View from the Kalacakratrantra

The body as a text and the text as the body: a view from the Kalacakratrantra’s perspective.

Vesna A. Wallace, University of California, Santa Barbara

I. Introduction

When contemporary geneticists study the body, they look at it as a genetic text and strive to intelligibly read it as a blueprint for how the body is formed and maintained. In this sense, for geneticists, a malleable genetic text serves as a metaphor of the body. The holders of the Kalacakra tradition in India saw the body in a similar way. They viewed it as a tantric text, consisting of mantras and letters that provide a blueprint of the mind-body complex, its operations, habitual propensities, and potentialities for transformation. They devised their own method of interpreting, editing, and changing that text in order to transmute the ordinary body characterized by afflictions into the blissful body of empty form. One can say that in the context of the K›lacakra tradition, a tantra is also interpreted as a metaphor of the body, since the tantric text and its discourse themselves are treated as blueprints of the individual’s mind and body. Moreover, a tantric text is also understood as representational body of ultimate reality, manifesting in a literary form, as a literary reproduction of Vajrasattva, the Buddha’s gnosis of bliss. In this paper, I will discuss both—the Indian Buddhist interpretation of the Kalacakratantra discourse as the body, and the interpretations of the body as the Kalacakra tantric text having a performative function. These two interpretations can be equally relevant for our understanding of the concepts of tantra and the tantric body. I surmise that these two interpretations could also have broader implications for contemporary theories in literary and cultural studies, as they extend the existing notions of the text, its function, and the role of the reader. In the context of Indian tantric Buddhism, the concept of the body as a sacred text is evoked in various definitions of the term “tantra” and is elaborated within the Buddhist tantric discourse on the body and tantric practice.

The Buddhist tantric concept of the body as a Dharma discourse or as a sacred text

