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Siddhis + Ausadhi (Hindu vs Buddhist tantra)

topic posted Mon, April 23, 2007 - 8:34 AM by  Ryan
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Hi everyone,

I'm writing an article which is primarily on siddhausadhi (using plants to achieve siddhis both mundane and super-mundane). I was reviewing various lists of siddhis from Vajrayana sources and have been wondering if there is the same sort of obsessive interest with "materia medica" and "elixirs" in Hindu sources (which I am far less familiar with).

For instance, it is not uncommon to see the following siddhis in Vajrayana lists of "the 8 mundane siddhis":

Elixir-siddhi
Pill-siddhi
Eye-Ointment-siddhi
Foot-Unguent-siddhi
Medicine-siddhi

Additionally one finds "recipes" for ointments used to attain siddhis like Kechara-siddhi (flying) and Treasure-Finding-siddhi that include a range of plants including some like datura.

I have not noticed this same overt emphasis on the use of pills, elixirs, and ointments in the few Hindu sources I am familiar with. However, I have only explored the literature relating to Hindu tantra to a very limited extent (and mainly to compare and contrast it with Vajrayana).

I've seen some indications that the Tamil tradition of the Cittars might have a similar emphasis but I've been unable to research the topic.

Would it be a fair statement to say:

"The Vajrayana tradition seems to place a much greater emphasis on the use of pills, ointments and elixirs, in achieving the siddhis, than Hindu tantra does"

I'm only interested in making very accurate statements in this article, so if this statement is incorrect (and Hindu Tantra does emphasize these) _PLEASE_ correct me (either by posting the group or in private email).


Thanks in advance for any help you can provide,
Ryan

thecontemplative@yahoo.com
posted by:
Ryan
Minnesota
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  • Re: Siddhis + Ausadhi (Hindu vs Buddhist tantra)

    Mon, April 23, 2007 - 8:58 PM
    Hi, Ryan.

    One of the problems in doing the research you're attempting to do is that many of the resources you would require are either not translated or not easily available in English.

    From my research, there the Vedic tradition superseded and absorbed much of the far earlier Tantric tradition, and much of what is called the "Hindu Tantric" tradition today is highly modified by Vedic beliefs.

    I agree with you that the ancient Vajrayana tradition places "greater emphasis" on the use of substances to achieve siddhis than does the relatively modern Hindu Tantric tradition. However, I do not know if the pre-Vedic Tantric system would fall into that category. For example, there is ample evidence of a highly evolved alchemical tradition among the ancient Tantrics. I recently obtained a paper that identified soma with the herb ephedra, and that the herb was used to gain an altered state of consciousness. To the best of my knowledge the paper only appeared in a medical magazine in India about 65 years ago.

    Also, the ayurvedic system (which was carried into Tibet and China to become Traditional Asian Medicine and is the source of concepts such as meridians, acupuncture, etc.) was highly evolved.

    Although I cannot agree with you that the ancient Vajrayana tradition places "greater emphasis" on the use of substances to achieve siddhis than does the ancient, pre-Hindu Tantric tradition, I don't have enough information to factually disagree with you, either.

    As I'm sure you know, there is a tradition that although the siddhis can be obtained, they can get in the way of true spiritual evolution. This may be part of the Vedic homogenization of the early Tantric tradition, or it may be part of that tradition.

    Most importantly, however, is that to the best of my understanding there never has been a unitary Tantric tradition. Although it began in northern India, as it moved throughout India it evolved and changed. Traditions tracing themselves to the same source could be expressed differently just a few miles from each other. There is a Tantric magickal tradition which is as little known in the West as is Tantric Indian alchemy. Since the siddhis are magickal powers, and since there were Tantric magicians, it seems to me that there must have been at least one Tantric path that sought the siddhis rather than ignored them.

    I don't know if these thoughts help you or hinder you. You might try to contact David Frawley as he is one of the leading Western experts on ayurveda, although he is heavily influenced by Vedic thought. You may be able to contact him through www.vedanet.com/ .

    Namaste!
    • Re: Siddhis + Ausadhi (Hindu vs Buddhist tantra)

      Tue, April 24, 2007 - 10:10 AM
      Thank you for the very thoughtful reply.

      >>From my research, there the Vedic tradition superseded
      >>and absorbed much of the far earlier Tantric tradition, and
      >>much of what is called the "Hindu Tantric" tradition today is
      >>highly modified by Vedic beliefs.

      D.G. White has articulated a similar view. I think that the Mahanirvanatantra would seem to fall (more or less) into this category.

      >>I agree with you that the ancient Vajrayana tradition places
      >>"greater emphasis" on the use of substances to achieve
      >>siddhis than does the relatively modern Hindu Tantric tradition.

      Very interesting. I realize that the Hindu tantric traditions make use of substances (which is why I included ausadhi in the title, hoping to catch the attention of somebody well versed in the topic) but it does seem to me that one encounters more (usually vague) references in Vajrayana. This is especially true of the lists of 8 major siddhis. Both traditions have a number of these lists of eight but Vajrayana is more explicit about the use of substances as a means to attain them (ie "eye-ointment-siddhi" as opposed to "supernatural-sight-siddhi")

      >>However, I do not know if the pre-Vedic Tantric system would
      >>fall into that category. For example, there is ample evidence
      >>of a highly evolved alchemical tradition among the ancient
      >>Tantrics

      In the Vajrayana tradition Rasayana (Tib: bcud-len) has "deathlessness" (both in terms of longevity and the "deathless Dharmakaya") as a primary focus. However, this is still considered a siddhi and rasayana also addresses other siddhis as well.

      This has been a point that has made it difficult for me to make any sharp distinction between Siddhausadhi (Tib: sman sgrub) and Rasayana. There seems to be a large area of overlap. The rasayana of the Nath-siddhas seems quite close to Vajrayana's version in many respects. I what I've read about the Cittar tradition also seems close in a few ways. Clearly there is a common body of information which all traditions draw on.

      >>I recently obtained a paper that identified soma with
      >>the herb ephedra, and that the herb was used to gain
      >>an altered state of consciousness. To the best of my
      >>knowledge the paper only appeared in a medical magazine
      >>in India about 65 years ago.

