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Reading the Vajrayāna in Context: A Reassessment of Bengal Blackie Author(s): Reginald Ray Reviewed work(s): Source: Buddhist-Christian

Studies, Vol. 5 (1985), pp. 173-189 Published by: University of Hawai'i Press Stable URL: . Accessed: 30/11/2011 08:37
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This leads to an understandingof the Vajrayana that is. 10 by Kanha). The article seeks to interpret one of the Indian VajrayanaCaryagiti or songs of realization." by ProfessorLee Siegel. while calling itself Buddhist. and to read its more distinctive elements in less than their full historicaland religiouscontext.Universityof Hawaii.. in their interpretations of the Vajrayana. because it tends to stereotypethe Vajrayana in variousways. and as a tantriccult having more in common with "tantrism"than with classical Buddhism. is present in early scholarlywriting This way of understanding the Vajrayana on the subject. All rights reserved. attributed to Indian Buddhist siddhas or "perfected beings. at least in need of certaincorrections.EGO AND TRANSCENDENCE in Context: Reading the Vajrayana A Reassessmentof Bengal Blackie Reginald Ray Naropa Institute Boulder. "Bengal Blackie and the Sacred Slut. it is often seen to flagrantly violate many fundamental principles of earlier Buddhism.Thus. the Vajrayana is sometimes seen as a radicaldeparture from the basic teachings of earlier. and sexualityin its rituals. because it has the virtue of But such a isolating what is perhaps the most distinctive about the Vajrayana. . the Indian Vajrayana Often as colorful and Asians as enough.3 was between the eighth and twelfth centuriesA." the enlightened The siddhas of whom we have evidence lived mainly ideal of the Vajrayana. conventional Buddhism. More recently it forms the central hermeneutic in an article appearingin an earliernumber of this journal.D. As a tantriccult. preciselywhat is the most colorful and unconventional. hermeneutic also has its problems. violence. many modern scholars have tended to emphasize. There is something to be said for this approach. for example. well!) particularly provocative. particularly prominent perhaps part Buddhist-ChristianStudies 5 (1985). condoning the use of alcohol. during which the Vajrayana of this in and more toward the latter India. ? by the East-WestReligions Project.2 (Caryagiti No. while not entirelywrong. Colorado INTRODUCTION often strikesWesterners (and Among Buddhist traditions. lies This emphasis on what is most colorful and distinctive in the Vajrayana behind some prevailing trends in the way in which this tradition is understood in modern scholarship.

"a reactionto orthodox BudThe Tantric practitioner of the dhism"14 that is "scornful of orthodoxy. and Virupa). 10 "means." Those holding to a later Tibetan understanding might say "no. but one that has severalmajor. involving "left-handed" or of the Caryagitiis interpretedas In addition. But when we look at the song within the context of the classicalIndian then different hermeneuticalprinciples need to be adduced. My intention in this articleis not to say "yes" or "no" to Siegel's interpretation. . half attributed to three siddhas (Kanha = Kahn. account of its highly unconventional methods."9 a "tantric offshoot.5Forty-sixof the songs are extant in their original Old Bengali. we are told. Siegel's interpretationis interesting as an hypothesis for what may have been the earliest.4 The Caryagiticome down to us in a modest collection of some fifty songs.8 Siegel's article repeats many of the interpretations that have dominated It interpretsthe Caryagitias an expressionof Westernwriting on the a "heterodox Buddhist cult.18 and "nirvana . . orgasm.7All fifty songs along with the complete commentary survive in a flawed Tibetan translation by Grags. does not make this distinction and leaves the readerwith an overly simplified No. indispensable to the effort of reconstructingtheir meaning.a= Krsnacarya.mtshan which is."19 . What holds for one phase may well not hold for another."'7 His rejectionof conventional Buddhism is epitomized in the "central activity" of Caryagiti where "lust is the same as disgust. the Vajrayana "sinister"rituals. For the Indian Vajrayana is not a simple phenomenon. different siddhas (among them Kukkuripa. libertinism as practice. Das Gupta (see below) might say "yes. nevertheless. to answerthe question with a simple "yes" or "no" is to belie the complexity of the issue. and Saraha)and the other half attributed to seventeen other.In brief. lowing majorphases: . but ratherto try to set his interpretationwithin the context where it may be valid and to suggest another. sexual intercourse.Luyipa. B. . along with Munidatta's commentary. quite literally [is] conceived to be a perpetual celibacy.174 REGINALDRAY period. more classicalcontext where I feel that it is not appropriate. ."20 Is this interpretation accurate?Followers of the Indian scholar S.13 an out and out rejection of orthodox Buddhism. . Siegel Vajrayana."15 Caryagitihas. "given up his traditional understanding of Buddhism.6 with an accompanyingcommentary in Sanskrit by Munidatta written probably in the thirteenth century. Buddhist monks. . pre-Buddhistcontext of the "Bengal Blackie" song. the more splendid and desirableit is (to him)."'6and for him "the more base or forbidden a thing is to the .rgyal."10a sect within the larger setting itself apartfrom the latter" and seeing itself as superior'2on Vajrayana. distinctive phases of development." In my judgment." understandingof what Caryagiti existed in India in one form Let us begin by noting that the Indian Vajrayana and a thousand or another probably for at least passed through the folyears.Bhusuku.

