Esoteric Buddhism , also known as Tantra or Vajrayana , is one of the practice methods of Buddhism. It was formed at the same time as the Hinduism of Tantrism, and rising during the Gupta Dynasty of India. Relative to Tantra, the other sects of Buddhism include Mahayana Buddhism and Theravada Buddhism, which are called “Exotoric Buddhism “. Tantra has many aliases, such as Tantrism Buddhism, Secret Buddhism, Secret Vehicle, Vajrayana, Mantra Vehicle, Yoga Tantra, Vajra Wheel, and Mantra Buddhism.
The areas which Tantra was spread was very large in history. Nowadays, Tantra flourishes mostly in Japan and in Tibet. Japanese Tantra Buddhism was inherited from China’s Tang Tantra, and Tang Tantra Buddhism was inherited from India Tantra which was in the period of its early and middle Buddhism. There are two branches in Japan: Dongmi (Mantra Buddhism) and Taimi (Tiantai Buddhism). The Principal deity of Japan Tantra is Mahavairocana. Tibet Tantra Buddhism was inherited from the late period of India Tantra, it is popular in Tibet, Qinghai, Mongolia and the western sichuan province (previously the “Kham”). The Principal deity of Tibet Tantra is Samantabhadra, and Buddha Vajradhara. Nanzhao and Dali Kingdom (AD 738 – 937) also popularized Acarya religion, commonly known as Dian Mi — Yunnan Tantra.
Esoteric Buddhism Brief
Many rituals and practices of Tantric Buddhism can be traced back to the ancient Indian religious traditions. Esoteric Buddhism flourished during the Gupta Dynasty in India. The practitioner of Shaktism absorbed part of the theories and practices of Brahmanism and Shramana sects, and developed Tantramism. Its characteristics are full of mystery, emphasizing supernatural powers, ghosts and gods, yoga, and mysterious experience.Taking Tantra (also known as Tantric) as the main basis for practice and to one-to-one secret teaching between master and apprentice.
The earliest quotation of the samdhaya (Secret meaning) in Buddhist Scriptures can be found in “Jnanaprasthana” of Sarvastivada. “Abhidharma-samuccaya” of Asanga believed it need to make a secret choice, Vajrayana believes that all sentient beings are pure in nature. And blended many theories of Madhyamaka and Yogachara of Mahayana Buddhism. This sect believes that other teachings are all “Upaya” terms of Tathagata. The teaching method of this school is the “true secret meaning” proclaimed by the Tathagata. And because these secret scriptures cannot be shown to others, it is needede to be taught secretly, so this school is called “Esoteric Buddhism” and all other sects are called “Exotoric Buddhism”. There is no definite evidence and theory about who comes first and who influences whom between Hinduism Tantra and Buddhism Tantra. Modern Tantric Buddhism is divided into “Dong Tantra (also Shingon Buddhism or Japan Buddhism)”, Taiwan Tantra and Tibetan Tantra.
Meaning of Vajrayana
“Vajra” means indestructible emptiness; Philosophically, it refers to a hard and sharp wisdom like a diamond that can pierce delusions and cause Buddhahood. The word vajra was originally electric and light, which was a weapon held by Sakra, the so-called vajra. From the 2 Satya (samvriti-satya & paramartha-satya), The vajra mentioned by paramartha-satya is fearless and indestructible; The vajra mentioned by samvriti-satya is wisdom and strength. Esoteric Buddhism regards it as a weapon that can eliminate all worries and suppress demons. Sometimes it also refers to the wisdom gained from practice.
“Yana” was originally an instrument used in ancient India to hold things, meaning “load”; Buddhism believes that it can carry all living beings from the shore of life and death to the other shore of Nirvana. It is a method and way of practicing and becoming Buddha.
