaning of the words as my primary concern, I sought to clarify them further in light of the hidden meaning and, distinct from that, the ultimate meaning. During the monastic summer retreat I taught on the three levels of ordination and the entire texts of the Profound Inner Meaning, The Hevajra Tantra in Two Chapters, and The Highest Continuum, as well as performing a ritual in honour of the tantras. Gradually, I also wrote an overview of The Hevajra Tantra in Two Chapters. During this period I had very positive signs in my dreams; for example, I dreamed of Vajradhara Pema Nyinjé being very pleased with me and encouraging me, placing a crystal mala around my neck.[6]

Indian

At present there are 16 Indian commentaries available, of which two commentaries have not been translated in Tibetan and are only available in Sanskrit.

  • Vajragarbha, Extensive Commentary on the Meaning of the Concise Hevajra Tantra (Skt. śaṭṣāhaśrikā-hevajra-piṇḍārtha-ṭika; Wyl. kye'i rdo rje bsdus pa'i don gyi rgya cher 'grel pa, Toh. 1180). This commentary is from the Kalachakra point of view.
    • Sanskrit edition: Śaṭṣāhaśrikā-hevajra-ṭika, edited by Malati J. Shendge, Pratibha Prakashan, Delhi, 2004.
  • Saroruhavajra (Wyl. mtsho skyes rdo rje), Lotus Commentary Elucidating the Difficult Points of the Hevajra Tantra (Skt. hevajra-tantra-pañjikā-padminī; Wyl. kye'i rdo rje'i rgyud kyi dka' 'grel pad+ma can, Toh. 1181). This commentary is only available in Tibetan.
  • Bhavabhadra (Skt. śrīhevajra-vyākhyā-vivaraṇa; Wyl. dpal dgyes pa'i rdo rje'i rnam bshad rnam par 'grel pa', Toh. 1182).This commentary is only available in Tibetan.
  • Kanha, Jewel Garland of Yoga: A Commentary on the Difficult Points of the Hevajra Tantra (Skt. hevajra-pañjikā-yoga-ratna-mālā; dgyes pa rdo rje'i dka' 'grel rnal 'byor rin po che'i phreng ba, Toh. 1183). This commentary is still extant in Sanskrit.
    • Sanskrit edition: Hevajratantram with Yogaratnamālāpañjikā by Kṛṇapāda, edited by R.S. Tripathi and T.S. Negi, Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, Saranath, 2006.
    • English translation: The Concealed Essence of the Hevajra Tantra With the Commentary Yogaratnamala, by G.W. Farrow and I. Menon, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, Delhi, 1992.
  • Ṭaṃkadāsa, Stainless Union: A Commentary on the Hevajra Tantra, the King of Tantras (Skt. hevajratantrarājaṭīka suviśuddhasampuṭa; ' rgyud kyi rgyal po dpal kye'i rdo rje'i 'grel bshad kha sbyor shin tu dri ma med pa, Toh. 1184). This commentary is only available in Tibetan.
  • Durjayacandra* (Wyl. sbyang dka' ba'i zla ba), A Commentary on Difficult Points Called Kaumudi (Skt. “kaumudīnāma pañjikā; Wyl. kau mu di zhes bya ba'i dka' 'grel, Toh. 1185). This commentary is only available in Tibetan.
  • Yaśobhadra*[7] (Wyl. nyan grags bzang po), A Concise Commentary on the Difficult Points of the Vajra Words (Skt. vajrapadasārasaṃgrahapañjikā; Wyl. rdo rje'i tshig gi snying po bsdus pa'i dka' 'grel, Toh. 1186). The text might still be extant in Sanskrit.
  • Kṛṣṇapā* (Wyl. nag po pa, (Skt. hevajranāma mahātantrarājadvikalpamāyāpañjikāsmṛtipada; rgyud kyi rgyal po chen po dgyes pa'i rdo rje zhes bya ba sgyu ma brtag pa gnyis pa'i dka' 'grel dran pa'i 'byung gnas, Toh. 1187). This commentary is only available in Tibetan.
  • Padmanchuravajra* or Padmaṃkuravajra* (Wyl. 'pad+ma myu gu rdo rje), Commentary on the Hevajra Tantra by Padmanchuravajra (Skt. hevajratantrarājasya ṭīkā; Wyl. pad+ma myu gu rdo rjes mdzad pa'i kye rdo rje'i 'grel pa, Toh. 1188). This commentary is only available in Tibetan.
  • Ratnakarashanti, A Garland of Pearls: A Commentary on the Difficult Points of the Glorious Hevajra Tantra (Skt. hevajra-pañjikā-muktāvalī; Wyl. dpal dgyes pa rdo rje'i dka' 'grel mu tig phreng ba, Toh. 1189). This commentary is still extant in Sanskrit. Isaacson comments that this commentary explicitly attempts to show that tantric practice of this kind is in accordance with the basic teachings of Buddhism. This commentary is still extant in Sanskrit.
    • Sanskrit edition: Hevajratantram With Muktāvalī Pañjikā of Mahāpaṇḍitācārya Ratnākaraśānti, edited by R.S. Tripathi and T.S. Negi, Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, Saranath, 2001.
  • Vṛddhakāyastha (Wyl. kayastha bgres po), (Skt. suviśuddhasampuṭaṭīkā; Wyl. rab tu gsal ba'i kha sbyor gyi rgya cher 'grel pa, Toh. 1190). This commentary is only available in Tibetan.
  • Dharmakīrti[8], (Skt. hevajratantrarājasya pañjikā netravibhaṅga; Wyl. rgyud kyi rgyal po chen po dpal dgyes pa'i rdo rje'i dka' 'grel spyan 'byed, Toh. 1191). This commentary is only available in Tibetan.
  • Kāmadhenapā, A Compilation of Vajra Words: A Commentary on the Difficult Points of the Glorious Hevajra Tantra (Skt. śrīhevajravajrapadoddharaṇanāma pañjikā; Wyl. dpal dgyes pa'i rdo rje'i dka' 'grel rdo rje'i tshig btu ba, Toh. 1192). This commentary is only available in Tibetan.
  • Unknown author, A Summary of the Glorious Hevajra Tantra (Skt. śrī-hevajra-nāma-tantrārtha-saṃgrāha; Wyl. dpal dgyes pa'i rdo rje zhes bya ba'i rgyud kyi don bsdus pa, Toh. 1193). This commentary is only available in Tibetan.
  • Kamalanātha/Mañjuśrī,Jewel Garland (Skt. ratnāvalī). This commentary has not been translated in Tibetan. It is estimated to predate Abayākaragupta
    • Manuscript: Kaisar Library, Kathmandu 231
  • Kelikuliśa, Three Vajra Jewel Garlands: A Commentary on the Difficult Points (Skt. trivajraratnāvalīmālīkā pañjikā). This commentary has not been translated in Tibetan.
    • Manuscript: Göttingen State and University Library [NSUS] Xc 14/36.

