Vajrayāna, Mantrayāna, Tantrayāna, Tantric Buddhism and Esoteric Buddhism are terms referring to the various Buddhist traditions of Tantra and "Secret Mantra", which developed in medieval India and spread to Tibet and East Asia. In Tibet, Buddhist Tantra is termed Vajrayāna, while in China it is known as Tángmì Hanmi 漢密 or Mìzōng, in Pali it is known as Pyitsayãna, in Japan it is known as Mikkyō. Vajrayāna is translated as Diamond Vehicle or Thunderbolt Vehicle, referring to the Vajra, a mythical weapon, used as a ritual implement. Founded by medieval Indian Mahāsiddhas, Vajrayāna subscribes to the literature known as the Buddhist Tantras, it includes practices that make use of mantras, mudras and the visualization of deities and Buddhas. According to Vajrayāna scriptures, the term Vajrayāna refers to one of three vehicles or routes to enlightenment, the other two being the Śrāvakayāna and Mahāyāna. Tantric Buddhism can be traced back to groups of wandering yogis called Mahasiddhas. According to Reynolds, the mahasiddhas date to the medieval period in the Northern Indian Subcontinent, used methods that were radically different than those used in Buddhist monasteries including living in forests and caves and practiced meditation in charnel grounds similar to those practiced by Shaiva Kapalika ascetics.
These yogic circles came together in tantric feasts in sacred sites and places which included dancing, sex rites and the ingestion of taboo substances like alcohol, meat, etc. At least two of the Mahasiddhas given in the Buddhist literature are names for Shaiva Nath saints who practiced Hatha Yoga. According to Schumann, a movement called, it was dominated by long-haired, wandering Mahasiddhas who challenged and ridiculed the Buddhist establishment. The Mahasiddhas pursued siddhis, magical powers such as flight and extrasensory perception as well as liberation. Ronald M. Davidson states that, "Buddhist siddhas demonstrated the appropriation of an older sociological form—the independent sage/magician, who lived in a liminal zone on the borders between fields and forests, their rites involved the conjunction of sexual practices and Buddhist mandala visualization with ritual accouterments made from parts of the human body, so that control may be exercised over the forces hindering the natural abilities of the siddha to manipulate the cosmos at will.
At their most extreme, siddhas represented a defensive position within the Buddhist tradition and sustained for the purpose of aggressive engagement with the medieval culture of public violence. They reinforced their reputations for personal sanctity with rumors of the magical manipulation of various flavors of demonic females, cemetery ghouls, other things that go bump in the night. Operating on the margins of both monasteries and polite society, some adopted the behaviors associated with ghosts, not only as a religious praxis but as an extension of their implied threats." Many of the elements found in Buddhist tantric literature are not wholly new. Earlier Mahayana sutras contained some elements which are emphasized in the Tantras, such as mantras and dharani; the use of protective verses or phrases dates back to the Vedic period and can be seen in the early Buddhist texts, where they are termed paritta. Mahayana texts like the Kāraṇḍavyūhasūtra expound the use of mantras such as Om mani padme hum, associated with vastly powerful beings like Avalokiteshvara.
The practice of visualization of Buddhas such as Amitābha is seen in pre-tantric texts like the Longer Sukhāvatīvyūha Sūtra. There are other Mahayana sutras which contain "proto-tantric" material such as the Gandavyuha sutra and the Dasabhumika which might have served as a central source of visual imagery for Tantric texts. Vajrayana developed a large corpus of texts called the Buddhist Tantras, some of which can be traced to at least the 7th century CE but might be older; the dating of the tantras is "a difficult, indeed an impossible task" according to David Snellgrove. Some of the earliest of these texts, Kriya tantras such as the Mañjuśrī-mūla-kalpa, teach the use of mantras and dharanis for worldly ends including curing illness, controlling the weather and generating wealth; the Tattvasaṃgraha Tantra, classed as a "Yoga tantra", is one of the first Buddhist tantras which focuses on liberation as opposed to worldly goals. In another early tantra, the Vajrasekhara Tantra, the influential schema of the five Buddha families is developed.