With two together, it is “Vajrayana”
Esoteric Buddhism — Indian origin development
In the development of Tantra, classic classification was adopted in India and Tibet. Some were distinguished by the content of the Tantra classics, and some were considered based on the order of completion of the Tantra classics. The period of completion of the “Mahavairocana Tantra” and “Vajrasekhara Sutra” was regarded as India’s “mid-term Tantra”, before that, it was called “Early-term Tantra”, and later of that it was called “Late-term Tantra”.
Vajrayana has different titles due to its characteristics, such as the mantra, the vidyadhara, the upaya vehicle, and the Phalayana which reflect the different stages of Tantra development, namely the Dharani stage, the vidyadhara stage, the upaya tantric stage, and the Phala tantric stage.
Indian origin development — Dharani Tantra
The “Agama Sutra” of Sectarian Buddhism also contains incantations; “Mahasamaya Sutta” of “Dirghagama-sutra” records: Shakyamuni uttered many verses with protective functions to subdue illusion, bubble, pseudo and arrogant for the heaven, gods, ghosts, asuras, and 5 Abhijna immortals. Nagarjuna’s “The Treatise on the Great Perfection of Wisdom” called those who received dharani and other achievements as Bodhisattva Mahasattva and there are five hundred kinds of Dharani.
5 Abhijna includes: iddhi-vidha, dibba-sota, ceto-pariya-nana, pubbe-nivasanussati, dibba-cakkhu
Various dharani and incantations, rituals, etc. were later assembled as “Vidya-dhara-pitaka”. It is represented by the “Dharani-samuccaya-sutra” and “Manjushri’s Fundamental Ceremony Sutra”, which are mostly rituals, incantations, fire sacrifices, emphasizing supernatural powers and driving ghosts and spirits, and do not involve advanced principles.
When the Tantra of so-called “Tangmi (Mantra Dharani)” of vajradhatu and garbhakosa-dhatu (Womb Realm) appeared, it was gradually replaced, and Kukai called it Kriya Tantra. It is called “Carya-Tantra” in Tibetan Buddhism, because it needs to rely on external rituals and mantras to get the corresponding
Indian origin development — Tantra
There are two theories about the source of Esoteric Buddhism; Academia says it comes from the “Vedas” and “Upanishads”; For example, the incantations of the “Atharna Veda” include healing method, longevity method, gain method, surrendering law, atonement method, harmony method, feminine law, Abhicaraka, royal service law, and Brahman law. Later, the three methods of gaining, surrendering, and alleviating calamities of the Tantric “Susiddhi Sutra” and “Mahavairocana Tantra” were not only the same as the name of the “Atharna Veda”, but the content was also the same; “Vajrasekhara Sutra” added the method of vasikarana (respect and love) and the method of akarsana, which became five methods. There is a certain degree of similarity between Buddhism Tantra and Hinduism Tantra. For example, Tantra also says that the human body is a microcosm of the universe. Like the Shaktism sect, it emphasizes that all things in the world are divided into Yin and Yang, interdependent, and nothing exists in isolation.
Buddhism claims that Tantric Buddhism originated from the secret teachings of Vajrasattva taught by Mahavairocana, which are not allowed to be taught in public, and are full of mysterious contents, so it is also called Tantra. The Esoteric classics were obtained by the Nagarjuna Bodhisattva who opened the iron tower in south Tianzhu. The Sanskrit text of Esoteric classics is called Tantra, which means warp when weaving. And it has been called “Mantra Esotericism” ever since “Susiddhi Sutra” and so on
The method of Garbhakosa-dhatu (womb realm) is a tantric school that is formed around the “Mahavairocana Sutra”, it is collectively called the Two pure Tantric together with Vajra-dhatu. The “Mahavairocana Sutra” takes “Bodhicitta as the cause, great compassion as the foundation, and upaya as the ultimate” as the foundation, proclaiming that all living beings are pure in nature. And It also compares all the wisdom of the heart of practitioners to being in the “Womb”; The Method of Garbhakosa-dhatu combines the Upaya of learning, mantra mudra, and mandala visualization.