has its precursors in earlier Buddhist literature. In the early Pali sources, its antecedents can be recognized in the Buddhist definitions of Dharma, contained in discussions pertaining to the Buddha’s discourse on Dharma. In the Ariyapariyesan›-sutta of the Majjhimanikaya, I.167, Dhamma is defined as dependent origination (paticcasamuppada), which is synonymous with samsara, the condition of a sentient being, and it is also defined as nibbana. The Mahahatthi-padopama-sutta (MN, 2001, p. 282) further states that one who sees dependent origination sees Dhamma, and one who sees Dhamma sees the dependent origination. In the Pali suttas, the Buddha himself is identified with Dhamma due to his insight into dependent origination. Therefore, one of the epithets of the Buddha in the Pali suttas is dhamma-bhÒta (“one who has become Dhamma”); and the Buddha is quoted as saying: “He who sees the Dhamma sees me, and he who sees me sees the Dhamma.” 1 This early Buddhist interpretation of Dharma suggests that by gaining transformative insight into a Dharmadiscourse, one becomes the embodiment of Dharma. It further shows that in the context of early Buddhism, an ordinary individual who fully grasps a Dharma-discourse with both of its aspects—sa˙s›ric and nirv›°ic—becomes transformed into its nirv›°ic aspect. Thus, there is nothing outside the Dharma itself that is being transformed, and there is nothing outside the Dharma that brings about a transformation. This interpretation can be also supported by a statement given in the commentary on the Pa˛isambhid›-magg›, which interprets the phrase “dhamma-cakka” as Dharma being a weapon (pahara°a-cakka) by means of which mental afflictions (kilesa) are destroyed.2 This understanding of Dharma as a three-faceted phenomenon, consisting of the basis, means, and the result of a transformative insight, is echoed in the later Buddhist views of Mah›y›na sÒtras and in the Buddhist tantric interpretations of the term “tantra.” In the subsequent Mah›y›na literature, a Mah›y›na sÒtra, sometimes referred to as a Dharma text, is seen as a textual embodiment of all the good qualities of Buddhahood. Therefore, one is told that by listening, memorizing, reciting, or copying a Mah›y›na sÒtra, one will acquire those good qualities and see the Buddhas.3 Similarly, the Saddharmapu°˜arıka-sÒtra asserts that by reading, copying, mastering, and teaching this text to others, one attains the pure and perfect body, which reflects the triple universe with all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in it.4 It is also stated in the Lalitavistara that the house in which this Dharma text is found is the dwelling place of the Tath›gatas, and one who masters it, will be like the imperishable ocean.5 Statements like these indicate that also in the context of Mah›y›na, by mastering a Dharma discourse, which is a container of all virtues and the means of attaining the virtues, one becomes a living Dharma text, instilled with virtue and worthy of reverence. In Indian Buddhist tantric sources, the term “tantra” is frequently defined as aconnected discourse.”6 In the Am¸taka°ik›, one reads the following: A tantra is called a “connected discourse.” Sa˙s›ra is considered a tantra. A tantra is called a “secret mystery.” The higher is called a “tantra.”7 Thus, similarly to the early Buddhist definition of Dharma, a tantric discourse here has sa˙s›ra and nirv›°a as its two interconnected aspects. This “connected discourse” is said to have three aspects, namely: the cause (hetu), result (phala), and method (up›ya) leading to the result. Although in various Buddhist tantric texts, interpretations of these three mutually related aspects of a tantric discourse differ slightly, they equally suggest that the individual may be viewed as a tantra with all of its facets. According to the Yogaratnam›l› commentary on the Hevajratantra (1959, p. 105), the causal aspect of a tantra is sentient beings (sattva) who are the members of the vajra-family. Another commentary on the Hevajratantra, the Hevajrapañjik›-mukt›valı, identifies the causal tantra and a causal Hevajra (hetu-hevajra), with a geneological line (gotra), or a vajra-family. A tantra is a connected discourse (prabandha). It is of three kinds: the causal tantra (hetu-tantra), resultant tantra (phala-tantra), and method-tantra (up›yatantra). Therefore, Hevajra is also of three kinds: the causal Hevajra, resultant Hevajra, and method-Hevajra. A cause (hetu), a geneological line (gotra), and a family (kula) are synonyms. Here, a vajra-family itself is called acausal Hevajra” and a “causal tantra” due to being a receptacle of virtues that have sublime compassion (mah›-karu°›) and wisdom (prajñ›) as their essential part. Why is it Hevajra? Because Hevajra is the cause. Why is it a connected discourse? On account of the multitude of sentient beings who belong to the vajra-family and owing to the power of a causal Hevajra, the state of sublime Vajradhara, which is attainable through the long-term practice of the method-Hevajra, is called a “resultant Hevajra” and aresultant tantra.8 In the Guhyasam›jatantra (Ch.18, vs. 34-35), the causal aspect is the material nature (prak¸ti), which is the cause of a form, or appearance (›k¸ti).9 In the Gu°avatı˛ık› commentary on the Mah›m›y›tantra, (1992, p. 2-3), it is the beginningless and endless mind of sentient beings, which is luminous by nature (prak¸ti-prabh›svara) and the cause of spiritual awakening.10 As for the method aspect of a tantra, all the aforementioned texts describe it as a means of transforming a tantra’s causal aspect into its resultant form. As will be demonstrated later in this paper, the method aspect of a tantra is an embodied practice; it is a performative facet of an embodied tantric text. Furthermore, the resultant form of a tantra, which is reality (tattva), or the gnosis of supreme and imperishable bliss, is said to have its origin and place in the body. In the Am¸taka°ik›, the gnosis of sublime bliss (mah›-sukha-jñ›na) is referred to as a sublime tantra (mah›-tantra) and as a sublime mantra (mah›-mantra).11 In this and other Buddhist tantric texts, the identification of a mantra with the gnosis of sublime bliss is justified on the basis that the mantra secures protection (tr›°a) of the mind (manas) through the manipulation of pr›°as, while innate bliss is the source of the origination of all mantras and their accomplishments.12 In the Vimalaprabh› commentary on the K›lacakratantra, Ch. 4, v. 7, the state of supreme, indestructible bliss (param›k˝ara-sukha) is identified with the syllable a, which, as the first syllable of the Sanskrit alphabet, stands for the dharma-source (dharmodaya) and for the vajra-womb of all the Buddhas. As such, it is seen as the fundamental cause of all expressions, as the birthplace of all mantras.13 In light of this view, the individual syllables that constitute a tantric discourse are declared to be of the nature of a mantra;14 and the mantra is said to be in the body. Thus, a tantra, which is identified with mantra on this ground, is a text that is encoded in the individual’s body in the form of mantric syllables.

Here too then, that which is being transformed on the tantric path is not something

outside the tantra itself, but rather, one aspect of a tantra is transformed into its other aspect by means of yet another aspect of a tantric discourse. This suggests that a tantra as a text that is encoded in a human body is malleable and therefore can be altered. It is an embodied tantric text that can be changed not through an external agency but through its own internal workings. As will be shown later, only the inner workings of an embodied tantric text, or its own self-manipulation, leads to its transformation.