      More recently there have been a few important archaeological finds at Margiana and Sarianidi. These would seem to indicate that Soma, as it was understood in 2000 BC, was a drink made from a cannabis/ephedra blend. This of course may merely be an early Soma substitute.

      >>As I'm sure you know, there is a tradition that although
      >>the siddhis can be obtained, they can get in the way of
      >>true spiritual evolution. This may be part of the Vedic
      >>homogenization of the early Tantric tradition, or it may
      >>be part of that tradition.

      Vajrayana distinguishes two types of siddhis. The first group is the "mundane siddhis" or all the "magical powers" that can be cultivated by Yogic and Shamanic traditions. The second type is "super-mundane siddhi" or enlightenment (also called Mahamudra-siddhi).

      While Vajrayana recognizes the potential for attachment in the siddhis, it also recognizes that they can potentially be quite useful on the path and virtually all Vajrayana tantras dedicate a significant amount of space to magical practices and/or the development of siddhis. The distinction between worldly and spiritual seem more a Western attitude super-imposed on material that doesn't share that view IMO.

      >>Most importantly, however, is that to the best of my
      >>understanding there never has been a unitary Tantric tradition.

      I completely concur.

      >>Since the siddhis are magickal powers, and since
      >>there were Tantric magicians, it seems to me that
      >>there must have been at least one Tantric path that
      >>sought the siddhis rather than ignored them.

      There certainly was more than one. In fact, I feel relatively confident that this is as true of Hindu Tantra from the Pala period as it is of Buddhist Tantra. However, as you have observed there is a lack of material in English and there are enormous problems in dating Indian texts. Luckily, in Buddhism there is often a reliable date as to when a text was translated (indicating that the text must be earlier than that date). Unfortunately the same is not as true of some other traditions. In the Shaiva tradition, Abhinavagupta (11th century) can be used as a dating marker because he mentions or quotes a number of texts. However, White has argued that Tantra was already being homogenized by this period...

      Its a complex and difficult field of study. But a rewarding one IMO.

      Thanks for the input,
      Ryan
      • >>From my research, there the Vedic tradition superseded
        >>and absorbed much of the far earlier Tantric tradition, and
        >>much of what is called the "Hindu Tantric" tradition today is
        >>highly modified by Vedic beliefs.

        >D.G. White has articulated a similar view. I think that the Mahanirvanatantra would seem to fall (more or less) into this category.

        Hi Shambhalanth and Ryan, Thanks for you input in this fascinating (to me) thread.
        I'm wondering what I missed that puts the Tantric tradition historically before the Vedic.
        From my weak grasp, I believe the evidence points to written Vedas from at least about 1500 BC and written Tantras not for over a thousand yrs. after that. Of course there are ancient orally transmitted Tantras but I think in Hinduism the Vedic historically predates the the Tantric, as does the Sutric in Buddhism (I'm not saying they do mythologically and am open to other histories). In the case of Buddhism I know it's said that the Tantras actually came from Sakyamuni Buddha but weren't 'brought out' to the public for some time.
        I think the title of this text one of you mentioned bears this out:

        "James Francis Hartzell’s Tantric Yoga: A Study of the Vedic PRECURSORS (capitals mine), Historical Evolution, Literatures, Cultures, Doctrines, and Practices of the llth Century Kasmlri Saivite and Buddhist Unexcelled Tantric Yogas",

        >>I recently obtained a paper that identified soma with
        >>the herb ephedra, and that the herb was used to gain
        >>an altered state of consciousness. To the best of my
        >>knowledge the paper only appeared in a medical magazine
        >>in India about 65 years ago.

        The role of Ephedra as Soma or as a subsitute/admix to it has been brought up more than once in English. Three example are:

        1)Wasson, Robert Gordon (1968) "Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality"- Ethno-Mycological Studies,
        2)Brough, John (1971) "Soma and Amanita muscaria"- Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies (BSOAS) and
        3)Flattery, David Stophlet and Schwarz, Martin (1989) Haoma and Harmaline.

        Some further debatable details favoring Ephedra as Soma can be found on:
        en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bota...Soma-Haoma

        While Ephedra can bring something special to a puja, I'm not quite sure how it would be used to obtain siddhis ...
        • Hi, Dionysus.

          Thanks for your post.

          To the best of my knowledge, you are absolutely correct as to the *written* Vedas going back to a*at least* 1500 b.c.e. There is internal evidence (see the works of Kak) indicating that the earliest Vedas refer to information that is far earlier than this, and of course, some Vedics simply say that the Vedas are eternal. Written Tantric documents that are available come from a later period.

          The key, here, is the term "written." Traditional Tantra, to the best of my knowledge, was always an oral tradition. It wasn't written down, and the tradition of wisdom being passed from guru to chela and concepts such as one should only use mantras given by a guru to you and not obtained from a book certainly indicate an oral tradition.

          I would contend that many of the concepts described in the oldest of the Vedas, the Rg, are clearly Tantric in nature. Further, what I refer to as "proto-Tantra," the beliefs and practices out of which Tantric traditions developed, show up in what little we know of the Harappan culture that pre-dated the earliest Vedic texts.

          Ephedra can give the feeling of enhanced strength, endurance, speed.

          Namaste!
          • >>The key, here, is the term "written." Traditional Tantra, to the best of my knowledge, was always an oral tradition. It wasn't written down, and the tradition of wisdom being passed from guru to chela and concepts such as one should only use mantras given by a guru to you and not obtained from a book certainly indicate an oral tradition.

            right now I'm reading Volume I of The Krama Tanricism of Kashmir (anyone know why volume II never came out, at least to my knowledge?) and this seems to be VERY common in the Krama tradition, they did not leave a large amount of written manuscripts to peruse, which is frustrating to the author (and myself), but certainly shows that even in post-Vedic times a large amount of information was being transmitted primarily orally.
        • Hi Dionysus,

          >> Hi Shambhalanth and Ryan, Thanks for you input in this fascinating (to me)
          >>thread. I'm wondering what I missed that puts the Tantric tradition historically
          >>before the Vedic. From my weak grasp, I believe the evidence points to written
          >>Vedas from at least about 1500 BC and written Tantras not for over a
          >>thousand yrs. after that.