Japanese Tantra claims that Mahavairocana represents the pure bodhicitta inherent in all living beings. The purpose of practicing Mantra Tantra is to carry forward this pure bodhicitta, through the blessings of Three-sided holding, to unite oneself with the Mahavairocana, and finally become a Buddha. Tibetan Buddhism calls the Garbhakosa-dhatu as Carya Tantra, regarding it as the second of the lower three tantric methods, fewer people practice it. Tsongkhapa believed that the external mantra rituals of Carya Tantra are equally important as the inner meditation practice, so it is called Carya Tantra. The difference between Carya Tantra and Kriya Tantra is that although Carya Tantra also values mantra rituals, but it has entered the theoretical level and pays more attention to the level of Prajna wisdom, Therefore, Carya Tantra can be regarded as a further development of Kriya Tantra.
Indian origin development — Vajrayana Yoga Tantra
The method of Vajra-dhatu is a tantric school that takes “Vajrasekhara Sutra” as the fundamental classics. It is collectively called the Two pure Tantric together with Garbhakosa-dhatu (Womb realm). It was a little later than the inheritance of the Garbhakosa-dhatu, but appeared almost at the same time. There are 100,000 verses in the Yoga 18 texts of the “Vajrasekhara Sutra”, which is on the same scale as the “Maha Prajnaparamita Sutra · First Meeting” (400 volumes). Amoghavajra abridged translated “Sarvatathagata Tattvasamgraha Tantra” and “Adhyardhasatika Prajnaparamita”. These two sutras were the center of Tang Mi, and later spread to Japan, forming the Dong Mi (Shingon) and Tai Mi.
Tibetan Buddhism calls the method of Vajra-dhatu the Yoga Tantra, and regards it as the first of the lower three yogas, and few people practice it. Tsongkhapa believes that it is called Yoga Tantra because they value the inner meditation experience; the biggest difference between it and the Unexcelled Yoga Tantra is that it cannot practice the “Action Seal”
“action seal” or “activity seal.” It refers to a secret level of Tantra in which specially prepared initiates – one male, one female – join sexually in order to harness the power of sex for spiritual development. Through the “activity” of sexual energy, the initiate can “seal” their consciousness in the clear light (bodhichitta / Chenresig / Christ).
Indian origin development — Anuttarayoga Tantra
Anuttarayoga Tantra also known as “Unexcelled Yoga Tantra” or “Highest Yoga Tantra”. Anuttarayoga Tantra and other tantra sects of the lower three yogas have their own deities and tantra classics, among which the famous sects are Guhyasamaji-vajra,Cakrasajvara-vajra,Yamantakaa-vajra, Hevajraa-vajra. These sects can be roughly classified into two major schools : Mahayoga and Yogini Tantras. In the existing Sanskrit materials in India, there is no record of the name Anuttarayoga Yoga Sutra, only the names of Mahayoga and Yogini-tantras. Kalachakra Tantra, which to record Kalachakra, is the latest sect to appear.
The biggest difference between Anuttarayoga Tantra and the lower three yogas is that it values great importance to the Sadhana of the inner energy channels, Bindu, and Nadi of practitioner, so that they can be guided into the Sushumna in order achieve fastly becoming a Buddha
Anuttarayoga Tantra summarizes the Vajrayana teachings into the stage of Utpatti-Krama (Meaning to grow or to innovate) and the stage of Sampanna Krama (meaning to enable practitioners to achieve achievement). Krama has two meanings: Order and Upaya. Utpatti-Krama is for self-view and for the practice of the self-body. Sampanna Krama is then for the Self-consciousness and for the practice of mind
Anuttarayoga Tantra was later introduced into Tibet and became the mainstream of Tibetan Tantric Buddhism. Mahayoga Tantra was translated as the “Father Sutra”, Yogini Tantra was called the “Mother Sutra”, and the Kalachakra Sutra claimed to be Nondual Sutra, and its status is higher than the “Father Sutra” and “Mother Sutra”.