Other early tantras include the Guhyasamāja Tantra. The Guhyasamāja is a Mahayoga class of Tantra, which features new forms of ritual practice considered "left-hand" such as the use of taboo substances like alcohol, sexual yoga, charnel ground practices which evoke wrathful deities. Indeed, Ryujun Tajima divides the tantras into those which were "a development of Mahayanist thought" and those "formed in a rather popular mould toward the end of the eighth century and declining into the esoterism of the left", this "left esoterism" refers to the Yogini tantras and works associated with wandering antinomian yogis. Monastic Vajrayana Buddhists reinterpreted and internalized these radically transgressive and taboo practices as metaphors and visualization exercises; these tantras such as the Hevajra Tantra and the Chakrasamvara are classed as "Yogini tantras" and represent the final form of development of
Tibetan Buddhism is the form of Buddhist doctrine and institutions named after the lands of Tibet, but found in the regions surrounding the Himalayas and much of Central Asia. It derives from the latest stages of Indian Buddhism and preserves "the Tantric status quo of eighth-century India." It has been spread outside of Tibet due to the Mongol power of the Yuan dynasty, founded by Kublai Khan, that ruled China. Tibetan Buddhism applies Tantric practices deity yoga, aspires to Buddhahood or the rainbow body. Tibetan Buddhism in Tibet has four major schools, namely Nyingma, Kagyu and Gelug; the Jonang is a smaller school, the Rimé movement is an eclectic movement involving the Sakya and Nyingma schools. Among the prominent proponents of Tibetan Buddhism are the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama, the leaders of Gelug school in Tibet. Westerners unfamiliar with Tibetan Buddhism turned to China for an understanding. There the term used; the term was taken up by western scholars including Hegel, as early as 1822.
Insofar as it implies a discontinuity between Indian and Tibetan Buddhism, the term has been discredited. Another term, "Vajrayāna" is used mistakenly for Tibetan Buddhism. More it signifies a certain subset of practices included in, not only Tibetan Buddhism, but other forms of Buddhism as well; the native Tibetan term for all Buddhism is "doctrine of the internalists". In the west, the term "Indo-Tibetan Buddhism" has become current, in acknowledgement of its derivation from the latest stages of Buddhist development in northern India. Buddhism was formally introduced into Tibet during the Tibetan Empire. Sanskrit Buddhist scriptures from India were first translated into Tibetan under the reign of the Tibetan king Songtsän Gampo, In the 8th century King Trisong Detsen established it as the official religion of the state. Trisong Detsen invited Indian Buddhist scholars to his court, including Padmasambhāva and Śāntarakṣita ), who founded the Nyingma, The Ancient Ones, the oldest school of Tibetan Buddhism.
There was influence from the Sarvāstivādins from Kashmir to the southwest and Khotan to the northwest. Trisong Detsen invited the Chan master Moheyan to transmit the Dharma at Samye Monastery. According to Tibetan sources, Moheyan lost the socalled council of Lhasa, a debate sponsored by Trisong Detsen on the nature of emptiness with the Indian master Kamalaśīla, the king declared Kamalaśīlas philosophy should form the basis for Tibetan Buddhism. A reversal in Buddhist influence began under King Langdarma, his death was followed by the socalled Era of Fragmentation, a period of Tibetan history in the 9th and 10th centuries. During this era, the political centralization of the earlier Tibetan Empire collapsed; the late 10th and 11th century saw a revival of Buddhism in Tibet. Coinciding with the early discoveries of "hidden treasures", the 11th century saw a revival of Buddhist influence originating in the far east and far west of Tibet. In the west, Rinchen Zangpo founded temples and monasteries.