but there is no direct evidence of this period.22 Vajrayana accepted as a legitimate Buddhist tradition by the Buddhist establishment. There appearsto be virtuallyno direct historicalevidence of this period either. its liturgical structure and its symbology firmly in of this period place. Esoteric Period: This period extends from the period of origins (during 2) had taken some kind which the foundations of classicalIndian Vajrayana of initial. more or less self-consciouslyBuddhist shape) down to the mideighth century when the Vajrayanabegan to gain widespread public attention. including Vajrayana texts.OF BENGALBLACKIE REASSESSMENT was taking its ini1) Origins:This is the period during which the Vajrayana tial shape in India. The length of time during which this processwas occurringis entirely conjectural. The public is perhaps also indicated by the acceptance and stature of the Vajrayana fact that it is in the eighth century that we have the first evidence of Indian Vajrayanist missionariesin greater Asia (Subhakara." the Vajrayanaseems to have existed entirely outside of the established Buddhist monastic framework. This acceptanceis indicated by the Pala dynasty'sactive patronage of the Vajrayana beginning about 750 and by its building of several monastic in orientation (Odantamajor complexes that were Vajrayanist and in Vikramaslla the pura eighth century and Somapura in the Now the was ninth). if the earliest tantras and tantric hagiographiesare accurate.23From these documents.Vajrabodhi. At the same time. In addition. Earlier ClassicalPeriod of General Acceptance: This period begins with 3) the mid-eighth centurywhen the Vajrayana found widespreadacceptance in India. gives evidence of the kind of Vajrayana that was extant at roughly this period in India. but in light of later developments it is not unreasonableto assume that the processcontinued down into the sixth century at least. within a larger Tantricand Buddhist context. and perhaps even a little later. was practiced at the great Buddhist monasteries. dating from the eighth and ninth centuries. The earliest tantric artifactsfound at Nalanda date only from the late and the first great Pala Vajrayana monasteeighth or earlyninth century21 ries were built only about the same time. the Vajrayana representsan earlierstage of evolution when compared with later devel- 175 . during the "esotericperiod" the Vajrayana seems to have been practiced largely in secret and to have met with considerablepersecution. and Amoghavajra in China and Padmasambhavaand Vimalamitra in Tibet). in many respects. and enjoyed the prestige of special royal favor. We are in a position to find out something definite about the Indian as practiced during this period owing to the spectacularfinds Vajrayana earlierin this centuryat Tun-huangin Chinese Turkistan.The Tun-huang collection of Tibetan documents. During this "esoteric period. with its basic Mahayanistoutlook. initial impressions suggest that the Vajrayanahad already by this time assumed its classical and self-consciously Buddhist form.

reading back. we see the Indian Vajrayanaagain.po. tell us of this period. the Indian Vajrayana systematized and perhaps more conventional form than previously.24 more about the Indian Vajrayana 4) The Later ClassicalPeriod: We have so far little reliable evidence for the Indian Vajrayana as it existed between the time of Tun-huangand its reintroduction into Tibet roughly two centuries later. during the time of the second spreading of Buddhism (eleventh-thirteenth centuries). although such a judgment is largelyconjectural. in the eleventh century. Now. This "later classicalperiod" comes to an end at the close of the twelfth century when Muslim raids on India culminated in MuhammadGhuri's devastationof the Buddhist monasteries in northeasternIndia. one can hazarda guess that the kind of VajrayanaSiegel speaks about may well have existed then.25 spreadIndian Vajrayana Returning to our subject. realization songs such as CaryagitiNo. the Indian Atis'a. the that great mastersof such circlesof practicehad pupils may also have been . which also apparently go back to this same time period and which may. each of whom made importantcontributionsto the type of Vajrayana that became dominant in Tibet among the Kadam.It is typified in the kind of Vajrayanataught by the Tibetan Rin. more its strong monastic seat. retaining is in a more evolved.when we have evidence through Lama Taranatha(b. in time. in India: This period runs from the thirteenth 5) Post-Occupation Vajrayana century down at least to the end of the sixteenth century. However. Sakya. and Gelug traditions.Our assessmentof Siegel's interwe are attemptpretationswill depend on which of the periods of the Vajrayana ing to speak about. Nevertheless. bzang. 10 that Siegel seeks to interpretprobablyexisted through most. Kagyu.mi (who had studied with the siddha Santipa). 1575) (who draws on information provided by his Indian guru Buddhaguptanatha) of a vital and widestill retainingits earlierclassicalforms.It importantin the laterVajrayana. we have so far virtuallyno direct evidence. concern for doctrinally correct Buddhist language. In referenceto the period of origins and the esoteric period. When it was a question of the epiphany of deities or of communication among highly realized yogins. may well have remainedin the background.chen. and the Tibetans Marpa (who studied in India with the siddha Naropa) and 'Brog. this time as it is brought into Tibet for a second time.REGINALDRAY opments.These periods of initial formation and very early development no doubt saw non-monastic yogins with perhaps some connection to Buddhism practicing alongside others with no such connection. of the abovementioned periods of the Indian Vajrayana. The Tun-huang documents have the additional value of indicating the antiquity of many Tibetan Nyingma texts. Buddhist terminology as well as terminology aligned with other traditionsmay well have been in general and common use among such people. if not all.

the Indian Vajrayana of this time tracesitself through lineages of initiation into the practiceof a certain deity and its tantra. period" centuryonwards. the specific song that Siegel wishes to interpret.When we first have a glimpse of the Indian Vajrayana. THE CARYAGITI AND THE CLASSICAL INDIAN VAJRAYANA 177 It is well-known that a WesternProtestantmodel of "sects" is not reallyapplicable to the Indian Buddhist situation. 10 "works"in light of such evidence. In what follows. Perhaps they themselves were more interested in the integrity of their individual lineages than with how they were set within the largerclassicalBuddhist (or Hindu) traditions. transmitted by a particular master. although it may also have existed much earlieras well. one can speak of trends and emphases within the Indian Vajrayana but not of schools or sects in any real sense of the word. I would like to take my lead from Siegel's articleitself. and imposed patternswhere such did not originallyexist in any clearform. At the same time. and to see whether what Siegel has to say about CaryagitiNo. Certainly. 10. Probablyin their systematizationthe Tibetans left a lot of things out.27 and this inapplicability holds even more for the Vajrayana. but rathertrends-is no doubt somewhat artificial. CaryagitiNo.28 at least during the eighth through twelfth centuries in India (third period and fourth period).The situation is renderedcomplex by the fact that any given individual might hold or participate in any number of different lineages. Scholars believe that this collection was composed down to the twelfth century.REASSESSMENT OF BENGALBLACKIE who were understood to be neither strictly "Buddhist" nor "Hindu.26 How applicable is Siegel's interpretationfor the Vajrayana of these songs as they existed in this period? The only way I know to approachthis question is to look at some of the Vajrayana literature that characterizesthis "later classical in from the eleventh India. and they were sometimes seen as in revolt against the classicaltraditions. it is during the third period (from the Tun-huangevidence and the Tibetan Nyingma tradition) and the fourth period (from the rich evidence of the second spreading of Buddhism in Tibet). the many individual lineages making up the classical . by considering two questions: 1) what is the relation of the Caryagti to the largerVajraas depicted yana tradition in India and 2) what is the relation of the Vajrayana in the Caryagzti to the non-Vajrayana Indian Buddhist traditions? I. However. such ideas are no more than conjectural.with the bulk of songs being composed perhaps in the eleventh and twelfth centuries and thus certainlyverylate in the historyof the Indian Vajrayana. certainly dates-along with the others of the Carydgiti collection-at least from the fourth period." and were thus remembered as greatly realized ones in both traditions. as noted. Ratherthan being defined by schools or sects. Perhaps in those very early days the identity of such people was blurred. The later Tibetan typologization of the earlierVajrayana into "tantras"29 and "yanas"30-which in any case does not purportto identify schools. including Buddhism.

