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Tantra (Skt.; Tib. རྒྱུད་, gyü, Wyl. rgyud) — the term’s basic meaning is ‘thread’ or ‘continuity’. In its more specific usages, the term can mean:

On this particular meaning of the term, Sogyal Rinpoche writes:
The tantras are the teachings and writings that set out the practices of Vajrayana Buddhism, the stream of Buddhism prevalent in Tibet. The tantric teachings are based on the principle of the transformation of impure vision into pure vision, through working with the body, energy, and mind. Tantric texts usually describe the mandala and meditation practices associated with a particular enlightened being or deity. Although they are called tantras, the Dzogchen tantras are a specific category of the Dzogchen teachings, which are not based on transformation but on self-liberation.[1]
  • the Vajrayana, as opposed to the sutra vehicle
  • the ‘mental continuum’ or mindstream

Subdivisions of Tantric Texts

  • root tantras (རྩ་རྒྱུད་, Wyl. rtsa rgyud) and
  • explanatory tantras (བཤད་རྒྱུད་, Wyl. bshad rgyud)


  1. Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, revised and updated edition, Harper San Francisco, 2002, page 404.

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