Prominent scholars and teachers were again invited from India. In 1042 Atiśa arrived in Tibet at the invitation of a west Tibetan king; this renowned exponent of the Pāla form of Buddhism from the Indian university of Vikramashila moved to central Tibet. There his chief disciple, Dromtonpa founded the Kadampa school of Tibetan Buddhism, under whose influence the New Translation schools of today evolved; the Sakya, the Grey Earth school, was founded by Khön Könchok Gyelpo, a disciple of the great Lotsawa, Drogmi Shākya. It is headed by the Sakya Trizin, traces its lineage to the mahasiddha Virūpa, represents the scholarly tradition. A renowned exponent, Sakya Pandita, was the great-grandson of Khön Könchok Gyelpo. Other seminal Indian teachers were his student Naropa; the Kagyu, the Lineage of the Word, is an oral tradition, much concerned with the experiential dimension of meditation. Its most famous exponent was an 11th-century mystic, it contains one major and one minor subsect. The first, the Dagpo Kagyu, encompasses those Kagyu schools that trace back to the Indian master Naropa via Marpa Lotsawa and Gampopa Tibetan Buddhism exerted a strong influence from the 11th century CE among the peoples of Inner Asia the Mongols.
The Mongols invaded Tibet in 1240 and 1244. The Mongols had annexed Kham to the east. Sakya Paṇḍita was appointed Viceroy of Central Tibet by the Mongol court in 1249. Tibet was incorporated into the Mongol Empire, retaining nominal power over religious and regional political affairs, while the Mongols managed a structural and administrative rule over the region, reinforced by the rare military intervention. Tibetan Buddhism was adopted as the de facto state religion by the Mongol Yuan dynasty, founded by Kublai Khan, whose capital is Xanadu. With the decline of the Yuan dynansty and the loose administration of the following Ming dynasty, Central Tibet was ruled by successive local families from the 14th to the 17th century, Tibet would gain de facto a high autonomy after the 14th century. Jangchub Gyaltsän became the strongest political family in the mid 14th century. During this period the reformist scholar Je Tso
A Buddhist chant is a form of musical verse or incantation, in some ways analogous to Hindu, Christian or Jewish religious recitations. In Buddhism, chanting is the traditional means of preparing the mind for meditation as part of formal practice; some forms of Buddhism use chanting for ritualistic purposes. While the basis for most Theravada chants is the Pali Canon and Vajrayana chants draw from a wider range of sources. In the Theravada tradition, chanting is done in Pali, sometimes with vernacular translations interspersed. Among the most popular Theravada chants are: Buddhabhivadana Tiratana Pancasila Buddha Vandana Dhamma Vandana Sangha Vandana Upajjhatthana Metta Sutta Reflection on the Body; the traditional chanting in Khmer Buddhism is called Smot. Since Japanese Buddhism is divided in thirteen doctrinal schools, since Chan Buddhism and Buddhism in Vietnam – although sharing a common historical origin and a common doctrinal content – are divided according to geographical borders, there are several different forms of arrangements of scriptures to chant within Mahayana Buddhism.: Daily practice in Nichiren buddhism is chanting the five character of Namu Myōhō Renge Kyō.
A Mahayana sutra that reveals the true identity of Shakyamuni as a Buddha who attained enlightenment numberless kalpas ago. Kumarajiva's translation, honoured, is entitled the Lotus Sutra of the wonderful law; the mystic relationship between the law and the lives of the people courses eternally through past and future, unbroken in any lifetime. In terms of space, the Nichiren proclaims that the heritage of the ultimate law flows within lives of his disciples and lay supporters who work in perfect unity for the realization of a peaceful world and happiness for all humanity. Nichiren practitioners will chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo - the true aspect of all the phenomena and recite certain chapters from the Lotus Sutra, in particular the 2nd and 16th chapters. Pure Land Buddhists Namu Amida Butsu or Namo Amituofo. In more formal services, practitioners will chant excerpts from the Larger Sutra of Immeasurable Life or the entire Smaller Sutra of Immeasurable Life. Popular with Zen, Shingon or other Mahayana practitioners is chanting the Prajñāpāramitā Hridaya Sūtra during morning offices.
