Origin of the Tantra
According to one account of the origin of the Vajrakilaya teachings, Buddha Shakyamuni himself taught the Vajrakilaya tantras. Within the mind direct transmission lineage or the dharmakaya, Buddha Shakyamuni and Vajrakilaya are the same basic nature, without any distinctions or differences in realization. Buddha Shakyamuni as Vajrakilaya gave one hundred thousand different Kilaya teachings, which are condensed in the Supreme Knowledge Tantra, sometimes called the Vidyottama Tantra in 100,000 Sections. So there are many different teachings on Vajrakilaya.
The Supreme Knowledge Tantra was part of the Vajrakilaya tantras of the eight Kagyé contained in the bone casket, or turquoise casket (depending on the sources), that was preserved in the Shankarakuta stupa and later transmitted and given to the great masters Prabhahasti, and to Guru Rinpoche as part of the entire Kagyé transmission that he received. Guru Rinpoche received it again from Prabahasti, and it is the tantra that he asked to be brought to Yangleshö for the practice of elimination of obstacles to his attainment of enlightenment through the practice of Yangdak.
According to the Omniscient One, Longchenpa, 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 subdivided into three subcategories corresponding to 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. The resulting fifteen categories correspond to the first fifteen tantras, while the remaining three tantras are termed ‘general tantras’, each corresponding to enlightened body, speech and mind respectively. The Vajrakilaya tantra belongs to the enlightened mind sub-category of the enlightened activity category, or, in other words, ‘the enlightened activity of the enlightened mind’. This tantra is called the Supreme Knowledge Tantra, and has one hundred-thousand sections, all on the subject of Vajrakilaya.
Meaning of the Title
While the Sanskrit word vidya (Skt. vidyā) in this context means knowledge, its Tibetan translation as rigpa (Tib. rig pa) can mean both knowledge and awareness. Tibetan authors often preferred to read the title as supreme awareness rather than supreme knowledge. According to Khenpo Palden Sherab the basic nature of all sentient beings is great purity. This basic purity is known as “supreme awareness”. Continuous supreme awareness is the basic nature of every sentient being. In that state, there are no distinctions between samsara and nirvana or between buddhas and sentient beings. Everything is continuous supreme awareness.
This Vajrakilaya tantra is divided into different groups, such as the root tantra, the trunk tantra, the branch tantra, the leaf tantra, the flower tantra, and the fruit tantra.
- Khenchen Palden Rinpoche. The Dark Red Amulet: Oral Instructions on the Practice of Vajrakilaya. Shambhala, 2009, 16.
- In Thunderous Melody of Brahma: A General Introduction to Mantra (sngags kyi spyi don tshangs dbyangs ‘brug sgra)
- Khenpo Namdrol. The Practice of Vajrakilaya. Ithaca, N.Y: Snow Lion, 1999, 21.
- Khenchen Palden Rinpoche. The Dark Red Amulet, 106.
- Khenchen Palden Rinpoche. The Dark Red Amulet, 193n8.