II. A Perspective from the Indian K›lacakra Tradition

In the SekoddeŸa, the following is said with regard to the fidubddhatantra:14

Thus, the fidibuddha [tantra], denoting the K›lacakra, is purified by means of

the six points (ko˛i),15 four vajra-yogas,16 four perfect awakenings, six families

of the psychophysical aggregates (skandha), elements (dh›tu), and sense-bases

(›yatana), by means of the five chapters known as “Cosmos,” and so on, and

by means of the two truths17.18

These two verses clearly suggest that the K›lacakratantra text, which is purified by its content

and structure, should be understood not only as a mere discourse on the K›lacakra, but also

as the fidibuddha himself. S›dhuputra and N›ropa, commenting on these two verses in the

SekoddeŸa˛ippa°ı and SekoddeŸa˛ık› respectively, point to the fidibuddhatantra as the

fidibuddha K›lacakra himself. For S›dhuputra, the fidibuddhatantra is “without beginning or

end, devoid of adherence to the two doctrinal positions, and imparting the complete

mundane and supramundane knowledge.”19 Referencing the verse cited in the Vimapalrabh›,

Vol. 1, 1986, p. 43, which gives the K›lacakra tradition’s etymological explanation of the

phrase “k›lacakra” and reads:

k›k›r›t k›ra°e Ÿ›nte lak›r›t layo ‘tra vai

cak›r›c calacittasya krak›r›t kramabandhanai¯

S›dhuputra identifies the fidibbuddhatantra with the resultant aspect of the tantra, the

Buddha K›lacakra. N›rop› does the same by explaining the Vimalaprabh›’s above-cited

exposition of the term “k›lacakra” in the following way. With regard to the syllable k›, he

asserts, “The cause (k›ra°a), called the body of bodhicitta, is peaceful and free from

conceptualizations (vikalpa) on account of the destruction of the waking state; and it is a

Nirm›°ak›ya owing to the cessation of the drop of the body (k›ya-bindu) in the lal›˛a.”

With regard to the syllable la, he says: “When it is so, a dissolution (laya) of pr›°a, which is

of the nature of the destruction of the dreaming state, is a Sa˙bhogak›ya owing to the

cessation of the drop of the speech (v›g-bindu) in the throat.” With respect to the syllable

ca, he states: “A motion (cala) that moves toward the sense-objects such as sound and the

like in the waking and dreaming states is the mind that is of the nature of [seminal] emission

(cyuti), overcome by darkness, and acquired through a transformation of the eighteen bodily

constituents. Its binding is a removal of darkness, a destruction of the dreamless state owing

to the cessation of the drop of the mind (citta-bindu) in the heart, a Dharmak›ya.” Lastly,

with regard to the syllable kra, he comments: “A sequential process (krama) is an emission of

the drops of the body and so on. A binding of that [emission] is a destruction of the fourth

state by means of innate bliss. Owing to the cessation of the drop of gnosis (jñ›na-bindu) of

perishable [bliss], it is a Sahajak›ya. Thus, [K›lacakra] consists of the four bodies.”20

Moreover, since K›lacakra is said to be a unity (ekatva) of the knowledge of

indestructible bliss, referred to by the term “time” (k›la), and of the object of knowledge, or

the world characterized by endless beings of the three realms, referred to by the term

wheel” (cakra),21 the K›lacakratantra with which he is identified, is to be seen not only as a

representation of the Buddha K›lacakra’s mind but also as the representation of the body of

sentient beings. N›rop› supports this interpretation with the verse from the K›lacakratantra

(1994, Ch. 5, v. 56), which identifies all sentient beings within the six realms of existence

with a cakra, referred to in the same text as the body of the Buddha.

In the K›lacakratantra and in the Vimalaprabh›, a tantra is also identified with the

body of the individual, as a sublime mantra, and as a tantric discourse and its subject matter.

One reads in the Vimalaprabh›23 that the original fidibuddhatantra, which consists of 1,620

deities, is the n›˜ıs in the body. Form that root-tantra emerged the K›lacakratantra in

accordance with the classification of the n›˜ıs of the heart-cakra. According to the K›lacakra

tradition, the number of n›˜ıs in body is 72,000. It is worth noting that this number of

bodily n›˜ıs corresponds the number obtained by adding the 12,000 lines of the

K›lacakratantra to the 60,000 lines of the Vimalaprabh› commentary.24 Since the significance

of the number of lines in these two texts has not been discussed by their authors, it is not

clear whether or not the authors or redactors of these texts wrote the aforementioned

numbers of lines with intention to correlate them to the number of the n›˜ıs in the body.