calls "SahajiyaBuddhists. . Vajrayana. the fundamental patternand mental processremainedthe same. found in the standardworks on the Indian siddhas. . and composed songs in a varietyof genres.38 survived in Tibet. The Caryagiti'sauthors were connected with the central Vajrayanadeities. They were unified by the fact that they all participated in a single liturgical structure. expression This discussion leaves an important issue unaddressed." with practitionerswhom he largerVajrayana. including that of Buddhism conventional and protest against tique These facts led Das Gupta and others to see the dohas and the the Vajrayana. but their "lives" are Vajrayana. . Les bouddhistes Kashmiriensdu moyen age confirms and underscoresthe fallacy of such usage. com(written in Western Apabhrams'a): in vernacular. "in any studies of the tantras. scholars have sometimes attempted to divide the Indian Vajrayanainto sects and schools.40The have a strong theme of cridohas. expressing a particularunderstanding of revolt against the which he calls the "Sahajayana. [they] decry strongly the conventional prac- . This fact has led David Snellgrove to remarkaptly. but the overall impression one gets is clear and consistent.39 One may doubt individual attributions. In reference to the Caryagiti."34 were a particularyana within TantricBuddhism characterizedsolely or at least 35 Jean Naudou in his work chiefly by its dependence on the concept of Sahaja. taught and commented on the basic tantras. Caryagitias expressionsof a single "yoga cult"41filled with a "spirit of revolt against the orthodox school . follows the same usage.In light of these facts. Das Gupta remarks on the apparentkinship between the Caryagitiand the Buddhist if there tification. performed their abhisekas (initiations). of all sorts. and to a much lesser extent the Carydagti. one must not permit oneself to be bewilderedby the mere appearanceof diversity . Das Gupta in his Obscure Religious Cults (hereinafter ORC) contends that the Caryagitibelong to a separatesect within the Vajrayana. He tells us that the term Sahajayana been used to identify a separateschool or sect "apparentlywithout textual jusVariousauthorshave "introducedthe term Sahajayana.37their philosophical and and many of their lineages commentarialworks are preservedin the Tenjur. Indian Vajrayana Nearly all of these twenty siddhas are centralfigures within the classicalIndian They appearnot only as authorsof these songs.33Per Kvaerne indicates the fallacy of this usage in referencegenerally to the Vajrahas yana and specificallyto the Carygtiti.REGINALDRAY Vajrayana during this period did not constitute many radicallydifferent orientations.attributed to some of the the both same at time. including that of the Carydgiti. They are both genres of tantric song. and emphasizing the notion of sahaja (co-emergence).36 of the Caryagitiis not to be set apartfrom the rest of the That the Vajrayana is furtherindicated by looking at the authorsof the Caryagiti. posed roughly same siddhas. as noted."31 In spite of these facts."32Siegel. again as anything other than an there seems no real justification for seeing Caryagzti classical of the central.

the biographiesand the tantrasnot to be fundamentally different in author or content from the dohas: there is the emphasis on sahaja. and also through those specifically Vajrayanist.thar).to erode and dispel substantialistic ideas about oneself and the external world through discoveryof their emptiness (suinyata). but rather a "world" that is pure and sacred. one finds each of the three genres of Vajrayana composition existing in some form in all the three types of extant primary literature. But. What remains is not nothing (which would be a nihilism eschewed by all major trends of Buddhism).45 the hagiographiesas the Vajrayana "lives" (Tib: rnam.This concern corresponds to the central thrust of the Madhyamaka.This suggests that the "spirit of protest" is not necessarilyto be understood as an out and out rejection by a "tantricoffshoot" of the rest of the Vajrayana-or of conventional non-Vajrayana Buddhism either. but one also finds the same types of songs in the (collective and individual) biographiesof the siddhas and also within the liturgicalframe48Relevantto the present discussion.and the tantricsongs. is a type of via negativa. then what can the meaning of this spirit of protest be? One finds in the Indian Vajrayana two central concerns operative on many different levels and in many contexts. To a large extent. various types of tantric hagiography." then how does one account for this spirit of protest? The answeris complex.47But.For example.REASSESSMENT OF BENGALBLACKIE tices of Buddhism and launch the bitterest attack on the commonly accepted practices and religious views of the orthodox systems.distinctivegenres of primarycomposition: Tantricliturgical composition.44 If the Caryagitiand the dohas are not to be Vajrayana understood as a separate "tantricoffshoot. but has to do with the fact that the different types of primary(as opposed to commentarial)Indian Vajrayana composition perform different functions within the overalleconomy of its literature.and one often finds the same kind of "spirit of protest" that characterizes the dohas and the Caryagiti. whereby one's (subjectively referring) egocentricity and (objectively referring)preconceptions about things are progressivelyexposed and dissolved. one finds the songs in work of the tantras. and involves seeing "what remains" when emptiness is realized. (in the biographies) the same siddhas appear as authors who are the authors of the dohas and the Caryagiti. if this is so. one finds three major. The second concern of the Indian Vajrayanais equally important. on the other hand.46and the songs in the collections of Caryagttiand dohas."42Particularlyin the one finds what appearsto be a trenchantcriticismof classical dohas of Saraha43 meditation and liturgy. these three major types of composition correspond to the three types of surviving primarytexts: the liturgical compositions survivemainly as the classicaltantras.Thus within the Indian Vajrayana. First. It is pure because it . This is carried out both through disciplines and meditation techniques common to all of Buddhism. the Tantricsongs are found primarilyin the collections referredto above.

