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Eighteen tantras of Mahayoga

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The eighteen tantras of Mahayoga (མ་ཧཱ་ཡོ་གའི་རྒྱུད་སྡེ་བཅོ་བརྒྱད་, Wyl. ma hA yo ga'i rgyud sde bco brgyad) were divided by the great Indian master Kukkuraja. They are also known as the eighteen great tantrapitaka (ཏནྟྲ་ཆེན་པོ་སྡེ་བཅོ་བརྒྱད་, Wyl. tantra chen po sde bco brgyad).[1] The tantra that synthesizes the meaning of all of them is the principal Tantra of the Web of Magical Illusion (aka Guhyagarbha Tantra).

Classifications

According to Longchen Rabjam

There are several ways of classifying the eighteen tantras. Longchen Rabjam in his Thunderous Melody of Brahma: An Overview of Mantra[2] classifies them into a "five-fold set of the enlightened body, speech, mind, noble qualities and activity of the Buddha. Each category is sub-divided into three, and correlated to the 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: speech, mind, noble qualities and activity. The resulting fifteen categories correspond to the first fifteen tantras, while the remaining three tantras are termed ‘general tantras’, which are also divided up to correspond with the triad of the enlightened body, speech and mind."[3]

Enlightened Body

Enlightened Speech

Enlightened Mind

Enlightened Qualities

Enlightened Activity

General Tantras

Pawo Tsuklak Trengwa (1504-66) also follows this sixfold division in his Scholar’s Feast (chos ’byung mkhas pa'i dga' ston), but with some slight differences in the sequence of the texts.

According to Patrul Rinpoche

Another way of classifying them, followed by Shechen Gyaltsab in his Pool of White Lotuses: A Brief Explanation of the Origin of the Eight Chariots of the Practice Lineage[4] and by Patrul Rinpoche in Garland of Scriptural Transmissions of the Aural Lineage[5]is as follows:

Five major tantras (which are the roots of the eighteen)

Five tantras of sadhana

Five branch classes of tantra of activity

Two tantras of accomplishment or Two Later Tantras (རྒྱུད་ཕྱི་མ་, Wyl. rgyud phyi ma)

Root tantra

Footnotes

  1. Source: Dudjom Rinpoche's History of the Nyingma School.
  2. sngags kyi spyi don tshangs dbyangs 'brug sgra
  3. Khenpo Namdrol, Vajrakilaya (Dharmakosha, 1997 or Snow Lion: 1999), pages 8-9.
  4. sgrub brgyud shing rta brgyad kyi byung ba brjod pa'i gtam mdor bsdus legs bshad padma dkar po'i rdzing bu
  5. རྣ་རྒྱུད་ལུང་གི་ཕྲེང་བ།, Collected works of Patrul Rinpoche, Vol. 2, p.293-307.
  6. Tulku Thondup (1996), page 360 lists this one as first, but the Essence of Clear Light (2010), Light of Bairotsana Translation Group, pages 383-384, lists this one as last.

See Also