In more formal settings, larger discourses of the Buddha may be chanted as well. In the Chinese and the Japanese traditions, repentance ceremonies, involving paying deep reverence to the buddhas and bodhisattvas, as well as executing rituals to rescue and feed hungry ghosts, are occasionally practiced. There is no universally used form for these two practices, but several different forms, the use of which follows doctrinal and geographical borders. Within Chan, it is common to chant Sanskrit formulae, known as dhāraṇīs in the morning. In the Vajrayana tradition, chanting is used as an invocative ritual in order to set one's mind on a deity, Tantric ceremony, mandala, or particular concept one wishes to further in themselves. For Vajrayana practitioners, the chant Om Mani Padme Hum is popular around the world as both a praise of peace and the primary mantra of Avalokitesvara. Other popular chants include those of Tara and Amitabha. Tibetan monks are noted for their skill at throat-singing, a specialized form of chanting in which, by amplifying the voice's upper partials, the chanter can produce multiple distinct pitches simultaneously.
Japanese esoteric practitioners practice a form of chanting called shomyo. In the Ghitassara Sutta, the Buddha teaches: Bhikkhus, there are five dangers of reciting the Dhamma with a musical intonation. What five? Oneself gets attached to the sound, others get attached to the sound, householders are annoyed, saying, “Just as we sing, these sons of the Sakyan sing”, the concentration of those who do not like the sound is destroyed, generations copy it. These, are the five dangers of reciting the Dhamma with a musical intonation. John Daido Loori justified the use of chanting sutras by referring to Zen master Dōgen. Dōgen is known to have refuted the statement "Painted rice cakes will not satisfy hunger"; this statement means that sutras, which are just symbols like painted rice cakes, cannot satisfy one's spiritual hunger. Dōgen, saw that there is no separation between metaphor and reality. "There is no difference between paintings, rice cakes, or any thing at all". The symbol and the symbolized were inherently the same, thus only the sutras could satisfy one's spiritual needs.
To understand this non-dual relationship experientially, one is told to practice liturgy intimately. In distinguishing between ceremony and liturgy, Dōgen states, "In ceremony there are forms and there are sounds, there is understanding and there is believing. In liturgy there is only intimacy." The practitioner is instructed to listen to and speak liturgy not just with one sense, but with one's "whole body-and-mind". By listening with one's entire being, one eliminates the space between the liturgy. Thus, Dōgen's instructions are to "listen with the eye and s
Chinese Buddhism or Han Buddhism has shaped Chinese culture in a wide variety of areas including art, literature, philosophy and material culture. The translation of a large body of Indian Buddhist scriptures into Chinese and the inclusion of these translations together with works composed in China into a printed canon had far-reaching implications for the dissemination of Buddhism throughout the East Asian cultural sphere, including Korea, Japan and Vietnam. Chinese Buddhism is marked by the interaction between Indian religions, Chinese religion, Taoism. Various legends tell of the presence of Buddhism in Chinese soil in ancient times. Nonetheless, the scholarly consensus is that Buddhism first came to China in the first century CE during the Han dynasty, through missionaries from India. Generations of scholars have debated whether Buddhist missionaries first reached Han China via the maritime or overland routes of the Silk Road; the maritime route hypothesis, favored by Liang Qichao and Paul Pelliot, proposed that Buddhism was practiced in southern China, the Yangtze River and Huai River region, where prince Ying of Chu was jointly worshipping the Yellow Emperor and Buddha in 65 CE.
The overland route hypothesis, favored by Tang Yongtong, proposed that Buddhism disseminated through Central Asia – in particular, the Kushan Empire, known in ancient Chinese sources as Da Yuezhi, after the founding tribe. According to this hypothesis, Buddhism was first practiced in China in the Western Regions and the Han capital Luoyang, where Emperor Ming of Han established the White Horse Temple in 68 CE. In 2004, Rong Xinjiang, a history professor at Peking University, reexamined the overland and maritime hypotheses through a multi-disciplinary review of recent discoveries and research, including the Gandhāran Buddhist Texts, concluded: The view that Buddhism was transmitted to China by the sea route comparatively lacks convincing and supporting materials, some arguments are not sufficiently rigorous. Based on the existing historical texts and the archaeological iconographic materials discovered since the 1980s the first-century Buddhist manuscripts found in Afghanistan, the commentator believes that the most plausible theory is that Buddhism reached China from the Greater Yuezhi of northwest India and took the land route to reach Han China.