particularlyin the waysin which the siddhas train their. And the dohas expressthe emptiness of all worldly and otherworldlypreoccupationsand phenomena as an end point. Secondly.This corresponds to the initial meditation on sunyatd in the tantric liturgies. a pronounced via negativais often followed.180 REGINALDRAY appears as it is. This two-fold concern is also expressedin the tantric songs. In the beginning of training.52 . characteristic experiexpression of a particularmoment of classicalVajrayana ence. In the tantras. fundamental structure of Vajrayanistritual. primaryVajrayana In the liturgies. so one concludeswith an extended meditation on emptiness (sampannakrama). that of sacredness. This same two-fold concern is expressedin the biographies. but suggeststhrough termssuch as "co-emergence"(sahaja)and luminosity (prabhasvara). and also those that we find in the doha collections. thereby emptying one's within mind of obstructing concepts. This two-fold concernis found as an underlying structurein all three types of composition-the liturgies. more as the rather but from as understood be 'positive' emptiness. the dohas critique everyform of egocenBuddhist ones. The Caryagiti. tric preoccupation. the biographies. separate dimensions of the ultimate experienceof sunyata.more and more an expression. sampannakrama When seen in context. wherebythe disciple is challenged The second concern to abandon his previous preconceptions about reality. conthe of not itself does become that even that sacredness subject obstructing cepts and preconceptions. (vikalpa). parallellingthe division of labor performed by and Carydgiti the three majortypes of primaryVajrayana literature.and begins to manifest itself gradually in he begins to notice a pure world which he lives and of which he is.disciples. empty of the egocentric distortions of conceptual thought way. Thus. both those that we find in the tantrasand biographies. more particularly ones.particularly religiousones. and the songs. in a yogic idiom that conoften makes them difficult to understand. They express criticism as the gateway and most particularlyVajrayanist through which one must pass to the experienceof sacredness.49 Finally. the second of the two Vajrayana to is not that is a sacredness this cerns. One first meditates on sunyata. and ritually empowered emptiness presence which is none other than the figurationof the sacrednessof the world. one visualizes (utpattrikrama) sacred as a which is a presence. Here. correspondingto the concluding meditation on emptiness at the end of the tantric liturgies. the protest of the doh2s. it is expressed in the common. the songs and other found preciselyin the materialcorrespondingto the dohas are characteristically 51 sectionsof the liturgy.the dohas tend to emphasize the first concernof sunyatM. It is sacred because it manifests itself in its own characteristic which the Vajrayana prefersto leave unnamed.50 as the disciple'spreconceptionsgive way. far from being evidence that is ratheran articulateand the dohas representa rejectionof classicalVajrayana.As suggested above. in some mysteriousway.on the other hand. tend to emphasize.

it should be noted that the more we find out about the history and development of Buddhism both before and during the third period and the fourth periods in India. but how is one to view the place of the itself. .55 In addition.In fact. To begin with. THE CARYAGITI. divides Mahayanainto paramita-naya and mantra-naya (tantras). as noted. Thus Das Gupta tells us that the Vajrayana withstanding the Buddhistic tone and color which it assumes. in continuity with the Mahayana ethical stance. within the larger Indian Buddhist tradition during this same Vajrayana period?The understandingof the Caryagitiand dohas as a "bitter . sometimes more overtly. the less discontinuousfrom the largerBuddhist world the Vajrayana appears. AND BUDDHISM It may be accepted that the Caryagitiare a dimension of the classicalVajrayana during the period under consideration. liturgy. attack" on conventional Buddhism. the apparent continuities between Hindu and itself have led severalscholars Buddhist Tantra. sometimes as an undercurrent. THE VAJRAYANA." And. the Indian Vajrayanists as seen in their literatureseem to have understood themselves as integrally Buddhist.Vajrayana practice is understood to be carriedout under the aegis of the unbreakablebodhisattva commitment to the welfare and ultimate enlightenment of all sentient beings.and the nature of the Vajrayana to hold that the Vajrayana and particularlythe Caryagitiare only nominally of the Caryagiti"notBuddhist."56 Tantricideas and practices never existed independently of the wider fold of Mahayana-a tantric master like Adayavajra. If the Vajrayana and its Caryagitiduring this period can be understood as integral expressions of classicalIndian Buddhism. is essentially an esotericyoga cult.REASSESSMENT OF BENGAL BLACKIE II.followed by the Tibetan tradition. The 57 basicideas of Mahayanaare alwayssubjacentin Tantricritual. and "meditation on forms" that are important at every period of Buddhist history. . then what is one to make of the Vajrayana's and particularlyCaryagiti'sapparent continuities with the Hindu Tantra?Sec*my addition . A look at the Vajrayana system itself as evidenced in its classicalIndian literature also confirms its continuity with earlierBuddhism in its concern to transcend ego and "see things as they are."53 Seigel. quite as fully as in the conventional Mahayana. Naudou pertinently observes that "farfrom opposing itself to the Mahayanaas the latter opposes itself to the is not consciousof being different from [the MahaHinayana. Vajrayana waysof speaking and practicing run throughout Buddhist history. [the Vajrayana] And Kvaerne notes that "it is too often forgotten that [Buddhist]* yana].54 Part of the reason this fact has not been appreciatedis that we have tended to read Buddhism itself in terms of its more philosophical expressions. The resulting one-sidedness has left aside counterbalancing trends of magic." The preceding leaves several important questions undiscussed. follows suit.