The invasion of Turks who believed in Islam directly led to the demise of Indian Buddhism. Some people in modern research claim that the believers have lost the support of the people because they want to offer Yogi to Acharya for dual Sadhana (a form of sexual practice) and other factors. Then it made Esoteric Buddhism, which still related to Buddhism of the East India Polo Dynasty, finally perished
Since then, India only has activities of Esoteric Buddhism in some parts of Bangladesh. In the 1980s, Burma Sangha Raja went to the Buddhist Tantric area of Bangladesh to preach, and all Tantric followers converted to Theravada Buddhism.
Esoteric Buddhism – Chinese Tantra
Chinese Tantra also known as “Han Mi”, “Han” means Chinese; “Mi” is chinese pronunciation of Tantra’s chinese translation;
Chinese Tantra – History
Before the formation of Tantra, some tantric methods called “kriya Tantra” had already been introduced into China, and they were first seen in the second year of Wu Huanglong in the Three Kingdoms (230 AD) when Zhu Luyan translated the “Matangi sutra”, and Zhi Qian translated “Puspa-kuta Dharani” , “Anantamukha Sadhaka Dharani” and so on.
In the 8th century AD, in the era of Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty, the Indian eminent monks of Subhakarasimha, Vajrabodhi and Amoghavajra came to China, and were collectively known as the “Three Great Scholars of Kaiyuan”. The three esoteric masters, with the support of the Tang royal family, translated a large number of esoteric classics at Daxingshan Temple in Chang’an (located in today’s Xi’an), and promoted esoteric methods, which became the beginning of Tang Mi (Tang Tantra).
Amoghavajra once went to the Lion Kingdom (now Sri Lanka) on the order of his teacher Vajrabodhi to learn tantric teachings, and received Abhiseka of Garbhakosa-dhatu (womb realm) and Vajra-dhatu under the Samantabhadra Acharya. After returning to China, he successively translated 11 tantras and 143 volumes.
After the Great Anti-Buddhist Persecution initiated by Tang Emperor Wuzong; Because of losing the support of the royal family, the mandala that required meticulous arrangement and the teachings of the complex rituals of Tang Mi traditions were cut off, leaving only the more concise secret method such as Nilakantha Dharani, Vijaya Dharani, Cundi, Ucchusma for the public to know. The detailed rituals have been secretly passed down among monks such as Zen and Huayan sects. In addition, the method of Tang Mi, which had not been affected by the Great Anti-Buddhist Persecution, has been inherited and preserved by Dong Mi and Tai Mi in Japan.
Only a few tantras and rituals of Anuttarayoga Tantra were introduced into China in the Song Dynasty, including Guhyasamaja Tantra, Yamantaka (Vajrabhairava), Garab Dorje (Shri Hevajra) and Sarvatathagata Tattvasamgraha Tantra. Esoteric Buddhism was very developed in Song Dynasty, Liao, Jin, Xixia and other dynasties. In the first year of Tianxi of the Northern Song Dynasty, the “Vinayaka Achievement Sutra” was forbidden to be listed in the Tri-pitaka, and anuttarayoga no longer had much influence after the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 AD).
Chinese Tantra – The return of Tantra to China
The return that Japanese Esoteric Buddhism to China. Firstly, Wang Hongyuan translated Raifu Gonda’s work, who was the great sojo of Toyoyama school; and then invited him to teach Buddhism in China. In 1924, Raifu Gonda came to Chaozhou, Guangdong at the age of 79, to initiate abhisheka and teach Wang Hongyuan and others. In the following year, Wang Hongyuan went to Japan to practice Tantra.