After entering into China, Buddhism blended with early Daoism and Chinese traditional esoteric arts and its iconography received blind worship. A number of popular accounts in historical Chinese literature have led to the popularity of certain legends regarding the introduction of Buddhism into China. According to the most popular one, Emperor Ming of Han precipitated the introduction of Buddhist teachings into China; the Mouzi Lihuolun first records this legend: In olden days Emperor Ming saw in a dream a god whose body had the brilliance of the sun and who flew before his palace. The next day he asked his officials: "What god is this?" the scholar Fu Yi said: "Your subject has heard it said that in India there is somebody who has attained the Dao and, called Buddha. The emperor sent an envoy to Tianzhu to inquire about the teachings of the Buddha. Buddhist scriptures were said to have been returned to China on the backs of white horses, after which White Horse Temple was named. Two Indian monks returned with them, named Dharmaratna and Kaśyapa Mātaṅga.
An 8th-century Chinese fresco at Mogao Caves near Dunhuang in Gansu portrays Emperor Wu of Han worshiping statues of a golden man. However, neither the Shiji nor Book of Han histories of Emperor Wu mentions a golden Buddhist statue; the first documented translation of Buddhist scriptures from various Indian languages into Chinese occurs in 148 CE with the arrival of the Parthian prince-turned-monk An Shigao. He worked to establish Buddhist temples in Luoyang and organized the translation of Buddhist scriptures into Chinese, testifying to the beginning of a wave of Central Asian Buddhist proselytism, to last several centuries. An Shigao translated Buddhist texts on basic doctrines and abhidharma. An Xuan, a Parthian layman who worked alongside An Shigao translated an early Mahāyāna Buddhist text on the bodhisattva path. Mahāyāna Buddhism was first propagated in China by the Kushan monk Lokakṣema, who came from the ancient Buddhist kingdom of Gandhāra. Lokakṣema translated important Mahāyāna sūtras such as the Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra, as well as rare, early Mahāyāna sūtras on topics such as samādhi, meditation on the buddha Akṣobhya.
These translations from Lokakṣema continue to give insight into the early period of Mahāyāna Buddhism. This corpus of texts includes emphasizes ascetic practices and forest dwelling, absorption in states of meditative concentration: Paul Harrison has worked on some of the texts that are arguably the earliest versions we have of the Mahāyāna sūtras, those translated into Chinese in the last half of the second century CE by the Indo-Scythian translator Lokakṣema. Harrison points to the enthusiasm in the Lokakṣema sūtra corpus for the extra ascetic practices, for dwelling in the forest, above all for states of meditative absorption. Meditation and meditative states seem to have occupied a central place in early Mahāyāna because of their spiritual efficacy but a
Saṃsāra in Buddhism is the beginningless cycle of repeated birth, mundane existence and dying again. Samsara is considered to be dukkha and painful, perpetuated by desire and avidya, the resulting karma. Rebirths occur in six realms of namely three good realms and three evil realms. Samsara ends if a person attains nirvana, the "blowing out" of the desires and the gaining of true insight into impermanence and non-self reality. In Buddhism, saṃsāra is the "suffering-laden, continuous cycle of life and rebirth, without beginning or end". In several suttas of the Samyutta Nikaya's chapter XV in particular it's said "From an inconstruable beginning comes transmigration. A beginning point is not evident, though beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving are transmigrating & wandering on", it is the never ending repetitive cycle of birth and death, in six realms of reality, wandering from one life to another life with no particular direction or purpose. Samsara is characterized by dukkha; every rebirth is impermanent.
In each rebirth one dies, to be reborn elsewhere in accordance with one's own karma. It is perpetuated by one's avidya about anicca and anatta, from craving. Samsara continues until moksha is attained by means of nirvana; the "blowing out" of the desires and the gaining of true insight into impermanence and non-self reality. The Saṃsāra doctrine of Buddhism asserts that while beings undergo endless cycles of rebirth, there is no changeless soul that transmigrates from one lifetime to another - a view that distinguishes its Saṃsāra doctrine from that in Hinduism and Jainism; this no-soul doctrine is called the Anatman in Buddhist texts. The early Buddhist texts suggest that Buddha faced a difficulty in explaining what is reborn and how rebirth occurs, after he innovated the concept that there is "no self". Buddhist scholars, such as the mid-1st millennium CE Pali scholar Buddhaghosa, suggested that the lack of a self or soul does not mean lack of continuity. Buddhaghosa attempted to explain rebirth mechanism with "rebirth-linking consciousness".