" to to the of the lation.61 by attributing the CaryagitiHindu Tantricemphases and concerns.63 activityas in the by finding Caryagiti Hindu Tantra. who have historicaland cosmological. At least by the time of the literatureof the third period and fourth period. quite dissimilar.feminine energy is understood as equananimous. and liberation.62 cosmologicalframeby seeing behind the Caryagitia Hindu Tantric in the the central ritual and same work.60 Siegel takes the same to the approach.58 Das Gupta in discussing the Caryagiti takes this apeven quite incorrectly a Vaishnaviteappelproach. as well as yogic dimensions. it is considered a central part of the classical of these periods. In Buddhist Tantraof these periods literal sexual activity seems to have played sometimes a major.but by the time of the literaturesurviving from the classicalthird period and fourth period. as is well known.In the Buddhist Tantra. apply Vajrayana Caryagiti. or as Siva and Sakti. aims at a perception of the ultimate nature of immediate experience. such a mixing of terminology may have characterizedthe first period and perhaps also to a lesser extent the second period of the Indian Vajrayana. spacious. the Hindu and Buddhist Tantrawould appear to be interested in different things.64 As noted above. In the Buddhist Tantra not fundamental issues. . Devl. whereas in Hindu Tantra. what is the role of the unconventionalitythat is incontrovertiblypart of the Vajrayana? And. a perception that is primarilyunderstood to be inseparablefrom egolessness. by contrast. During the third period and fourth period. in contrastto Hindu Tantra. and intelligent. even in reversedform.59 using the term "Sahajiya. thirdly. a.the aim to achievethe primal cosmicunity throughyoga contrastssharplywith the BudThe yogic dhist disavowalof such a concern for illo tempore in the Vajrayana. such a mixing occursonly rarely. The Buddhist Tantra. emptiness. how is one to interpret its sexual imagery? All three issues would seem to call into question the fundamentally Buddhist natureof the Vajrayana and Caryagtti. Hindu andBuddhist Tantra Basing themselveson undeniable similaritiesbetween the Hindu and Buddhist tantras. but also its various components would appear to be markedlydifferent from those of the Hindu Tantra. attempting clarify Caryagitiby using specificallyHindu Tanto tric terminology. sometimes a minor. In Hindu Tantra.182 REGINALDRAY ondly. not only the specific intention of the Buddhist Tantraand its integrally Buddhist context. scholarshave often tended to treat the two as subsets of the same religious orientation. the roles are reversedand. caste purity and pollution are sadhana. and sometimes (in the monastic context) a non-existent role.In Hindu Tantra. while masculine energy is the more active and externally transforming. The formerappearsto aim at perceptionand worshipof the primal reality of the cosmos revealedas the Goddess.

They adopted a particularlifestyle and followed its conventions. they are often depicted (even while monks) as drinking liquor and cohabiting with low caste women. in so far Finally. They are shown as awe-inspiring men and women who had attained the two siddhis-enlightenment itself and indicates a "natural"way. A close look at the hagiographiesof the period suggest that ratherthan calling the siddhas unconventional and seeing them as unvaryinglyso. In the Buddhist Tantra. were at great pains to registermoral and metaphysicalobjection to the Hindu Tantraand the literature indicatesa continual tension and contention between the two traditions. optimistic evaluation of the human should be mentioned that the Buddhist Tantrics as they are reflected in hagiographiesfrom these periods. This is so.even the term sahaja appearsto intend two very different things in the two traditions. though also appearingas layman or monk. As depicted in the Indian hagiographies. most of them were quite faithful to the conventions of their contexts.e. themselves. in seeming flagrant contradictionto Buddhist ethics. but they are frequently shown acting in a manner contradictory to conventional codessometimes in the most outrageous fashion. they are often depicted as extremely conventional and. sahaja is bound up with an opposite.65Lastly.66 b. Taranathatells us that a certain Indian siddha purposely hid his true level of realizationbecausehe saw that revealingit would not help those around him. They are characterizedby unpredictabilityand. Here sahaja indicates the perception of the inseparabilityof samsaraand nirvana(thus "coemergence") and the proximity of enlightenment with ordinary experience. The siddhas were usually non-monastic. accommodating the base human tendencies of this Kali Yuga. neither conventional nor unconventional. because in the literature. It is a legitimate question to ask what this has to do with Buddhism.REASSESSMENT OF BENGALBLACKIE processesof Buddhist and Hindu Tantraalso appear quite different in intention. In the Hindu Tantra. Unconventionalityin the Vajrayana A look at the three majorgenres of Indian Vajrayana composition might seem to confirm the existence of a gap separating the Vajrayana from the rest of Indian Buddhism during the third period and the fourth period. What makes the difference between the siddhas' conventionality and their unconventionality?In the literature. it might be more accurateto call them non-conventional-i. often following the lifestyles of hermit or wanderingyogi.. for those siddhas who were monks and laymen.67 183 . their relationshipto the fixed codes of their general Indian and specificallyBuddhist environmentwas ambiguous. and this is particularlysuggested by descriptionsof often ratherextreme unconventionality among the siddhas. one has the impressionthat most of the time. the siddhas are shown as following forms of convention for the same reason that they break them-to teach others. stressingthe possibility of enlightenment in one life.

to as the inseparabilityof wisdom (pjnaa-the is referred yana. This Vajrais. In the classicalVajrasubject not bound up ego. the of inherent to the to means formulation ordinary purity point yana . There are in fact stories in Tibetan tradition about individualswho came to grief because they took this saying too literally. sometimes by upholding it. SexualImageryin the Vajrayana of the eighth to twelfth centuriesin As in earlierBuddhism. This characteristically world. but only within its existing context and in relation to its helpfulness to enlightenment."is to say that the relative world itself provides the means by which liberation may be attained. But might one indicate these two which are in fact not two this mysteryis often depicted in the tantriciconograIn the but one? Vajrayana transcendental couple in embrace.68Interestinglyenough. and unwilling to extend themselvesfar enough in fulfillment of their bodhisattvavows. the latter as conditions of giving teaching requires Bhadrapato come to the cremation grounds at virtue of ethics or behavior. sometimes by contradicting it. and any given behavioral norm has no assignedvalue in and of itself. c. and eventuallyhas Bhadrapacleaning latrines. all disasterously polluting actionsfor a man of his caste. If the siddhas are depicted as unconventional. but ratherbecause they are understood to be acting under the Mahayanainjunction to help others. this bipolarity and wisdom of the individual) great bliss (mahasukha-the experiencedquality how of the world). enlightenment expressed bipolarin nature:one can speak of a in and of a world seen as it is. so in the Vajrayana as is often India. by passion released. the world is Tantra: in the Hevaira "By passion expressedin the saying quoted in dictum this to understand not It is bound. liberation might somehow be attained. a basic idea in all Buddhist schools. Enlightenment itself reveals things as they are. it is not through any inherent rejectionof the relativevalue of caste or of conventional Buddhist norms.although it will (particularly the bodhisattva's commitment) expressitself in an active and energetic way in relation to any code. the siddha biographiesrevealthe siddhas continually criticalof their more conventional Mahayanabrethrenbecausethey find the latter too tame.REGINALDRAY On the other hand. But then what is the meaning of this oft-repeated Vajrayana dictum? "By passion the world is bound. when the excessivelyscrupulousBrahmin Bhadrapameets his teacher. phy of a not only indiso The sexual imagery prevalentin this period of the Vajrayana the path. by saying Vajrayana criminantlyindulging in sexual passion and breakingsocial or religious conventions. bringing liquor and pork. The telling point in these biographiesis one that characterizes Indian Buddhism as a whole: enlightenment itself is disjunct from any establishedcode of in the Mahayana. by passion released. about also but the cates something about something important goal. even if this involves breaking(even) Buddhist conventions to do it. of course."69 important indisthat were if as the literal a purely naive and fashion.