After Wang Hongyuan, many laymen and monks rushed to Japan to seek and to learn the Dharma. Among them, Master Chisong went to Japan three times and founded the Shingon sect of Jing’an Temple in Shanghai in 1953 after returning home. Because it returned from Japan, so that it was taboo by the government, the two sects of Esoteric Buddhism and Exotoric Buddhism attacked each other again; Wang Hong’s qualifications to teach Buddhism had been questioned, and together with other problems that had made the development of Esoteric Buddhism in China difficult. Afterwards, the Toyoyama school established a branch in Tai Hang, Hong Kong to recruit believers, but it still failed to get rid of the shadow of Japanese religion. Since the mandala was unearthed in the Tang Mi Palace of Famen Temple in 1987, the Chinese Buddhist community has been vigorously promoting the Tang Mi revival.
Common methods （dharma-paryaya）
Vaishravana is a Buddhist protector, also called Vaisramana, It was recorded in “Atanatiyama sutta” etc, and had been highly valued in India since ancient times; Dasa-bhanavara-vinaya of Sarvastivada reagrds “Atanatiyama sutta” as one of the 18 most important classics; It was very popular in Tang dynasties of China. Because he holds the spitting treasure rat in his left hand, which symbolizes the boundless wealth, so that he is also called the king of wealth
Avalokitesvara is also known as “Guanyin” with meaning of “Goddess of Mercy” or the “Mercy Goddess” in China.
The belief in Avalokitesvara in China began in the fourth century, and it generally believed in the incarnations of Arya-Avalokitesvara, Pandara-Vasini, and the Yangzhi Guanyin. In Tibet, the main beliefs are the Shadakshari Lokeshvara (4 arms Avalokitesvara), Ekadasamukha Avalokitesvara(11 faces Avalokitesvara), and the thousand-hands Avalokitesvara.
The mantras are the Six-Character Great Bright Mantra, Ekadasa-mukha Dharani, Cintamanicakra Dharani, and Nilakantha Dharani. Both of Esoteric Buddhism and Exotoric Buddhism are in compliance with determination of those mantras. Among them, the “84 sentences” of “Maha Karuna Dharani” which was translated by Bhagavat-Dharma is one of the three major Dharani mantras of Chinese Tantra (Han Mi).
Usnisavijaya also known “Wrathful vighnantaka” or “Namgyalma” in Tibetan language; “Vijaya Dharani” was a popular classic in the Tang Dynasty, it has three main functions, “eliminating evil karma, leaving hell, and increasing bliss and longevity”; The “Vijaya Dharani” is one of the three major Dharani of Chinese Tantra
Cundi is considered to be the incarnation of Avalokitesvara, “Cundi Dharani” was popular in India, it was recorded in the “The Maha-Cundi Dharani Sutra”; There were five translations in the Tang Dynasty, Since the Liao Dynasty (AD 916-1125), the “Cundi Dharani” had been sinicized, and it was also different from the Indian “Cundi Dharani” at the beginning.
Hokyointo is also kown as “Asoka Pagoda”; It has a square shape and consists of four parts: the base, the body, the eaves and the “kshetra”. Among them, the eaves of the tower are turned upwards at the four corners of the tower, which are vividly called “mountain flower – banana leaves”. This form was developed from the “stupa” in ancient India. It was introduced from Indians to Nepal and then to China, and it also developed in East Asia and Southeast Asia.
In “Casket Seal Dharani Sutra”, there are dharmaparyaya (method) of Hokyointo and Hokyointo dharani sutra. “Hokyointo Dharani Mantra” is one of the three major Dharani of Chinese Tantra
kshetra: Sanskit, it is the physical body, referring to a “field”or even a country, and in a broader sense represents Buddha Kingdom”, “devotional place” or “residence of God”.
“mountain flower – banana leaves” ， There are two explanations
1), it refers to the decorative patterns on the top of the buddhist building with small wooden materials in ancient buildings, which can still be seen in some ancient buildings from the Song Dynasty (AD 960 -1279)
2), it refers to the form of a masonry pagoda, which is roughly equivalent to the “mountain flower banana leaf” in the common small wooden works in the Song Dynasty. “Mountain flower banana leaf” is also called “banana flower”. It originated from the practice of decorating the ridges of buildings during the Warring States Period (5th century BC – 221 BC) and was used in the Sui and Tang Dynasties (AD 581-907). It has seven petals on each side and one petal on each corner. The petals were next to each other, almost enclosing most of the tower kshetra. These “leaves” are also engraved with exquisitely carving patterns.