          Many people think the Vedas are older than that. However even if we take the 1500 BC date as factual, the earliest tantras would have been written 2000 years later (not just 1000). There is no evidence for written Tantra prior to 500 AD. Indeed so far as I’m aware the earliest record of written tantric teachings is in the 7th century when we find texts like Banabhatta’s Kadambari mentioning a Dravida-dhamika making a collection of manuscripts on “tantra and mantra in letters of red lac on palm leaves (tinged with) smoke. He had written down the doctrine of Mahakala…” etc. Dharmakirti’s Pramanavarttikam (written in the early 7th century) mentions “mantra-texts” and “Dakini-tantras” and debates whether they can truly be Buddhist (he seems to think that they can’t be). The Mahavairocana-abhisambodhi-sutra is sometimes considered a true tantra and it appears to be a 7th century text. The Guyasamaja-tantra did not reach its final form until the 8th century.

          I want to clarify that David G White is not in favor of the pre-Vedic theory of tantra but he is in favor of the belief that Tantra has been subjected to “Vedic homogenization” However, White does acknowledge that the pre-Vedic theory is currently favored among scholars saying:

          “The general scholarly consensus has been that the Yogini cults so foundational to early Tantra emerged out of an autochthonous non-Vedic In­dian source. This analysis is of a piece with a more general view of Tantra, that it rose up out of the soil of India to graft itself onto more elite orders of precept and practice. This argument takes two forms. The first maintains that goddess traditions and Tantra are forms of indigenous or tribal religion that welled up to the surface of the religious practices of urban and rural elites in the late Gupta and early medieval periods. The second finds strong iconographic evidence for cults of multiple goddesses, Siva Pasupati, and a number of other fixtures of later Hinduism in the clay seals of the In­dus Valley civilizations (ca. 2500-1750 b.c.e.). Here, the argument is that these cults persisted in spite of the Indo-Aryan incursions but were oc­culted from the scriptural and sculptural records for over two thousand years by triumphant Aryanism.”

          Kiss of the Yogini pg 28

          This is how White characterizes the view, but it does not represent the view of White himself who largely dismisses this theory.

          However regarding “Vedic homogenization,” David G. White does suggest that Tantra (beginning more or less around the time of Abhinavagupta) increasingly moved away from extreme practices and that a process of “sublimation” or internalization was instituted. At the same time he asserts that Tantra was increasing brought into line with Vedic belief/practice.

          “however, Abhinavagupta allows for the ingestion of the dravyams of the original Kaula rituals in his high Hindu Tantric synthesis, the referent of the practice has been entirely displaced, from the power in­herent in the clan fluids themselves — to transform a biologically given "inert being" (pasu) into a Virile Hero or Perfected Being—to the trans­formative psychological effect of overcoming conventional notions of pn >-priety through the consumption of polluting substances. This emphasis on aesthetic experience and gnoseological transformation, coupled with a sys­tem of equivalencies between Vedic and Tantric ritual, could not help bin have a leveling effect on all later forms of Tantra, whether of the more Kaula or Sakta "left" or the more Saiva "right." In the end and regard­less of Tantric theory, the impetus behind the Tantric rituals became one of achieving parity with thr Vedie rituals, with tin- "need to match these orthodox rituals . , . strong: enough to compromise the very beliefs which justified the separate existence of the Tantric system." This is precisely what has happened over the centuries. Heterodox Kaula or Tantric ritual has so shaded into orthodox Vedic or Saivasiddhanta ritual as to become indistinguishable from it, as in the case of South Indian Smarta communi­ties”

          Kiss of the Yogini pgs 256 257

          I hope this clarifies White’s views on the matter.

          Myself? I think it is pointless to speculate about a purely hypothetical tantra that may or may not have existed prior to the 7th century. Tantra definitely exploded onto the Indian (and East-Asian) religious seen in the 7th and 8th centuries but it is impossible to know anything about it prior to the first textual references.

          >> "James Francis Hartzell’s Tantric Yoga: A Study of the Vedic
          >>PRECURSORS (capitals mine), Historical Evolution, Literatures,
          >>Cultures, Doctrines, and Practices of the llth Century Kasmlri
          >>Saivite and Buddhist Unexcelled Tantric Yogas",

          Hartzell examines many aspect of Tantra that have forerunner in Vedic religion. Over the course of the 1,473 pages of his text he covers quite a few aspects of Tantra that seem to pre-exist tantra itself (ie Homa rites etc). However, that doesn’t mean that everything in tantra can be found in Vedic religion (not that you are making such a claim)

          Sarva Mangalam!
          Ryan
        • Re: Siddhis + Ausadhi (Hindu vs Buddhist tantra)

          Tue, June 12, 2007 - 11:28 AM
          >>The role of Ephedra as Soma or as a subsitute/admix to it
          >>as been brought up more than once in English. Three example are:

          As I mentioned in another email the archaeological finds at the temples of Margiana indicate that Soma (at least in 2000 BC) was an ephedra-cannabis drink.

          Personally, I think finding these substances in actual cups in a Temple were the Soma-sacrifice was preformed is far more solid proof that ANY scholarly attempt to arrive at a conclusion based on textual analysis could ever be.

          >>While Ephedra can bring something special to a puja, I'm not quite sure
          >>how it would be used to obtain siddhis ...

          I was thinking about this comment last night and decided I'd go ahead a write a reply to it.
          I'm not sure anybody actually is interested but this is my understanding of a few aspect of the question.