Tibetan Commentaries

  • Karma Thrinlépa (1456-1539, a student of the 7th Karmapa), (Wyl. dpal kye'i rdo rje zhes bya ba'i rgyud kye'i rgyal po'i 'grel pa legs bshad nyi ma'i 'od zer
  • Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Tayé : Uncovering the Secret of the Invincible Vajra: A Commentary Clarifying the Meaning of the Words of the Glorious Two Segments Hevajra Tantra, the King of Tantras (Wyl. dpal dgyes pa rdo rje'i rgyud kyi rgyal po brtag pa gnyis pa'i tshig don rnam par 'grol ba gzhom med rdo rje'i gsang ba 'byed pa). Jamgön Kongtrul says that here he follows mainly the tradition of Saroruhavajra, yet also the traditions of Marpa Lotsawa and the 3rd Karmapa Rangjung Dorje.

Famous Quotations

སེམས་ཅན་རྣམས་ནི་སངས་རྒྱས་ཉིད། །

འོན་ཀྱང་གློ་བུར་དྲི་མས་བསྒྲིབས། །

དྲི་མ་དེ་བསལ་སངས་རྒྱས་དངོས། །

All beings are buddhas
But this is concealed by adventitious stains.
When their stains are purified, their buddhahood is revealed.

Hevajra Tantra


Further Reading

  • Ringu Tulku, The Ri-me Philosophy of Jamgön Kongtrul the Great (Boston & London: Shambhala Publications, 2006), pages 89-90.

Alternative Translations

  • Vajra of Delight (Ngawang Zangpo)

Notes

  1. The Sakya tradition considers Hevajra to be a Non-dual Tantra.
  2. See Davidson, Ronald. Tibetan Renaissance: Tantric Buddhism in the Rebirth of Tibetan Culture. New York: Columbia University Press, 2005, page 41.
  3. The Dungkar Great Tibetan Dictionary says dgyes pa rdo rje'i lugs srol bdun: slob dpon mtsho skyes rdo rje/nag po dam tshig rdo rje/mi thub zla ba/rat+nA ka ra/nA ro pa/me tri pa/kha che snyan grags bzang po bcas so
  4. Kongtrul, Jamgon. The Treasury of Knowledge: Books Two, Three, and Four: Buddhism’s Journey to Tibet. Translated by Ngawang Zangpo. 1st edition. Ithaca, N.Y: Snow Lion, 2010. Page 301.
  5. See the article on Hevajra in Brill's encyclopedia.
  6. Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Taye. The Autobiography of Jamgon Kongtrul: A Gem of Many Colors. Edited by Richard Barron. (1st edition. Ithaca, N.Y: Snow Lion, 2003) Page 154. Some slight edits have been made for the wiki.
  7. Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche identifies him with Naropa
  8. This Dharmakīrti should not be confused with the author of the Pramanavartika

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