Esoteric Buddhism is called Tantric Buddhism in Japan, and it is divided in Dong Mi and Tai Mi. Here, “Mi” is chinese pronunciation of Tantra’s chinese translation; it is directly used in Japanese Tantra; Due to the close exchanges between China and Japan in the mid-Tang Dynasty, India’s esoteric Buddhism in the early and mid-terms was introduced to Japan by Master Kukai from Tang Dynasty. In 804 AD, Master Kukai accompanied the 17th Japanese missions to Tang Dynasty seeking Dharma, and worshipped Master Huiguo as his teacher; Master Huiguo unreservedly taught the Tantric to Kukai, and proclaimed Kukai as the “The Eighth Right Teaching of Mantra”, and gave him the title “Vairocana Vajra”. Kukai was diligent and studious, and he were also to learn many Chinese cultural arts such as calligraphy and painting, as well as advanced production techniques such as road construction and making bridge;
After Kukai returned to Japan, he founded Shingon Buddhism, and because To-Ji was its birthplace, it was called Dong Mi;
Tai Mi was created by the Buddhist monk Master Saicho who studied in Tang Dynasty at the same time, it is also called Tendai school of Buddhism;
Dong Mi system was almost complete by Master Kong Hai; Tai Mi system was countinually formed by the students of Master Saicho and the students of the students of Master Saicho; and all of whom went to learn in China in Tang Dynasty
Hence, Yoga Tantra prevailed in Japan
Dongmi’s dual-sadhana of meditation and practice violates the Dongmi method and will be expelled from the sect. Only Tai Mi and Tibet Tantra (Zang Mi) are allowed to proceed with meditation and practice; it begins with receiving first Three Major Commandments including Samanera Ordination, Upasampada, Bodhisattva-sila, and then Samaya; following to receive Abhiseka of Garbhakosa-dhatu (womb realm) and Vajra-dhatu; then after, to practice Three-secrets correspondence (Kayaguhya,Vagguhya, Manoguhya ), and eventually becoming a Buddha.
Note: Tachikawa-ryu was banned after its peak in the Kamakura period.
Kayaguhya — refers to the “the body secret”
vagguhya — refers to the “speech secret”
manoguhya— refers to the “mind secret”
Dong Mi was founded by Master Kukai. Dong Mi means “Esoteric Buddhism of Toji Temple (also known as Kyo-o-gokoku-ji )”; The difference between Esoteric Buddhism and Exotoric Buddhism was proposed by Kukai – the Eighth Right Teaching of Mantra. Dong Mi believes that monks should focus on abstinence
The monks of Dong Mi Kukai Sect were not allowed to talk to women,and they must strictly follow the precepts and even stipulates that female is not allowed to enter the Buddhist holy land. The monks of Mount Koya of Dong Mi have lived as a monk without having a marriage and children. Dong Mi has a unique method of Sadhana fleshly relics.
Tai Mi was created by Master Saicho, Tai Mi means “Esoteric Buddhism of Tian Tai”; Later, during the period when Master Saicho studied Tantra from Master Kukai in Mount Koya, he brought Kukai’s extreme asceticism and strict observance of precepts into the Tian Tai Sect.
Esoteric Buddhism in Taiwan
Taiwan Tantra is derived from Japanese Tantra. During the Japanese occupation, “Shingon Koya Sect” in Meiji 29 (AD 1896), “Tiantai Sect” in Meiji 44 (AD 1911), and “Shingon Daigo Sect” in the 15th year of Taisho (AD 1926), all came to Taiwan to teach Buddhism. The Shingon Koya Sect established Taiwan’s “head monastery” – the “New Koya Hongfa Temple” in Ximending, and established training centers in various places (for example: Hualien Ji-An Shrine).