One is further informed in the Vimalaprabh›, that not only the fidibuddhatantra but

also all other tantras are contained in the body. In some places, it is said that the yoginıtantras

are present in female bodies, and the yoga-tantras are in male bodies;25 and in other

places it is asserted that both of these classes of tantras are in a single body. The body is

described as a collection of the kings of tantras (tantra-r›ja)—namely, the threefold

M›y›j›latantra and the six-fold Sam›jatantra.26 The origination of the two mentioned tantrar›

jas within the body is described as a process of their gradual composition. The expansion of

the number of their emerging sections is understood to accord with the development of a

child from the moment of its conception to the age of sixteen. Thus, the three phases of the

M›y›j›latantra’s composition in the body take place in the following way. With the arising of

the five psychophysical aggregates (skandha), five elements (bhÒtas), eight bodily constituents

(dh›tu), twelve sense-bases (›yatana), six faculties of action (karmendriya), four cakras, and

three do˝asv›ta, pitta, and kapha—the M›y›j›la emerges as a text having forty-two parts, or

sections. With the development of the u˝°ı˝a and secret (guhya) cakras, it expands into a text

with forty-five sections; and with the arising of the mental afflictions (kleŸa) of attachment,

aversion, delusion, and pride it becomes a complete text consisting forty-nine sections.27

The process of the composition of the Sam›jatantra in the body is also understood to

accord with the development of a human being from the initial embryonic state to a sixteen

year-old person. With the arising of the psychophysical aggregates and elements of the fetus,

the Sam›jatantra emerges as a text that has nine sections. Upon the origination of the four

cakras, it has thirteen sections; and with the arising of the sense-faculties (indriya) and senseobjects

(vi˝aya), it extends into a text with twenty-five sections. Afterwards, with the

emergence of the faculties of action, the secret cakra and u˝°ı˝a, it has thirty-two sections;

and with the arising of the divine faculty (divyendriya) and bliss (sukha), it becomes a

complete text with thirty-four sections.

Furthermore, according to the K›lacakratantra tradition, one becomes the Buddha

Mañjuvajra by knowing the manner in which the fidibuddha and all other tantras that are

included in the fidibuddhatantra are present in the body.28 Here too then, right insight into

one’s own body as a tantric text and its subject matter is a requisite for spiritual

transformation. One should know the tantras that are present in the body by their respective

classes of consonants, which are the letters of a mantra. Here, like in other anuttara-yogatantras,

a tantric body is constructed on a specific linguistic model, on the taxonomic order

of syllables. This suggests that Indian Buddhists considered linguistic structures of the

embodied tantric texts to be important and powerful.

Consonants are referred to as the presiding deities of the n›˜ıs and the lords

(n›tha) of the cakras. For example:

1. In the joint of the left shoulder and upper arm are gutturals with short vowels of

space, etc. in inverted order.

In the joint of the right shoulder and upper arm are gutturals with long vowels of gnosis.

In the joint of the left upper arm and forearm are palatals with short vowels of space,


In the joint of the right upper arm and forearm are palatals with long vowels of

gnosis, etc.

In the joint of the left hand and forearm are retroflex consonants with six short

vowels of space, etc.

In the right joint of the left hand and forearm are retroflex consonants are retroflex

consonants with long vowels of gnosis, etc.

In the joint of the right hip and thigh are labials with six long vowels of gnosis, etc.

In the joint of the left hip and thigh are labials with six short vowels of space, etc.

In the joint of the right knee and thigh are dentals with six long vowels of gnosis, etc.

In the joint of the left knee and thigh are dentals with six short vowels of space, etc.

In the joint of the right foot and shin are sibilants with six long vowels of gnosis, etc.

In the joint of the left foot and shin are sibilants with six short vowels of space, etc.

in the inverted order.

Thus, every single class of consonants, making up thirty syllables, is in the twelve

cakras, which have thirty spokes—in the action (karma) cakras and in the activity

(kriy›) cakras.

2. In every joint of the right thumb are gutturals with 6 long vowels of gnosis, etc.

In the joint of the lower knuckle of the thumb are 6 n›˜ıs, or gutturals with 6 long

vowels of gnosis, etc.

In the joint of the right forefinger is the syllable kha.

The syllable ga is in the middle finger.

The syllable gha is in the joint of the right ring finger.

The syllable ºga with six long vowels of gnosis, etc. is in the joint of the right little


The syllable ºga with six short vowels of space, etc. is in the joint of the lower

knuckle of the left little finger.