The mechanistic details of the Samsara doctrine vary within the Buddhist traditions. Theravada Buddhists assert that rebirth is immediate while the Tibetan schools hold to the notion of a bardo that can last up to forty-nine days before the being is reborn. Buddhist cosmology identifies six realms of rebirth and existence: gods, demi-gods, animals, hungry ghosts and hells. Earlier Buddhist texts refer to five realms rather than six realms; the six realms are divided into three higher realms and three lower realms. The three higher realms are the realms of the gods and demi-gods; the six realms are organized into thirty one levels in east Asian literature. Buddhist texts describe these realms as follows: Gods realm: the gods is the most pleasure-filled among six realms, subdivided into twenty six sub-realms. A rebirth in this heavenly realm is believed to be from good karma accumulation. A Deva does not need to work, is able to enjoy in the heavenly realm all pleasures found on earth. However, the pleasures of this realm lead to attachment, lack of spiritual pursuits and therefore no nirvana.
The vast majority of Buddhist lay people, states Kevin Trainor, have pursued Buddhist rituals and practices motivated with rebirth into Deva realm. The Deva realm in Buddhist practice in southeast and east Asia, states Keown, include gods found in Hindu traditions such as Indra and Brahma, concepts in Hindu cosmology such as Mount Meru. Human realm: called the manuṣya realm. Buddhism asserts that one is reborn in this realm with vastly different physical endowments and moral natures because of a being's past karma. A rebirth in this realm is considered as fortunate because it offers an opportunity to attain nirvana and end the Saṃsāra cycle. Demi-god realm: the demi-gods is the third realm of existence in Buddhism. Asura are notable for some supernormal powers, they fight with trouble the Manusya through illnesses and natural disasters. They accumulate karma, are reborn. Demi-god is sometimes ranked as one of the evil realms as there are stories of them fighting against the Gods. Animal realm: is state of existence of a being as an animal.
This realm is traditionally thought to be similar to a hellish realm, because animals are believed in Buddhist texts to be driven by impulse and instinct, they prey on each other and suffer. Some Buddhist texts assert that plants belong with primitive consciousness. Hungry ghost realm: hungry ghosts and other restless spirits are rebirths caused by karma of excessive craving and attachments, they are invisible and constitute only "subtle matter" of a being. Buddhist texts describe them as beings who are thirsty and hungry small mouths but large stomachs. Buddhist traditions in Asia attempt to care for them on ritual days every year, by leaving food and drinks in open, to feed any hungry ghosts nearby; when their bad karma demerit runs out, these beings are reborn
Buddhist texts were passed on orally by monks, but were written down and composed as manuscripts in various Indo-Aryan languages which were translated into other local languages as Buddhism spread. They can be categorized in a number of ways; the Western terms "scripture" and "canonical" are applied to Buddhism in inconsistent ways by Western scholars: for example, one authority refers to "scriptures and other canonical texts", while another says that scriptures can be categorized into canonical and pseudo-canonical. Buddhist traditions have divided these texts with their own categories and divisions, such as that between buddhavacana "word of the Buddha," many of which are known as "sutras," and other texts, such as shastras or Abhidharma; these religious texts were written in many different languages and scripts but memorizing and copying the texts were of high value. After the development of printing, Buddhists preferred to keep to their original practices with these texts. According to Donald Lopez, criteria for determining what should be considered buddhavacana were developed at an early stage, that the early formulations do not suggest that Dharma is limited to what was spoken by the historical Buddha.