          Ephedra is an important plant in Tibet. It is used medicinally but is also used in religious ceremonies and is one of many plants used to aid Yogic practices. I can say personally that preparations that use mtshe-ldun (ephedra) definitely have a strong effect on energetic yoga (rtsa-rlung-thig-le’i-rnal-sbyor) allowing me to feel the currents of prana (rlung) as they move through the channels. It is well known that such energetic yogas are said to produce siddhis. So ephedra could help create siddhis by aiding energetic practices. In Tibetan yoga recipes there are 4 types of ephedra (mtshe-ldum) but I am not sure if they are actually different species/varieties in the Western sense. They are 1) brag-mtshe, 2) lug mtshe, 3) ra mtshe, 4) chu mtshe


          One way to understand how ausadhi (sman) affect siddhis is to understand how they affect the mind. In Tibetan yogic and medical theory our imperfect and unhealthy state begins with the mind and “trickles down” to increasingly gross levels manifesting finally as disease and negative actions. The theory goes something like this (this is from memory so I might be getting some of this wrong but I’ll do my best):

          Ignorance “ma rig pa” (avidya) of the “lack of existence of the self” or “bdag-med” (anatma) causes ego-grasping “bgad-‘dzin”

          This ignorance and ego-grasping creates the three poisonous attitudes “dug sum” which are 1) delusion gti-mug (moha), 2) desire ‘dod-chags (raga) 3) aversion zhe-sdang (dvesa) which in turn relate to the three humours “nyes pa” (dosa). These three humours are: 1) wind “rlung vayu, 2) bile mkris-pa (pitta), and 3 phlegm “bad-kan” kapha

          The poisons and humors in are directly related to the three channels which are:1) the central channel “dbu-ma rtsa” (avadhuti-nadi or susuma) 2) the right channel “ro-ma rtsa” (rosana-nadi or pingala) 3) the left channel “rkyng-ma rtsa” (lalana-nadi or ida)

          How the rlung (prana) affects one’s circumstances when it is in one of these three channels is outlined in Yogic texts like “dbyangs ‘char rgyud” (svarodaya-tantra) and “Zb mo nang don”
          “the Profound Inner Meaning”
          Additionaly the humours can be broken down into subtypes based the five elements. From a yogic point of view the 5 winds are far more important than the sub-classes of bile and phlegm. The diverse yoga systems classify the winds according to elements differently, but one example of such a classification is:

          The Five Winds matched to the Five Elements “byung ba lnga” (Pancatattva)

          Fire “me”(agni) is “fire-like” equal-wind “me-mnyam rlung” (samana-vayu)
          Water “chu” (apas) is downward voiding wind “thur-sel rlung” (apana-vayu)
          Earth “sa” (prithi) is the upward moving-wind “gyen-ryu rlung” (udana-vayu)
          Air “rlung” (vayu) is all-pervading-wind “khyah-byed” (vyana-vayu)
          Space “nam-mkha” (akasa ) is life-holding wind “srog-‘dzin rlung” (prana-vayu)

          So ignorance causes self-grasping, which creates the three poisonous attitudes, which in turn causes problems affecting the three humor and three channel. The humours can be seen according to the five elements. An imbalance in the humour will of course disrupts the five elements. Understanding the five sub-classes of wind is especially important to Tibetan-yogas.

          This is essentially the Vajrayana model of disease and yogas exploit the same principle in reverse. Now ausadhi (sman) can affect the five elements and the three humours (and therefore the three channels). These channels affect the three poisons which can affect self-grasping and basic ignorance In other words, ausadhi (sman ) can potentially (for well trained yogins at least) affect or reduce the negative qualities of mind. It can even can reduce ego-grasping which can (at least temporarily) part the clouds of “basic ignorance” and allow reality in its true non-dual “suchness” to shine through. Even if you don’t have a experience of suchness it is at least possible to have an experience (nyams) of a non-conceptual state (mi rtog pa) joined with bliss (bde ba) and clarity (gsal ba).

          In ausadhi we can change the way the winds function and/or which channels are the most active by using medical principals like the 6 tastes, 8 nus-pa (virya) 17 yon-tan (gunas). However, many plants work in ways that would not be predicted using that system. These other qualities are also sometimes called “nus-pa” (meaning “power” or shakti) but they are not the 8 nus-pa of the medical tradition. Rather they are qualities that are passed down in yogic traditions and (so far as I know) are not discussed in a medical context.

          In general, some basic goals for the use of herbs would be to balance the elements. To equalize the rlung of the right and left channels (rtsa-g’yas-g’yan) and to create conditions that favor the rlung entering into the central channel. Doing these things can cause the siddhis to arise spontaneously.

          Also, the flow of rlung is more favorable for certain siddhis when it flows more in either the left or right channel or when a particular element is active.

          For example two very basic siddhis (and yes, they are considered siddhis) are “igniting a blissful warmth” (bde drod) and the ability to “hold, draw up and spreed the thig-le”. These are favored (respectively) when the me-mnyam rlung or thur-sel rlung are highly active.

          Regarding the siddhis, it is worth mentioning that some siddhis may be best considered as being analogous to shamanic abilities. For instants patala-siddhi and kecara-siddhi may be best thought of as “shamanic journeys” to the underworld and upper-word (rather that the physical body penetrating into the physical earth or flying up into the physical sky).

          To quote Wlilliam Stablein, in the ‘Mahakalatantra itself where there are scores of formulas to take the vajramaster into the psychoactive realms of flying, invisibility, being able to see under the ground, to live for a thousand years and so on. There is not space here to delineate them but what is important for the study of shamanism is that the vajramaster is believed to have access to most, if not all, of the powers that are assigned to the classical shaman.”

          Got to run,
          Ryan
  • Re: Siddhis + Ausadhi (Hindu vs Buddhist tantra)

    Tue, April 24, 2007 - 9:20 AM
    I am more studied in Hindu/Sanskrit based tantras than Buddhist, so as in your stance hard to be comparative. But what I have noticed is that there are two primary ways that medicines are spoken of in the Hindu tantras: the internal use of individual herbs with certain mantras for very specific effects and the offering of certain herbs/fruits or flowers into a homa in order to achieve a certain effect.

    For example,

    Sarad Tilaka Tantra XVI.16, while doing the Narasimha Annastub mantra if one takes vaca (calamus) while doing the japa (it is chewed in the mouth as a root) then one attains perfection of speech.
    while XVI.15 says that doing this mantra in homa made with bilva wood and offering bilva leaves gives wealth and in the same types of fire offering durva grass destroys enemies. XVI.26 For using this mantra to go to war, the king does homa made with bibhitaka wood and the mantra is offered with flowers and sara grass.