The syllable gha with six short vowels of space, etc. is in the joint of the left


The syllable ga with six short vowels of space, etc. is in the left middle finger.

The syllable kha with six short vowels of space, etc. is in the left ring finger.

The syllable ka with six short vowels of space, etc. is in the left thumb.

The six classes of consonants—ka, ca, ˛a, pa, ta, and sa—make up thirty consonants

due to their respective five-fold divisions.29 These thirty consonants together with ha, ya, ra,

la, va, and k˝a, are considered to be the lords of the thirty-six bodily cakras. Each class of the

six consonants is further divided into thirty-six syllables, in accordance with the

accompanying short and long vowels, gu°as and v¸ddhis. These thirty-six syllables of each

consonantal class are declared to be the lords of the cakras in thirty-six tantras in the body,

namely, in the ka-vajra-tantra, kha-vajra-tantra, and so on.30 Thus, each class of consonants

with its thirty-six syllables is itself a tantra.31 This implies that each n›˜ı-cakra is an individual

tantra. These diverse individual tantras are linked together, forming a single, all-inclusive

tantra, namely, the fidibuddhatantra, or the K›lacakratantra. Among these multiple tantras,

not a single tantra exists independently of other tantras. The numerous tantras in the body are

linked together by their common pervader (vy›paka), which is the mind (citta), or gnosis

(jñ›na). Perhaps, this presentation of the interconnection of the multiple tantras in the body

could be interpreted as a unique K›lacakratantra’s theory of intertextuality, one that pertains

to the embodied texts.

The aforementioned thirty-six consonants are also identified as the six

psychophysical aggregates, six elements, six faculties of action and their activities, sense14

faculties, sense-objects, and the like.32 Thus, every bodily constituent is to be known as an

individual tantric text, and the body is to be seen as a multi-volumed tantra. These individual

tantric texts in the body, represented by the groups of thirty-six syllables, are also identified

as the yoga (method) and yoginı (wisdom) tantras. 33

However, due to being a corporeal text, this inclusive tantra in the body is

characterized by finitude, as it is subject to destruction. It carries the meaning of ordinary,

conventional reality, which must be transcended. For this reason, this corporeal and

provisional tantra is in need of transformation into the definitive text. Its transformation

requires a certain kind of translation, a transition from presentation to reality. Its transition

from a finite text with a provisional meaning to a transcendent text with a definitive meaning

is a process of transformation from the conceptually constructed text to the non-conceptual

text. This transition of a text from one state of being to another involves a rewriting of

personal history. In this process of rewriting, the old signs must be reinterpreted and

subsequently replaced by new signs needed for capturing reality. The signs that express the

unitary and partless reality are deemed as non-conceptual signs; and thus, although

functioning as signs, ultimately they are not signs at all.

It is the earlier mentioned, third aspect of a tantra, known as the method, or s›dhana,

that provides the new encoding necessary for such transition. In the course of the s›dhana, or

the stage of generation practice, the earlier discussed groups of thirty-six consonants of

various tantras are mentally dissolved. The embodied tantric text is disintegrated. Upon this

disintegration, a new tantra is generated, the thirty-six consonants are encoded in a new

form—in the form of a deity-ma°˜ala—and their new meaning is produced. The consonants

are transformed into the textual body of mantric deities (mantra-devat›). By being generated

with new meanings into the new textual form, the consonants undergo a gradual

transformation in the same six-phased sequence in which they initially had emerged from the

time of the individual’s conception till the age of sixteen. Upon their regeneration in the new

form with new meaning, they continue to undergo further metamorphosis in the six main

cakras (u˝°ı˝a, heart, lal›˛a, and guhya) brought by the intervention of different sets of

vowels.34 The vowels are the six types of wisdom (prajñ›), or the pure psychophysical

aggregates, elements, and the like. “Spliced” on the top of the consonants, which carry the

meaning of compassion in relation to the vowels, they take possession of the consonants. In

the context of the K›lacakratantra practice, this process of altering the embodied text, carried

out through the “splicing” of the completely different classes of sounds—namely, the

consonants and vowels—is called “sealing,” or “printing” (mudra°a) of the revised text of

the body, speech, and mind. In this phase too, the redacted consonants, or the revised yoga

and yoginı tantras, in the body are mutually linked by the mind (citta), or the pervading gnosis

(jñ›na), which is their presiding deity (n›yaka).