less Bud- . the notion of anasravadharmasin Abhidharmaand ofparatantrasvabhavain the Yogacara. the referencesto explicit sexual rites were often understood in a purely symbolic manner.the Carygitti'sVajrayana dhism and replacing it with a different type of religiosity. but ratheran integral expressionof the classicalVajrayana is appreciatedwhen we properlyunderstand the structureof the Indian Vajrayana. sexual activity seems to have been one context of practice.and the way in which its unconventionality and sexual imagery representVajrayana ways of stating and realizing traditionalBuddhist concerns. and most likely later classicalperiod of the Indian Vajrayana (1 lth-13th c.OF BENGALBLACKIE REASSESSMENT Even passion.71 It would appear that the dictum in the classicalVajrayana. as well as the particularidiom of the Caryagitiand the way its "spirit of protest" is an expressionof a centralmoment within the classicalVajrayana. This notion parallelsin earlier Buddhism. Instead. the Caryagitiin this context is not an expressionof an aberrant. this inherent purity of the variousaspectsof In the Vajrayana the phenomenal world-passion and the other defilements-was an emphasized subject of practice. that most fundamental of samsaricdefilements can. its fundamental discontinuities with Hindu Tantra. we would see a context of interpretationfor Kanha'ssong different from the one suggested by Lee Siegel on two major points."by passion the world is bound. nor yet a middle state. to take just two examples. the Vajrayana clearlysees itself as the legitimate inheritor of classicalIndian Buddhism and as a development within the latter. ist tradition. and look at it in the context of other evidence from the same period. We should also context. This is appreciatedwhen we note the its self-understandingas a Mahayanfully Buddhist ambience of the Vajrayana. In the earlydays of the Vajrayana and also during the third period and fourth period. but ratherthat the real point lay elsewhere."75 CONCLUSION It would thus appearthat when we take Kanha's Caryagiti#10.renegade Vajrayana itself.70 the Sarvastivada of this period.72but more broadlyand more accuratelyit intends everyaspect of conditioned experiin India (first period and second period) ence. even the later commentators keep in mind that within the Vajrayana didn't think that the main point was whether referencesto sexual activitywere As the literal or purely symbolic. As noted above. become a means to liberation. itself an expression of the classical. does not see itself as rejectingearlierBudSecondly. because of its inherent purity. in reference to sahaja.74 Heva/ra Tantrasays. CE). sahajais called perfect enlightenment. by passion freed" intends passion in its various senses. This tradition. Because of its freedom from all three. this is not to deny the possibility of other earlier. but never the only one and often not the main one. First.73At other times in India and in Tibet. its important role within the Buddhist monastic system. it is not quite passion nor yet the absence of passion that is the key issue: "Neither passion nor the absence of passion is found there.

such a readingwould seem clearlyinappropriate. An Anthology of Buddhist TantricSongs (Oslo: Universitetsforlaget. 3.Rome: Libraria 4. Ibid. 20. 51. v. 1984. 26. babs. 1949. 54. Ibid. 54. p. Calcutta. 54. Tezu. First edited by HaraprasadSastri. 21. Ibid.. David Snellgrove. 9-16. 25.. 22 (1984). Ibid. 14. 19. "Bengal Blackie. 349. Buddhist Himalaya (Oxford: Bruno Cassirer. 27..1957).. 18. p. I. p. 18 and 17-29.. Buddhist Monks and Monasteriesin India. 15. Ibid. Dist. For a brief but helpful summary of the siddha ideal. 1946). Most recently. 53. 1977).. 1928) and Das Gupta (Shashibhusan Das Gupta. 1974. Les ChantsMystiquesde Kanha et de Saraha.bdun. "Bengal Blackie and the Sacred Slut: A SahajayanaBuddhist Song. pp. "MahayogaTextsat Tun-huang. Nyingma Monastery. "A Ninth Century Vajrayana presented to the Conferenceon Buddhism and Christianity. pp. p. pp. (London: George Allen and Unwin. pp."p. 349. Vol. 53. 17."Bukkyobunkakenkyushokiyo. Forinformation on the text and its commentary. man. pp. Ibid. such as Caryagiti.186 REGINALDRAY dhicized contexts in which songs such as Kanha's may have been differently understood. 21.January. 53. 22. 51. But for the classical periods of the Vajrayana.bkah.the Caryagitiand their commentaryin both original languages and in Tibetan translation have been subjected to close and brilliant scrutinyby Per Kvaernein his Buddhist Tantric Songs. Hajar BacharerPurana Bangala Bhasay Bauddha Gan o Doha (BangiyaSahityaParisat. 8. Ibid. Kvaerne. 7.Calcutta.. 54.see Kvaerne. History of the Seven Special Transmissions. Siegel. 6.. ff. 51-58. see Kvaerne. p.ldan. Italicizeditems. NOTES 1.ibid. The Caryagitihave been the subject of a number of studies since Sastri's edition and publication of the text. p. Translationused by Per Kvaerne. Lee Siegel. Fora summaryand criticalevaluation of the variousworksdealing with the Caryagiti. Scrolls. pp. Tibetan Painted dello Stato.. Ibid. 46-48.cit. the eleventh and twelfth centuries C. ibid. 13.. 16. Kvaerne. Fora list of the siddhas to whom the songs are attributed.Buddhist Tantric Songs. 9.. 2. Obscure Religious Cults. Ltd. 51. p. p.are Sanskritunless otherwisenoted. p. For an idea of what these documents can reveal about the Indian Vajrayana."a paper 24. Volume 1.. particularly during the first period and second period of the Indian as It is an hypothesis for such an earlierperiod's hermeneutics that Vajrayana. 55. 12.and particularlyfor the fourth period. the general tenor of Siegel's interpretationsare interesting. p.. Ibid. 1962). see Ken East23. p. Ibid. p..E. Sukumar Dutt. 4.Paris." BuddhistChristianStudies. Kvaerne. 1981.O. p. Lohit. 1916). see Guiseppe Tucci. 7.ibid. 56. p. Handbook from Tun-huang.op.Buddhist Tantric Songs. p.. 5. p. Ibid. 3. ArunchalPradesh.Universityof Hawaii at Manoa.. summa- . p. Particularly significant and influential have been the worksof Shahidullah (Mohammed Shahidullah.see Kvaerne. 226-230. 11. See also Ken Eastman. from which the Caryagiti#10 and its commentary comes. quoting Snellgrove'sview. Ibid.Tibetan P. Taranatha. 10.