    For Hayagriva mantra (XV.78) Bilva is offered for wealth, while Kunda flowers are offered in homa for vac siddhi, while (XV.79) Brahmi ghee is offered into the homa for power of poetry.

    Tantra Raja Tantra gives different herbs to have darshan for different deities (34.96-99), as well as herbs for invoking the shakti of each letter of the alphabet (35. 91-100).

    -Brihat Parashara Hora Shastra speaks of different herbs, and herbal formulas to put into the water during various Pujas in multiple chapters in the remedy sections at the end of the text.

    -In more local tantric texts there is also heavy use of herbs in talismans. I have even seen some local divination texts where they have techniques that divine the disease and give a numerical reference which when looked up in their medical books give an ayurvedic formula to heal the disease.

    The last two are not tantric persay but part of Hindu literature in general. And If i remember correctly, Patanjali also substantiates herbal medicine use as a path to samadhi, which from the 'scholarly tantric' understanding predates the tantric texts.

    I hope this helps braoden the perspective a little. Also to note a question about what you are considering as Vajrayana tantra and not Hindu tantra. For example, The Kalachakra Tantra is a primary Vajarayana Tantra, yet is originally written in Sanskrit using primary Hindu deities and is used in Hinduism as well as buddhism (I have met multiple Hindu schools that teach it though not openly like the Tibetan Buddhists do). I am not interested in debating origins of tantra from hinduism or buddhism as I have no attachment to where it comes from. Just making sure that such texts not be called Buddhist only as they are also representing Hindu Tantra.


    • Re: Siddhis + Ausadhi (Hindu vs Buddhist tantra)

      Tue, April 24, 2007 - 6:07 PM
      Hi Freedomji


      Thank you so much for contributing to the discussion. It was wonderful to read.

      >>I am more studied in Hindu/Sanskrit based tantras than Buddhist,

      It would be a mistake to think of Buddhist tantras as not being “Sanskrit based”

      >>t what I have noticed is that there are two primary ways
      >>at medicines are spoken of in the Hindu tantras: the internal
      >>e of individual herbs with certain mantras for very specific
      >>effects and the offering of certain herbs/fruits or flowers into
      >>homa in order to achieve a certain effect.

      In Vajrayana, one will encounter the use of herbs and mantra similar to what you describe as well as Homa-puja offerings. There are other pujas as well, which would blur the line between external and internal. For instance offerings (dan), including medicinal substances, might be offered to a particular deity after which a portion is consumed as “prasad”. Ointments would seem to be something other than “internal use”…

      >>Sarad Tilaka Tantra XVI.16, while doing the Narasimha
      >>Annastub mantra if one takes vaca (calamus) while doing
      >>the japa (it is chewed in the mouth as a root) then one attains
      >>perfection of speech.
      >>
      >>For Hayagriva mantra (XV.78) Bilva is offered for wealth,
      >>while Kunda flowers are offered in homa for vac siddhi, while

      “Perfection of speech” and Vac-siddhi are the _same_ siddhi correct?

      >> (XV.79) Brahmi ghee is offered into the homa for
      >>power of poetry.
      >>
      >> XVI.15 says that doing this mantra in homa made with
      >>bilva wood and offering bilva leaves gives wealth and in
      >>the same types of fire offering durva grass destroys enemies.
      >>XVI.26 For using this mantra to go to war, the king does homa
      >>made with bibhitaka wood and the mantra is offered with flowers and sara grass.

      One finds a similar use of Homa offerings for magical purposes in Vajrayana. A Kalacharkra cycle text mentions a variety of Homa offerings. A small quote:

      “When the oblation is offered In the seven-cornered pot, [on a fire made] with Kumsuka faggots, with red flowers [and] with the lightning water, it accomplishes attraction; it does not accomplish subjugation etc. When the oblation is offered in the triangular pot, with khadira [wood] faggots, with sweating Bilva flowers, [the mantra] accomplishes subjugation; it does not accomplish paralysis etc. When the oblation is offered in the six-cornered pot, [on a fire made] with Bilva faggots, with stainless smesmas, it accomplishes paralysis; it does not accomplish stupefaction. When the oblation is offered in the octagonal pot, [on a fire made] with arka faggots, with thorn-apples and kitsumadyas offered into the fire, it accomplishes stupefactions; it does not accomplish pacification etc.”

      The Vajramahabhairavatantra has includes (less detailed) mention of magical
      Homa rites as well including:

      “Then, if he performs burnt offerings at midnight with a crow' nest and rice husks using the ten syllable mantra along with the victim's name after kindling the fire in Datura wood, (the enemy), will be dri­ven away within seven days.”

      Or

      “Then if, wanting to turn wealth into poverty, he performs a hun­dred and eight burnt offerings at night in a fire of cotton using Datura fruit, (that wealth) will indeed become trifling.”

      >>Tantra Raja Tantra gives different herbs to have darshan for
      >>different deities (34.96-99), as well as herbs for invoking the
      >>sakti of each letter of the alphabet (35. 91-100).

      I’ll have to see if I can find these texts as they sound quite interesting.

      >>And If i remember correctly, Patanjali also substantiates
      >>herbal medicine use as a path to samadhi, which from
      >>the 'scholarly tantric' understanding predates the tantric texts.


      The Yogasutras of Patanjali say that ausadhi can lead to “siddhis”. Yogasutra 4.1 enumerates different possible causes for the emergence of these powers: birth (janma), drugs or herbs (ausadhi), mantras, asceticism (tapas), and concentration (samadhi).

      So Pantanjali seems to regard Samadhi and ausadhi as possible causes for siddhis but doesn’t say that ausadhi can cause samadhi (although you might argue it is implied).

      Pantanjali’s list is very similar to one found in Vasubandhu’s Abhidharmakosa which mentions five kinds of rddhi: those which are produced by meditation (bhavanaja), inborn (upapattildbhika), ob­tained by spells (vidyd- or mantrakrtd) or by herbs (ausadhikrta), or produced by activities (karmaja).