However, the embodied tantric discourse that is redacted in this way is still a

provisional and conceptually constructed text, which is said to be a fabrication of the

individual’s own mind.35 Although in this new form it continues to be a complete and

coherent unit, it is still structured as a composition of the mutually connected but disparate

parts. Consequently, a further redaction is needed for its complete alteration, the redaction

that will amalgamate the mutually differing parts of the text in a novel way. A subsequent

phase of revision entails the mutual assimilation of the different classes of consonants that

have been earlier sealed by their respective vowels. In Buddhist tantric jargon, this is referred

to as an “embracing of a different family” (para-kula-liºgana). It is a preparatory phase for the

actual merging of the body’s yoga and yoginı tantras into each other, forming a unitary text,

devoid of diverse parts. It is followed by a further redaction by means of which the embodied

text becomes a partless and nondual text, in which all the letters of the n›˜ı-pr›°as are

unified into the single word “eva˙.” The word eva˙ is said not to be a term, or a conceptual

sign, because it is the union of wisdom and method. E is a syllable a, or emptiness, the spaceelement,

in the locative case; and va˙ is gnosis, sublime bliss, which arises from and abides

in emptiness, or space. Thus, the multi-syllable text is reduced to a two-syllable text, which

is neither a yoga or yoginı tantra.

In the final phase of revision, the embodied text is completely transformed with the

incineration of the all of its letters by the fire of the same gnosis that previously linked them

together. Following the model of the six-phased composition, dissolution, and

reconstruction of the text’s two earlier forms—phenomenal and conceptual—the process of

its incineration is also carried out in six consecutive phases. This new text, which is devoid of

parts and signs (nimitta), is said to have a unique non-conceptual form, characterized by

non-pronounceable consonants and vowels. It is reduced to the single syllable a, referred to

as a supreme syllable (param›k˝ara), a sublime emptiness (mah›-ŸÒnya), the dharmadh›tu, the

vajra-womb, and the cause of the body, speech, and mind of all the Buddhas. As such, it is

likened to formless, non-embodied (arÒpa) space and is characterized as inexplicable

(anirdeŸya) and ungrounded (aprati˝˛ha) in anything.36 On account of being reduced to the

single letter, it transcends the subject-object duality and is thereby self-cognizant in the

sense that it is an indivisible union of the discourse, its subject matter, and the author. In

contrast, the embodied, conceptual text, consisting of many letters, exists as an object of

knowledge in relation to the reader as its subject. Furthermore, the embodied, conceptual

text, which is composed of a complex set of systems, exists in dialectical relationship with

other sets outside its boundaries; whereas, the non-embodied and non-conceptual text is

seen as free from controversial relations due to being non-localized. Although the

disembodied tantric text is not characterized by form, it is said not to be characterized by

formlessness either, since it exists in the vowel a, which is its empty form.37

The discussed revisional methods and their results suggest that a tantric text is

always productive of what it denotes. Arising from the syllable a, the source of all expressions

and gnosis in the body, a sublime tantra takes on various phenomenal forms. In order to

elucidate the mundane and transcendent truths and paths, it takes on the form of a book,

consisting of mantra symbols, characterized by articulation. It also assumes the form of the

text embodied in a human figure, consisting of the n›˜ıs, psychophysical aggregates, and the

like. Due to sharing a common source (yoni), these two phenomenal forms of a sublime

tantra—the book and the body—are fundamentally nondual. In this regard, they are not just

mere metaphors of each other, but two different manifestations of the same reality. A reader

of a tantra who knows this truth also knows that he is not a mere consumer of the text but

also its producer. He knows that it is his mind alone that links all the letters together into a

single text and gives it different meanings until it finally absorbs them into its own gnosis,

from which they initially arose. By knowing himself to be all of these—the text itself, its

author and revisionist, and its subject matter—one is said to become liberated from the

mind’s ideation and spiritual ignorance. One’s impermanent body, subject to illness, aging,

and disease becomes altered into the blissful body of gnosis.