Introductionto ular) the name of Kalacakrayana Tantric Buddhism (Calcutta:CalcuttaUniversityPress. while guhyayana (secret way). 42. For a modern composition of the Nyingma classification of the nine yanas. pp. same discussion falls on pages 129.while the earlier usage is sometimes retained. B. 165. The Royal Song of Saraha(Seattle: University of Washington Press.rjeexpressesthis typology in classicalform.) were reknowned for their teaching of the dohas.. Bibliotheque d'Etudes vol. Das Gupta. Wayman. Snellgroveand H. 15-16. p. characteristics of the schools have never been sufficiently explained . 28. p. 30. pp. 50.Buddhist Himalaya. p. ff. 289-307.very unevenly. "Bengal Blackie. Buddha's Caturasitisiddhapravrtti.g. into English by Breretonand Picron as Buddhists of Kasmr.CulturalHistoryof Tibet (New York:Praeger. V. pp. xxiii-xxviii."way of the hearers"and "way of the solitary paths. 1969). . p. see Tarthang Tulku.grub. 33. "the term yana (at least in the sense of separateschools) is somewhat out of place when referringto the various aspects of tantricism.. ff.Kalacakrayana and Vajrayana is quite artificial" (Buddhist TantricSongs.the term yana is often likewise used sometimes to indicate an emphasis-on a particularlineage or text.1954). See David Snellgrove'srendition of one of Saraha'sdohas. See H. 61.Thus bodhisattvayanais another. mantrayana(way of mantras). 109-112.Buddhist-Tantric Songs. 37. Siegel. . 226-227.) and Maitripa (llth c. 139.2 vols.rgyas(11th c. . ObscureReligious Cults. Ibid. upayaydna(way of skillful means) and sahajaydna(way of co-emergence) would be examples of the latter. In the Vajrayana. .. . 1958). The great monastic teacherAtiga(982-1054) had studied the dohas as part of his training and siddhas as diverseas Dam.sangs. For an example of such a typologization. E. appearsto be perplexing. p.g. 1). p. Fundamentalsof the Buddhist Tantra (The Hague: Mouton. (in partic. Ibid. 141.yana can also be used in a non-exclusiveway. E." Ibid. See A. equivalent name for the Mahayana. CrystalMirror V(Berkeley:Dharma Press. 38. for fuller statement.1980. n. Delhi: Agam Kala Prakashan. Kalacakrayana (way of the KalacakraTantra)would be an example of the former. or an aspect of the Vajrayana itself. . E. David Snellgrove. pp. As Kvaerne observes. ibid.. and SahaKalacakrayana. 34. "yana" generally means a "yana" in the Mahayanaand Vajrayana path that is distinctive and different from other paths. Translated. "The poets of the Sahajiyaschool laid their whole emphasis on their protest against the formalities of life and religion and this made them distinct in their religious attitude from the Vajrayana or the generalschool of Tantric Buddhism. pp. Vajrapani (11th c. 44. Lineages of doha study entered Tibet through Marpathe translator(1012-1097) who studied with Maitripa. Abhayadattasri's translatedby James B. Guenther. 68. Lions(Berkeley:Dharma Publishing. 1955). 29. One reasonfor this errormay be a misunderstandingof the use of the term context. 31. 1977). 1959) makes this point clearin his introductorysection. 35.1968). and through Vajrapani.). .. Latera Tibetan commentatorlooking back on the dohd tradition remarkedthat he found the basic teaching of the dohas to embody "the essenceof Buddhism" (Ibid. in EdwardConze. 275. the bodhisattva ideal.REASSESSMENT OF BENGAL BLACKIE rizes this point nicely. p. Robinson. Das Gupta. jayana and then says "we do not know on the authority of what texts this division of schools has been made . In another work. In earlier Buddhism. See also D.. LesBouddhistesKasfmriensau MoyenAge. 224-239. ff. Kvaerne. 36.g. Evidencefrom Tibetan tradition further indicates something of the central role of the dohas in the Indian Vajrayana. 7-9. Richardson. He mentions the terms Vajrayana. as in sravakayana buddhas" respectively. Snellgrove. Das Gupta appears to express doubts about the correctnessof his erstwhile attempts to classify the Indian Vajrayana into different sects. 43. 32. p. Bareau. Das Gupta.. 51. pp. Jean Naudou. In the Mahayana and Vajrayana. Ibid. Paris:Annales du Musee Guimet. Ibid. 39. 79-80.. 40. see F Lessingand A. 41."S. (London: Oxford University Press. Hevajra Tantra.). 1-46. 1979). LXVIII. pp. ObscureReligious Cults. Buddhist Texts Throughthe Ages (New York:HarperTorchbook. pp.Les Sectes Bouddiques du Petit Vehicule(Saigon: Ecole FranSaised' extreme-orient."p. 4. pp. to be followed to the exclusion of other and pratyekabuddhayana.1968. the distinction between Sahajayana. where each of the worksin the tantricsection of the Tenjurattributed to one of the eighty-foursiddhas is listed. 1968). xxxiii. where mkhas.