      Given the close correspondence, I feel confident that Vasubandhu and Pantanjali are drawing on traditions with a common origin.

      >>Hope this helps braoden the perspective a little.

      It certainly does. I think that for the purposes of my article I will refrain from comparisons to other traditions. My education is perhaps a little too provincial to be adequate in that regard (being heavily focused on Vajrayana).

      >>Also to note a question about what you are considering as
      >>Vajrayana tantra and not Hindu tantra. For example, The
      >>Kalachakra Tantra is a primary Vajarayana Tantra, yet is
      >>originally written in Sanskrit using primary Hindu deities
      >>and is used in Hinduism as well as buddhism (I have met
      >>multiple Hindu schools that teach it though not openly like
      >>the Tibetan Buddhists do).

      That is absolutely fascinating!! That is really quite stunning news. Are you sure they are using (a version of) the same text?

      For instance I have seen a “kalakakra” (sic, it definitely intends “chakra” as it translates the term as “wheel”) rite that is supposed to be of Kaula origin that is simply a version of a chakra-puja and bears no speacial relationship to the Kalachakra ganachakra-puja (which is also sort of a type of chakra-puja).

      I have also read in Swami Satyananda Saraswati’s introduction to Yogini-Tantra: “What is vama marga? It is the spiritual path which can be practiced along with your partner. The second division is called kalachakra. This involves the mother giving initiation to the son. The north of Bihar particularly is the center for this type of initiation. Up to the borders of Nepal n the north, Assam in the east, and Uttar Pradesh in the west, is the arear in which the kalachakra initiation is prevelent, even today.” It apparently also involves (daily?) prostration and obeisance to the mother as guru. It doesn’t (at least from Saraswati’s limited description) seem to have any relationship to the Kalachakratantra.

      So I guess I’m asking if you are completely sure that the Kalachakra teachings you were told about in India derive from the same source as the Kalachakra of the Nepalese and Tibetan traditions?

      Have you read James Francis Hartzell’s Tantric Yoga: A Study of the Vedic Precursors, Historical Evolution, Literatures, Cultures, Doctrines, and Practices of the llth Century Kasmlri Saivite and Buddhist Unexcelled Tantric Yogas?

      I think you might find it exceedingly interesting given your background.

      My Tibetan teachers have made it clear that what distinguishes “Buddhist” and “Non-Buddhist” tantra is not any rituals or yogic practices which are acknowledged to be “shared propety”. It is even acknowledged that there are shared texts including Tantras (like the Svarodaya-tantra). What my teachers say distinguishes the two is the understanding of Sunya. If a school has a “correct” understanding of Sunya it is “Buddhist” whether or not it calls itself “Buddhist”.

      Since the Kalachakra has a lengthy discussion of differing views on emptiness and outlines what it sees as the correct view, I’m sure my teachers would claim that the Indian Kalachakra practitioners (if the accept the Kalachakra’s understanding of sunya) are in fact “Buddhist” whether they know it or not ;-)

      I’m not bringing this up to start a debate about what constitutes Buddhist tantra, I just thought it was an interesting and amusing anecdote ;-)

      Thank for the great post,
      Ryan
      • Re: Siddhis + Ausadhi (Hindu vs Buddhist tantra)

        Tue, April 24, 2007 - 6:43 PM
        >>I’ll have to see if I can find these texts as they sound quite interesting.

        it's really easy to find :)

        >>James Francis Hartzell’s Tantric Yoga: A Study of the Vedic Precursors, Historical Evolution, Literatures, Cultures, Doctrines, and Practices of the llth Century Kasmlri Saivite and Buddhist Unexcelled Tantric Yogas?

        this sounds fascinating.

        >>What my teachers say distinguishes the two is the understanding of Sunya. If a school has a “correct” understanding of Sunya it is “Buddhist” whether or not it calls itself “Buddhist”.

        I agree with your teachers - the only difference being that we most likely have different ideas of what constitutes "correct", being Theistic.

        I am enjoying this discussion, thanks folks.
      • Re: Siddhis + Ausadhi (Hindu vs Buddhist tantra)

        Tue, April 24, 2007 - 9:53 PM
        " Ointments would seem to be something other than “internal use”… "

        According to Ayurveda the skin eats the medicine and it can sometimes be more effective to getting the medicine into your system than oral administration, esp if you are going for a localized treatment, like essential oils on the third eye, medical oils in the nose or on the back or on the feet, compresses with herbs, etc. It is all still part of Internal Medicine.

        I also was thinking after the post about the heavy use of turmeric smeared all over the body for certain tantric rituals. As well as teh specific herbal incense for different devatta rituals.

        "Are you sure they are using (a version of) the same text?"

        Same text but very different interpretation of the same words. The actual translation of the Sanskrit is difficult, sometimes you have the same word three or four times in one verse and it is translated different each time (depending on interpretation). Some of the Hindu translations I have heard are very different than the Buddhist translations (and by the way- Kalachakra is a name of Shiva and he resides in the center with his consort who is a form of Durga ;) I myself focus more on the sections that have been translated the least because of their technicality- the astronomical/astrological sections which are found in small parts in other astrological works. You can get a peek at some of the use at shrifreedom.com/jyotishkalachakra.shtml of which I use the Dali Lama's chart as an example and some of the more common/modern buddhist translations for some of the terms. There are a few other pages with Kalachakra usage on the left under 'Upaya.'

        "Have you read James Francis Hartzell’s Tantric Yoga: A Study of the Vedic Precursors, Historical Evolution, Literatures, Cultures, Doctrines, and Practices of the llth Century Kasmlri Saivite and Buddhist Unexcelled Tantric Yogas?"

        I have not but will keep an eye out for it.

        "What my teachers say distinguishes the two is the understanding of Sunya. If a school has a “correct” understanding of Sunya it is “Buddhist” whether or not it calls itself “Buddhist”. "

        Ahhh, you know there is everything in Hinduism. I come from a lineage that aims to attain the 'Sunya Purusha'.