Although all of the anuttara-yoga-tantras agree that a single-syllable text of the gnosis

of sublime and imperishable bliss is fundamentally same in all sentient beings, they offer

different transcriptions for it. For example, in the Hevajratantra,38 it is transcribed as the

syllable he, standing for Hevajra, in the K›lacakra tradition as the syllable k›, or K›lacakra,

and so on. Its different transcriptions are determined by differing forms in which it may

appear and not by any other factors. Thus, in the context of the anuttara-yoga-tantras, just as

the evolution of the physical body corresponds to the creation of a canonical tantra, so the

closing of the physical body corresponds to the closing of the canonical tantric text. In the

case of the K›lacakratantra, which is the latest Indian Buddhist tantra, the closing of the body

intimates the closing of Indian tantric tradition. The implications of these notions are

intriguing. One of the implications that is significant for the Indian Buddhist tantric

tradition is that a canonical tantric text and the body, which are seen as ultimately nondual

and functional as a vehicle to spiritual awakening, are like a raft that is discarded when its

purpose is accomplished. In that respect, a canonical tantric text and the body can be

understood as the Vajray›na itself. Moreover, while being closed and cast aside in the case

of the individual who has reached his final goal, a canonical tantra continues to be open and

functional for those who have not yet reached spiritual awakening. Thus, being

simultaneously closed for one person and open for another, a tantric text calls for diverse

hermeneutical approaches.

1Sa˙yuta Nik›ya, III.

2Pa˛isambhidamagg› A˛˛hakath› cited in the Encyclopaedia of Buddhism, 1979-1989, Vol. 4, pp. 371-372.

3Ugraparip¸cch›sÒtra, 2003, Ch. 7, pp. 319-320.

4Saddharma-pu°˜arıka or The Lotus of the Good Law, 1963, Ch.18, pp. 349-353.

5Lalitavistara SÒtra, 1983, Vol. 2, pp. 673-674.

6See the Guhyasam›jatantra, 1965, Ch. 18, v. 34, the Mah›m›y›tantram with Gu°avatı˛ık›,

1992, p. 2, Am¸taka°ik› commentary on the MañjuŸrın›masa˙gıti, 1994, p. 200, the

Yogaratnam›l›, 1959, p. 105:

tantra˙ prabandham, tantram iti prabandha¯.

7The Am¸taka°ik› commentary on the MañjuŸrın›masa˙gıti, , 1994, p. 9, v. 13:

tantra˙ prabandham ›khy›ta˙ sa˙s›ra˙ tantram i˝yate/

tantra˙ guhya˙ rahasay›khy›tam uttara˙ tantram ucyate//

8Hevajrapañjik›-mukt›valı, 2001, p. 9.

9Guhyasam›jatantra, 1978, Ch.18, p. 115, vs. 34-35:

prabandha˙ tantram ›khy›ta˙ tat prabandha˙ tridh› bhavet/

dh›ra¯ prak¸tiŸ caiva asa˙h›ryaprabhedata¯//

prak¸tiŸ c›k¸ter hetur asa˙h›ryaphala˙ tath›/

dh›ras tadup›yaŸ ca tribhis tantr›rthasa˙graha¯//

10tantram iti prabhandham/ trividha˙ tantra˙—hetutantra˙ phalatantram up›yatantra˙ ca/

tatra prak¸tiprabh›svaram an›dinidhana˙ citta˙ bodhicittam/ sa hetus tadbıjam/ kasya bıjam/


11The Am¸taka°ik›, 1994, pp. 9, 21.

12The Am¸taka°ik›, 1994, p. 200, the Vimalaprabh› commentary on the K›lacakratantra, Ch.

4, v. 7, Ch.1, v. 1. Cf. the Hevajrapañjik›-mukt›valı, 2001, p. 29: “It is a mantra due to

protecting the world from cogitating on reality.” (tattv›rthamanan›j jagat tr›°›c ca mantra¯.)

13The MañjuŸrın›masa˙gıti, vs. 28-29, cited in the Vimalaprabh› commentary on the

K›lacakratantra, 1986, Ch. 1, v. 3. Cf. the Hevajrapañjik›-mukt›valı, 2001, p. 24: A mantra

itself is reality (tattva), the letter a, and so on. Gnosis itself is reality, free from mental

elaborations (ni˝prapañca) and unexcelled (anuttara) gnosis of bliss (sukha-jñ›na).

14The Vimalaprabh› commentary on the K›lacakratantra, Ch. 4.

14SekoddeŸa: A Critical Edition of the Tibetan Translations With an Appendix by zRaneiro Gnoli

on the Sanskrit Text, 1994, 131, vs. 6-7. For the commentary on these verses see Raniero

Gnoli, La SekoddeŸa˛ippa°ı di S›dhuputra ⁄rıdhar›nanda: Il Testo Sanscrito,” in Rivista

degli Studi Orientali, Vol, 70, fasc. 1-2 (1996), 1997, p. 119, and Francesco Sferra, The

SekoddeŸa˛ık› by N›rop› (Param›rthasa˙graha), 2006, p. 69.