After the war, all Japanese monks were sent back to Japan, and Taiwan entered the era of martial law, and the development of Buddhism was relatively limited. It wasn until the 1970s that Master Wuguang went to Kongobuji Temple in Koyasan, Japan to study Mantra and Tantra, to join Shingon’s specialized college learning “Classification of Buddha’s teaching”; After gradutation, he became the great Tutor of Shingon Churyu. Then, he established Shingon Sect Brightness sect of Five Chi Shan Wang Guangming Temple in Neimen District, Kaohsiung City. After the lifting of the martial law in the 1990s, Japan’s Koya Shingon sect and the three major Tibetan Buddhism sects began to promote the Dharma in Taiwan, and each flourishes.
Esoteric Buddhism — Ari and Dian Mi
Dian Mi, “Dian” is short for Yunnan province; “Mi” is chinese pronunciation of Tantra’s chinese translation;
Ari Sect, also known as the Achariya Sect, is a tantric sect before converting to Theravada Buddhism of Anawrahta in the Pagan Empire (840-1297 AD) of Burma. It may have been introduced from India in the seventh century; The Tantric Buddhism that spread in Yunnan (the area of Nanzhao and Dali) was called Dian Mi and related to it.
Ari Sect is a mixture of Tantra, Hinduism, Bhuddism and Burmese folk religions (Naga and Nat worship). Ari sect monks eat meat and drink alcohol,and had “first night”. Believers live a married life with their master before marriage. Ari Sect specially worship Mahakala; and eventually vanished from Burma, but survived in Yunnan province until the Kangxi empire (AD 1661 – 1722) of Qing Dynasty (AD 1636 – 1912) of China.
Esoteric Buddhism — Tibet Tantra
Tibet Tantra is a tantric sect spreading in Tibet from Indian Buddhism. It began with Padmasambhava and Santaraksita. The four major sects of Tibetan Buddhism all have their own Tantric inheritance. It contains four tantras (Kriya-Tantra, Carya Tantra, Yoga Tantra, and Anuttarayoga Tantra), but the main focus is Anuttarayoga Tantra, which can be divided into Dzogchen (Atiyoga) inheritance of the old translation, and Mahamudra of the new translation, that forming up two major mainstreams.
When Buddhism was introduced to Tibet from India and Nepal on a large scale, it was during the development period of Vajrayana Buddhism in India. Hence, Vajrayana can be carried forward in Tibetan Buddhism and become the most powerful inheritance in Tibetan Buddhism. There are alias of “Vajrayana” or “Phala Vajrayana” as for Tantra in Tibet in the eighth century AD. The full name of “Phala Vajrayana” is “Phala Secret Vajrayana”, “Phala” refers to the “goal” pursued by the practitioner. It specifically refers to the Mahasukha (great pleasure) gained through various special methods and hard Sadhana in Esoteric Buddhism.
Relative to Exotoric Buddhism, Proposed by Hetulaksana and Prajnaparamita. Exotoric Buddhism is based on the Hetu, Emphasizing theory; Esoteric Buddhism is based on the phala, focusing on the finding out practical methods and various rituals, mantras, etc. that assist in the practice. Practice is guided by theory, and the theory is verified in practice. The two are mutually beneficial and are an inseparable unity.
Tibet Tantra advocates the use of desire and greed as the assisting power of practice, so that practitioners can obtain view through secret rituals, magical powers and meditation practice (called “Deity yoga”), and finally get to be liberated.
In Tibet, some gods of Bon religion were included as protector gods by the Dharma Acharya at the time. For example, the Twelve Earth Mothers of Yongning (Twelve Danma protectors), and some Hindu gods were also included in the protectors, such as Vinayaka, Prithvi Mata.
Esoteric Buddhism is not a sect of Buddhism. The term “Esoteric Buddhism” corresponds to “Exotoric Buddhism”. It is divided based on the way of practice and teaching, and there is no fundamental difference in doctrine