Buddhist Himalaya. Kvaerne. 31.Buddhist Tantric Songs. 74 (Delhi: InternationalAcademy of Indian Culture." and " 'There is no difference' Kanha declared. Such as sakti. 64. Buddha'sLions."p. pp. 6-11. ditioned nature of good and evil itself invariablygives birth to. reestablishedthe primordialunity out mythological plane the god has reincorporated of which all things are evolved" (ibid. xxxiii.Les ChantsMystiques. (above n. and austeritiesand is freed from mantraand meditation. p. these concepts are used within a specificallyBuddhist context . HevajraTantra. 46. 54. "the Tantric adept transcendedthe categories:pure and impure. compassion for others.I. ObscureReligious Cults.). 135-6. Sata-PitakaSeries. I. Kvaerne.trans. Kvaerne. p. " 'What Remains' in Sunyata: A YogacaraInterpretationof Emptiness. by David Snellgrove. pp. 61. Abhidharmakosa Melangeschinois et bouddhiques. 24: "Free from learning and ceremony and any cause of shame. releasedfrom all obligations .I. II. J. p.I. "Bengal Blackie. 48." Buddhist Tantric Songs.Buddhist Tantric Songs. HevajraTantra. 1971 edition. . see esting viewpoint on the Yogacaratheory of trisvabhavaand particularly Gadjin M. abhidharma. pp.Buddhist Tantric Songs. pp. Bruxelles:Institut Belge des hautes etudes chinoises.188 REGINALDRAY 45. p.d. 434. and HevajraTantra. 67. Vol. This becomes particularly der. E. David Snellgrove.. The best example in English is the HevajraTantra. we emphasize again. For an interparatantrasvabhava. "Sexualintercoursewas the centralactivityof the Sahajiyasadhana. Historyof the Seven Special Transmissions.ldan 50. e. and both the dohas and contain both types of material. 185 ff. 51. 1958). and throughout Kosa. See Kvaerne. Caryagiti 53. Naudou. ff. n. 1-90 presents many examples in support of this point. 30. 61."(ibid. Nagao. On the anasravadharmasin the Sarvastivadin de Vasubandhu..bdun. a commitment that is understoodto hold for all subsequent lifetimes! 56." 52. the yogin wandersfilled with great compassion. Robinson. "Bengal Blackie. 73. 54) without prethe ultimate insight which revealsthe consenting the other side of the picture. For the Vajrayana.babs. susumna. 20 where he says "the fundamentals of are the same." the Hindu and Buddhist Tantras 60. while other yogic schools emphasize the importanceof preservingthe 'nectar' of the highest cakrain order to attain as a immortality .). 54).' " (Siegel. Buddha'sLions. good and evil . Thus it is somewhat misleading to say. 26-32."pp.. and also Taranatha's (Livesof the Siddhas). pp. p..g. 200.. "on the the goddess. 63. 70. and kundalin.. 65. See. 'between virtue and vice. the two modes of truth functioning within the frameworkof a dialecticalprocess which aims at uniting both planes of being."p. p. Hevajra Tantra. . We read that the yogin "intimates" (sic!) a "mythological event" (ibid. Such as the overridingHindu Tantricconcernsfor transcendingcaste purity and pollution: "the Sahajiyaadept could demonstratein (the armsof his low caste partner)his transcendenceof caste distinctionsand social taboos" (Siegel. 59. Kvaerne:"Yogicterms and concepts play an important part in TantricBuddhism. and Shahidullah. and is inseparablybound up with. ff.51. . 69.. renunciation.. evident in classicaldescriptionsof the higher bhumis.g. A constant theme throughout Buddha's Lions. of course a sacrednessthat is never to be understood except as inseparablefrom emptiness. Das Gupta. VolumeXVI.. 55.Buddhist Tantric Songs. this saying quoted by Siegel. Rah68. p. These distinctions are only relative ones. 52-53). BuddhistsofKamtir. Das Gupta. ThroughoutBuddha'sLions. 66.ii. 57). 49. SeeJ. p. "Bengal Blackie. 47. xxxivand p. 52)." in Minoru Kiyota (ed.. Taranatha. No. ObscureReligious Cults. . p. 22). bkah. . 30.. p. B. but without footnote. 62. This is. 58. tantric Buddhism emphasizes the function of [the highest] mahasukhacakra symbol of Absolute truth and hence as the complementary opposite of relative truth. MirceaEliade appearsto take this approachin his Yoga:Immortalityand Freedom (Princeton: Bollingen Foundation. vi. but at the same time. Robinson. He has passed beyond oblations. . DafabhumikaSitra. and the unbreakable bodhisattva vow of commitment to the welfare of others. see Louis de la Vallee Poussin. pp. pp. 54. MahayanaBuddhist Meditation: Theoryand Practice(Honolulu: University . 57.

The unceasing arisingof experience thus is understood to provide unending opportunities to transcendego: a fact that has led to the application to the Vajrayana.."a way rich in soteriological methods.or ignore what arises in fulfillment of the root defilements: passion (raga). One is enjoined to develop "sacredoutlook" (Tib. Journey Without Goal. Which.HevajraTantra.. 189 . is much broader than sexual passion per se. Vol. Boulder: ShambhalaPublication. Snellgrove.snangs): whateverpleasing or unpleasing thing arises. 75. drive away. pp. Ibid. Vol. 82.) 72. dag.. aggression (dvesa). Ibid. I. Rinpoche.not to be subjected to egocentricpossessionand manipulation." (Ven. 8-10. 66-82. or ignorance (moha).OF BENGALBLACKIE REASSESSMENT of Hawaii Press. and that the possible purity of conditioned experience has important implicationsfor the path (marga). 33-34. 1978). and includes the passion behind turning on a light or turning the page of a book. I. Both theories state in characteristic ways that conditioned experience need not be only defiled. of course. Vol. is to regardit as sacredand just what it is. pp. 73. 74. I. of the term upaya-yana. Trungpa. This is understoodto short circuithabitual attempts to convert experience into ego's own currency-to possess. ModernTibetan oral commentaryexplains this emphasis as follows: Conditioned experience is to be regardedas pure and sacred. p. 1983. pp.