        In the Puri, Orrisa there is the famous Jagannath Temple. On the main doorway as you enter there is the ten avatars of Visnu on the doorway overhead the main entrance. My tradition correlates each of these to the 9 Vedic planets (and Kalki the ascendant). They are in order of manifestation, the Sun is Rama, the Moon is Krsna, and Mercury is Buddha avatar- and the image is the face of Jagannath. Orissa had a huge Vajrayana population that evolved there both integrating the hindu tantra into it and supplementing back into Hinduism. Drawing a line depends on perspective, as you know, from the Hindu side Buddhism is considered part of Hinduism. --Though not a place I care to discuss as the religious side does not much for me. I care more for the practical application: like ausadhi for siddhis : ) Will your research be available for reading?










        • Re: Siddhis + Ausadhi (Hindu vs Buddhist tantra)

          Wed, April 25, 2007 - 8:27 AM
          Hi again,

          >>According to Ayurveda the skin eats the medicine and
          >>it can sometimes be more effective to getting the medicine
          >>into your system than oral administration

          I understand transdermal absorption but didn't realize that Indic medical theory would consider it "internal". Thanks for the information.

          >>Same text but very different interpretation of the same
          >>words.

          I cant thank you enough for passing on this information!

          >>The actual translation of the Sanskrit is difficult,
          >>sometimes you have the same word three or four times
          >>in one verse and it is translated different each time

          It isn't helped by the fact that the Kalachakra _intentionally_ uses a non-standard form of Sanskrit

          >>Some of the Hindu translations I have heard are very
          >>different than the Buddhist translations

          Do you think that these differing versions have a common origin? I assume from the way you phrased your statements that there are some versions which are (relatively speaking) fairly similar to the Buddhist Sanskrit version and have an obviously common ancestry?

          >> (and by the way- Kalachakra is a name of Shiva and
          >>he resides in the center with his consort who is a form of Durga ;)
          ;-)

          Thanks for the link. Absolutely fascinating. I wonder why this isn't more common knowledge?

          Have you corresponded with Vesna Wallace at all? I think she would be extremely interested in all of this!! I'm going to email her a link to your site. I hope you two can establish a dialog as I think this would contribute greatly to Kalachakra research here in the west.

          >>Ahhh, you know there is everything in Hinduism.

          Indeed!

          >>I come from a lineage that aims to attain the 'Sunya Purusha'

          That was actually the topic of conversation. It was asked what distinguishes Bon tantra from Chos Tantra and the response was that because the Bon understand Sunya in about the same way they are actually doing "Buddhist tantra". Somebody brought up Hindu discussions of sunya and what are essentially "apophatic" understandings of deity/ontology and his response was that some Hindus may also be doing "Buddhist" tantra.

          My understanding of the way he was using "Buddhist" is as "chos" or "Dharma" meaning
          "truth".

          Essentially he was saying that schools with a Buddhist label have no monopoly on truth and went on to say many Vajrayana practitioners (because they subscribe to "realism") are not doing "dharma" tantra but rather "non-dharma" tantra ;-)

          >>Though not a place I care to discuss as the religious side does not
          >>much for me.I care more for the practical application: like ausadhi for siddhis : )

          Ditto. Other than the fact that one can only study and practice so much material (and therefore must pick a particular tradition) I see no reason to make sectarian distinction. The only legitimate purpose they serve is historical investigation IMO.

          In terms of practice, I feel _much_ closer to my tantric Hindu brothers and sisters than Zen or Theravadan Buddhists.

          >>Will your research be available for reading?

          I'll put it on-line and post a link when its done.

          With thanks and warm regards,
          Ryan
        • "Kalachakra is a name of Shiva and he resides in the center with his consort who is a form of Durga"

          from Gyalton Rinpoche I asked role of Shiva in Buddhism

          Shiva is Daka.
          So he is protecting dharma, not generating.

          I dont have realisation over these things, so i dont state anything to any direction.
      • >>In the Shaiva tradition, Abhinavagupta (11th century) can be used as a dating marker because he mentions or quotes a number of texts. However, White has argued that Tantra was already being homogenized by this period...

        I was actually going to suggest The Alchemical Body as a jumping off point, but it seems you've gotten that far... have you been researching the source material in the bibliography?

        certainly Tantra was undergoing homogenization at the time of Abhinava - in fact, his magnum opus, the Tantraloka addresses various schools and their philosophical doctrines/rituals - Pratyabhijna, Kaula, Krama, etc. and in some way attempts a synthesis. Within these various schools there were of course subsects as well, which makes for interesting reading if you're interested in pursuing it (I assume probably at a later date).

        Kamil Zvelebil has done a lot of investigation into the Cittars and their poetry (often masking practical applications), and there is of course The Siddha Quest for Immortality, which focuses mainly on medical applications when it gets into the nitty gritty:

        www.amazon.com/Siddha-Que...591-3344801

        I don't know if that title is OOP though - Mandrake was still offering it from their store when last I checked but the used copies tend to go for high prices.

        as as regards the Kalachakra Tantra, I have seen it referenced many times in Hindu studies and quoted in historical works - although there may be different versions of it floating around, the understanding that I have gotten was that when usually quoted it is admittedly a Buddhist Tantra, which makes me assume that the most often used version is the same and not just a Hindu manual of Chakra-Puja. It's a bit too early in the morning for me to look up references, as I have to make breakfast and go to work :)

        >>It would be a mistake to think of Buddhist tantras as not being “Sanskrit based”

        certainly, as the migration of Buddhism went north, being of Indian origin, and I'm sure you've investigated White's theories as to the common origin of some of the Nath and Buddhist doctrines to some extent. :)
        • Hi again Saul, hope you've been well,

          >>I was actually going to suggest The Alchemical Body as a jumping
          >>off point, but it seems you've gotten that far...

          Great book. Good stuff about the Naths. The Nath lineages are interesting to me because they are far more relevant to the study of Vajrayana than is generally acknowledged. While many people believe that the Naths have been an exclusively Saivite group since their inception this is not the case. The Naths have had Buddhist and Jain lineages preserved within their sect-structure and have even attracted considerable interest from Muslims with a sufic orientation. It appears that the Naths were first and foremost yogis and alchemists and that sectarian affiliation was a secondary concern, with both Saiva and Vajrayana lineages being preserved within the Nathapantha fold.