The Mahāsāṃghika and the Mūlasarvāstivāda considered both the Buddha's discourses, of his disciples, to be buddhavacana. A number of different beings such as buddhas, disciples of the buddha, ṛṣis, devas were considered capable to transmitting buddhavacana; the content of such a discourse was to be collated with the sūtras, compared with the Vinaya, evaluated against the nature of the Dharma. These texts may be certified as true buddhavacana by a buddha, a saṃgha, a small group of elders, or one knowledgeable elder. In Theravada Buddhism, the standard collection of buddhavacana is the Pāli Canon; some scholars believe that some portions of the Pali Canon and Agamas could contain the actual substance of the historical teachings of the Buddha. In East Asian Buddhism, what is considered buddhavacana is collected in the Chinese Buddhist canon; the most common edition of this is the Taishō Tripiṭaka. According to Venerable Hsuan Hua from the tradition of Chinese Buddhism, there are five types of beings who may speak the sutras of Buddhism: a buddha, a disciple of a buddha, a deva, a ṛṣi, or an emanation of one of these beings.
These sutras may be properly regarded as buddhavacana. Sometimes texts that are considered commentaries by some are regarded by others as Buddhavacana. Shingon Buddhism developed a system that assigned authorship of the early sutras to Gautama Buddha in his physical manifestation, of the Ekayana sutras to the Buddhas as Sambhoghakaya, the Vajrayana texts to the Buddha as Dharmakaya. In Tibetan Buddhism, what is considered buddhavacana is collected in the Kangyur; the East Asian and Tibetan Buddhist canons always combined Buddhavacana with other literature in their standard collected editions. However, the general view of what is and is not buddhavacana is broadly similar between East Asian Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism; the Tibetan Kangyur, which belongs to the various schools of Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism, in addition to containing sutras and vinaya contains tantras. The earliest Buddhist texts were passed down orally in Middle Indo-Aryan languages called Prakrits, including Gāndhārī language, the early Magadhan language and Pali through the use of repetition, communal recitation and mnemonic devices.
Doctrinal elaborations were preserved in Abhidharma works and Karikas. As Buddhism spread geographically, these texts were translated into the local language, such as Chinese and Tibetan; the Pali canon was preserved in Sri Lanka where it was first written down in the first century BCE and the Theravadan Pali textual tradition developed there. The Sri Lankan Pali tradition developed extensive commentaries as well as sub-commentaries for the Pali Canon as well as treatises on Abhidhamma. Sutra commentaries and Abhidharma works exist in Tibetan, Chinese and other East Asian languages. Important examples of non-canonical Pali texts are the Visuddhimagga, by Buddhaghosa, a compendium of Theravada teachings and the Mahavamsa, a historical Sri Lankan chronicle; the earliest known Buddhist manuscripts, recovered from the ancient civilization of Gandhara in north central Pakistan are dated to the 1st century and constitute the Buddhist textual tradition of Gandharan Buddhism, an important link between Indian and East Asian Buddhism.
After the rise of the Kushans in India, Sanskrit was widely used to record Buddhist texts. Sanskrit Buddhist literature became the dominant tradition in India until the decline of Buddhism in India. Around the beginning of the Christian era, a new genre of sutra literature began to be written with a focus on the Bodhisattva idea known as Mahayana sutras. Many of the Mahayana sutras were written in Sanskrit and translated into the Tibetan and Chinese Buddhist canons which developed their own textual histories; the Mahayana sutras are traditionally considered by Mahayanists to be the word of the Buddha, but transmitted either in secret, via lineages of supernatural beings, or revealed directly from other Buddhas or bodhisattvas. Some 600 Mahayana Sutras have survived in Chinese and/or Tibetan translation. In the Mahayana tradition there are important works termed Shastras, or treatises which attempt to outline the sutra teachings and defend or exp
Pre-sectarian Buddhism called early Buddhism, the earliest Buddhism, original Buddhism, is Buddhism as theorized to have existed before the various subsects of Buddhism came into being. The contents and teachings of this pre-sectarian Buddhism must be deduced or re-constructed from the earliest Buddhist texts, which by themselves are sectarian. Various terms are being used to refer to the earliest period of Buddhism: "Pre-sectarian Buddhism" "Early Buddhism", "The earliest Buddhism", "Original Buddhism", "The Buddhism of the Buddha himself." Precanonical Buddhism Primitive BuddhismSome Japanese scholars refer to the subsequent period of the early Buddhist schools as sectarian Buddhism. Pre-sectarian Buddhism may refer to the earliest Buddhism, the ideas and practices of Gautama Buddha himself, it may refer to early Buddhism as existing until about one hundred years after the parinirvana of the Buddha until the first documented split in the sangha. Contrary to the claim of doctrinal stability, early Buddhism was a dynamic movement.