15According to the SekoddeŸa˛ippa°ı of S›dhuputra, 1997, p. 119, and the SekoddeŸa˛ık› of

N›rop›, 2006, p. 69, the six points (˝a˛ko˛i) refers to the sixfold division of the

K›lacakratantra discourse, which is classified into the uddeŸa (the abridged K›lacakratantra)

and nirdeŸa (the root, extensive K›lacakratantra), each of which is of three kinds: pratyuddeŸa,

mahoddeŸa, and pratinirdeŸa.

16The yogas of the body, speech, mind, and gnosis, which eliminate the four states of the

ordinary mind—the waking, dreaming, deep sleep, and the fourth state—and which are of

the nature of the four bodies of the Buddha on account of being free of the afflictive and

cognitive obscurations (›vara°a).

17The two truths refer to conventional (sa˙v¸ti) and ultimate (param›rtha) truths.

18eva˙ ˝a˛ko˛ibhi¯ Ÿuddha˙ vajrayogaiŸ caturvidhai¯

catu¯sa˙bodhibhi¯ ksandhadh›tv›yatana˝a˛kulai¯.

pa˛alai¯ pañcabhi¯ Ÿuddha˙ lokadh›tv›dikair matai¯

saty›bhy›˙ ›dubuddha˙ sy›t k›lacakr›bhidh›nakam.

19Raniero Gnoli, “Le SekoddeŸa˛ippa°ı di S›dhuputra ⁄rıdhar›nanda,”in Rivista degli Studi

Orientali, Vol. 70, fasc. 1-2 (1996), 1997, p. 6.

20The SekoddeŸa˛ık› by N›rop›, 2006, p. 73.

21The SekoddeŸa˛ık› by N›rop›, 2006, p. 74.

22The SekoddeŸa˛ık›, 1941, p. 3.

23The Vimalaprabh› commentary on the K›lacakratantra, 1976, Ch. 2, vs. 56-57.

24According the Vimalaprabh› commentary on the K›lacakratantra, these two texts are

traditionally considered to consist of 60,000 lines and 12, 000 lines, respectively.

25The Vimalaprabh› commentary on the K›lacakratantra, Ch. 2, v. 53.

26The Vimalaprabh› commentary on the K›lacakratantra, 1976, Ch. 2, v. 55.

27The Vimalaprabh› commentary on the K›lacakratantra, 1976, Ch. 2, v. 52.

28The Vimalaprabh› commentary on the K›lacakratantra, 1976, Ch. 2, vs. 56-57.

29According to the Vimalaprabh› commentary on the K›lacakratantra, 1976, Ch. 1.v. 1, the

six classes of consonants with their individual fivefold divisions are:

ka kha ga gha ºga

ca cha ja jha ña

˛a ˛ha ˜a ˜ha °a

pa pha ba bha ma

ta tha da dha na

sa ¯pa ˝a ¯ka

The vowels are listed as these: a › i ı u Ò ¸ ∂ ˘ Σ a˙ a¯ e ai ar ›r o au al ›l ha h› ya y› ra r› va v›

la l›.

30The Vimalaprabh› commentary on the K›lacakratantra, 1994, Ch. 5, vs. 7-8.

31The Vimalaprabh› commentary on the K›lacakratantra, 1994, Ch. 5, v. 9: kha-vajr›dika˙

tantram ucyata eka-vyañj›n›tmaka˙ ˝a°tri˙Ÿan-m›tr›-bhinnam iti.

32The Vimalaprabh› commentary on the K›lacakratantra, 1994, Ch. 5, v. 10.

33The Vimalaprabh› commentary on the K›lacakratantra, 1994, Ch. 5, v. 9.

34The Vimalaprabh› commentary on the K›lacakratantra, 1994, Ch. 5, v. 10:

A, i, u, ¸, ˘, a˙–or Ak˝obhya, Amoghasiddhi, Amit›bha, Vairocana, RatneŸa, and

Vajrasattva–for the transformation of the body.

˘, u, ¸, i, a, for the speech, or pr›°a

o˙, ›¯, hÒ˙ for the mind (citta)

a for gnosis (jñ›na).

35The Vimalaprabh› commentary on the K›lacakratantra, 1976, Ch. 1, v. 1.

36The SekoddeŸa˛ık› of Na˜ap›da, 1941, pp. 57-58.

37The Vimalaprabh› commentary on the K›lacakratantra, 1976, Ch. 1, v. 1.

38See the Hevajratantra, 2001, Ch. 1, v. 7, and the Hevajrapañjik›-mukt›valı, 2001, p. 9.


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