          Other than White’s book the materials I’ve found most helpful are:
          George Weston Briggs. 1938, Gorakhnath and the Kanphata Yogis,
          Shashibhusan Das Gupta 1976, Obscure Religious Cults,
          Keith Dowman 1985, Masters of Mahamudra: Songs and Histories of the Eighty-Four Buddhist Siddhas
          David Templeman 2002, Buddhaguptanatha and the Late Survival of the Siddha Tradition in India
          David Templeman 1997, "Buddhaguptanatha; A Late Indian Siddha in Tibet", In Tibetan Studies; Proceedings of the Seventh Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, vol., 2
          Micheal Walter 1992, “Jabir the Buddhist Yogi”
          Micheal Walter 1996, “Jabir the Buddhist Yogi part 2
          David Templeman 1983, Taranatha’s The Seven Instruction Lineages

          >>have you been researching the source material in the bibliography?

          I have been going through many of the materials in English. Actually, I just wrote him a letter and hope that he can help with a problem I’ve encountered in my research.

          >>certainly Tantra was undergoing homogenization at the time of
          >>Abhinava - in fact, his magnum opus, the Tantraloka …
          >>Pratyabhijna, Kaula, Krama, … there were of course
          >>subsects as well, which makes for interesting reading if you're
          >>interested in pursuing it (I assume probably at a later date).

          I’m sure I’ll do more research in this area in the future. BTW Have you read Kiss of the Yogini? Even if you don’t agree with everything it IS great food for thought!

          >>Kamil Zvelebil has done a lot of investigation into the Cittars
          >>and their poetry (often masking practical applications),
          >>The Siddha Quest for Immortality,

          I already have “The Siddha Quest.” Has Kamil Zvelebil written others?

          >>which makes me assume that the most often used version is the same and not just a >>Hindu manual of Chakra-Puja.

          No, the text wasn’t called Kalakakra (sic) the _ritual_ was called the kalakakra (actually I’m pretty sure this is shorthand for Kala-chakra-puja meaning “the black Chakra-puja”). If memory serves it was discussed in an Amooks text (which clearly isn’t a scholarly journal but on the other-hand I doubt they made up the name). It was many years ago that I read this so some details are fuzzy now. In any event this kalakakra (kalacakra) was not a text at all but rather the name of a ritual…

          >> I'm sure you've investigated White's theories as to the common
          >>origin of some of the Nath and Buddhist doctrines to some extent. :)

          Researching the Nath/Vajrayana link is one of my favorite hobbies!

          Wow. I wrote all the stuff above about the Naths before I even read this far in your post.

          ;-) Too funny!!!

          BTW the Tibetans have been acknowledging the link to the Naths for centuries...

          “Of the adepts of the way of secret mantra, there are many who uphold the lineage of the great master Padmasambhava, but the majority are of the twelve orders of yogins who follow the great accomplished master Goraksanatha. And, in particular, there are a great many yogins who follow the great master of indestructible reality Shantigupta and his spiritual sons, who belong to the Natesvara suborder of that Nathapanthas.”

          - Dudjom Rinpoche 1991, The Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism: Its Fundamentals and History pg 504
          • >>George Weston Briggs. 1938, Gorakhnath and the Kanphata Yogis

            (I saw this one in India and stupidly passed it up!)

            >>Actually, I just wrote him a letter and hope that he can help with a problem I’ve encountered in my research.

            I wish you luck! I often email scholars and they have all been pretty responsive and nice. I haven't tried contacting White, however.

            >>BTW Have you read Kiss of the Yogini? Even if you don’t agree with everything it IS great food for thought!

            yep and yep!

            >>Has Kamil Zvelebil written others?

            yes, he has a body of work mostly dealing with Cittar poetry.

            >>No, the text wasn’t called Kalakakra (sic) the _ritual_ was called the kalakakra

            gothca, I thought you were referring to the Kalachakra Tantra, which is referenced by more than a few Shaiva writers. I'm not Buddhist but I certainly find the Kalachakra interesting. I watched Wheel Of Time a few months back and it was quite inspiring, despite my not being of Buddhist inclination... also I like Herzog's films.

            is the AMOOKOS book Tantra Magick?

            >>Wow. I wrote all the stuff above about the Naths before I even read this far in your post.
            >>;-) Too funny!!!

            :)

            great minds think alike?
            • >>George Weston Briggs. 1938, Gorakhnath and the Kanphata Yogis
              >>I saw this one in India and stupidly passed it up!

              You can get it online for under $15. It is something like $65 on amazon but is $12 here: www.travelersteaco.com/booksB1.htm

              >>I often email scholars and they have all been pretty responsive and nice.

              That has been my experience too.

              >> I thought you were referring to the Kalachakra Tantra, which
              >>is referenced by more than a few Shaiva writers.

              When you have a little time (no hurry) would you mind sending me some refs? I'd love to see what they have to say about it.

              >>I'm not Buddhist but I certainly find the Kalachakra interesting.

              Well, I am Buddhist but find it too complex to really understand :-)

              >>is the AMOOKOS book Tantra Magick?

              I don't think so. It was in a collection of papers a friend lent me for a couple days. He asked that I not photocopy them and I honored that request, so now some 15 years later am a little fuzzy about it. I think it was in papers relating to sort sort of "grades" in something like "the western order of naths". I know some of them were AMOOKOS materials but I no longer recall which things were which (some were papers he copied in India and weren't AMOOKOS stuff).

              Sorry.

              >>great minds think alike?

              I don't doubt that is true, but I'm quite certain that has nothing to do with me :-()(I can't even spell and am too lazy to proof read as I'm sure you've noticed)

              Sarva Mangalam
              Ryan
              • nice, thanks for the link. yeah, when I get some time I will look up references for you. I am definitely swamped with work and my sister is visiting from out of state for a week or so so I won't have much free time right at the moment - it may be a bit!

                as for proofreading, hey no big thing unless you're writing a scholarly tract for publication :) there is always more time to participate in threads....

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