Pre-sectarian Buddhism may have included or incorporated other Śramaṇic schools of thought, as well as Vedic and Jain ideas and practices. The first documented split occurred, according to most scholars, between the second Buddhist council and the third Buddhist council; the first post-schismatic groups are stated to be the Sthavira nikāya and the Mahāsāṃghika. Eighteen different schools came into existence; the Mahayana schools may have preserved ideas which were abandoned by the "orthodox" Theravada, such as the Three Bodies doctrine, the idea of consciousness as a continuum, devotional elements such as the worship of saints. Pre-sectarian Buddhism was one of the śramaṇic movements; the time of the Buddha was a time of urbanisation in India, saw the growth of the śramaṇas, wandering philosophers that had rejected the authority of Vedas and Brahmanic priesthood, intent on escaping saṃsāra through various means, which involved the study of natural laws, ascetic practices, ethical behavior. The śramaṇas gave rise to different religious and philosophical schools, among which pre-sectarian Buddhism itself, Jainism, Ājīvika, Ajñana and Cārvāka were the most important, to popular concepts in all major Indian religions such as saṃsāra and moksha.
Despite the success that these wandering philosophers and ascetics had obtained by spreading ideas and concepts that would soon be accepted by all religions of India, the orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy opposed to śramaṇic schools of thought and refuted their doctrines as "heterodox", because they refused to accept the epistemic authority of Vedas, denied the existence of the soul and/or the existence of Ishvara. The ideas of saṃsāra, karma and rebirth show a development of thought in Indian religions: from the idea of single existence, at the end of which one was judged and punished and rewarded for one's deeds, or karma; this release was the central aim of the Śramaṇa movement. Vedic rituals, which aimed at entrance into heaven, may have played a role in this development: the realisation that those rituals did not lead to an everlasting liberation led to the search for other means. Earliest Buddhism can only be deduced from the various Buddhist canons now extant, which are all sectarian collections.
As such any reconstruction is tentative. One method to obtain information on the oldest core of Buddhism is to compare the oldest extant versions of the Theravadin Pāli Canon, the surviving portions of the scriptures of Sarvastivada, Mahīśāsaka and other schools, the Chinese āgamas and other surviving portions of other early canons. Early proto-Mahayana texts which contain nearly identical material to that of the Pali Canon such as the Salistamba Sutra are further evidence; the beginning of this comparative study began in the 19th century, Samuel Beal published comparative translations of the Pali patimokkha and the Chinese Dharmaguptaka pratimoksa, showing they were identical. He following this up with comparisons between the Chinese sutras and the Pali suttas in 1882 predicting that "when the Vinaya and Āgama collections are examined, I can have little doubt we shall find most if not all the Pali Suttas in Chinese form." In the following decades various scholars continued to produce a series of comparative studies, such as Anesaki, Yin Shun and Thich Minh Chau.
These studies, as well as recent work by Analayo, Marcus Bingenheimer and Mun-keat Choong, have shown that the essential doctrinal content of the Pali Majjhima and Samyutta Nikayas and the Chinese Madhyama and Samyukta Agamas is the same. According to scholars such as Rupert Gethin and Peter Harvey, the oldest recorded teachings are contained in the first four Nikayas of the Sutta Pitaka and their various parallels in other languages, together with the main body of monastic rules, which survive in the various versions of the patimokkha. Scholars have claimed that there is a core within this core, referring to some poems and phrases which seem to be the oldest parts of the Sutta Pitaka; the reliability of these sources, the possibility to draw out a core of oldest teachings, is a matter of dispute. According to Tillman Vetter, the comparison of the oldest extant texts "does not just lead to the oldest nucleus of the doctrine." At best, it leads to... a Sthavira can