Niguma is considered one of the most important and influential yoginis and Vajrayana teachers of the 10th or 11th century in India. She was a dakini, one of the two female founders of the Shangpa Kagyu school of Vajrayana Buddhism, along with dakini Sukhasiddhi, her birth name was Shrijnana. Like many of the mahasiddhas and Tantric practitioners of the time, Niguma was known by several names both during her lifetime and afterwards, she was called Yogini Vimalashri, or Vajradhara Niguma, or Jñana Dakini Adorned with Bone, or The Sister referring to her purported relationship to the great Buddhist teacher and adept Naropa. She was sometimes called Nigupta, explained by the historical Buddhist scholar Taranatha as follows: "The name Nigu accords with the Indian language, Nigupta, is said to mean'truly secret' or'truly hidden.' In fact, it is the code-language of the dakinis of timeless awareness."There is confusion between the biographical details of Niguma's life and spiritual accomplishments and that of the renowned Vajrayana teacher and mahasiddha Naropa.
While the biographical information for Niguma is scarce, what is available offers details that are identical with the biography of Naropa. While not much can be confirmed about the historical details of Niguma's life, what does remain is the corpus of her teachings and her impact on the founding of the Shangpa Kagyu Buddhist spiritual lineage, known as one of the "“Eight Great Chariots of the Practice Lineages”, meaning one of the eight great Buddhist spiritual traditions that were transmitted from India to Tibet; the importance of the dakini Niguma as a spiritual practitioner and lineage founder continues to the present day. As secret, or hidden, as her name implies, there are only a few facts known about Niguma's life; this may be because of genuine lack of sources from both India and Tibet as well as the nature of the dakini. One author offers this explanation: "The elusiveness of Niguma is typical of the lore of the dakini, the embodiment of liminal spiritual experience. Additionally the difficulty of pinpointing historical information may well be due to the lack of ancient sources from India and the lack of concern about such mundane matters by the Tibetan masters who encountered her in dreams and visions and maybe in person.
After all, when confronted with the blazing apparition of the resplendent and daunting dark dakini bestowing cryptic advice, a background check would be rendered irrelevant. Indian Buddhist hagiographies are unknown, whether of men or women. In Tibet, where hagiography became a prolific genre in its own right, those of women are rare, for all the usual reasons, it is in the experience of those heroes who encountered the dakini that one finds the most information, these experiences are invested with the value of spiritual meaning." What most sources agree upon is that Niguma was born into a rich Brahmin family in the town of Peme in Kashmir in the 10th or 11th century. Her father was named Santivarman and her mother was called Shrimati. According to different sources, Niguma was either the consort of Naropa, her family relationship with Naropa is not clear from the existing sources. One scholar who has done extensive research presents and discusses the available evidence and concludes that Niguma was indeed Naropa's older sister, not his wife or consort.
Niguma was considered an emanation of the great dakini Mandarava, Guru Rinpoche's foremost Indian disciple. There is no information about Niguma's teachers in the extant sources; as one scholar writes: "The only specific information about Niguma's teachers that I have from my sources is her connection with a certain Lavapa, according to two accounts by Taranatha. However Lavapa is not mentioned by name in Niguma's Life Story, where it says only that'she directly saw the truth of the nature of phenomena just by hearing some instructive advice from a few adept masters.' The only two named masters in the Life Story are Naropa and Ratnavajra, only as cohabitants in Kashmir." Thus, from the perspective of the spiritual lineage, it is said that Niguma's spiritual realization originates directly from the Buddha Vajradhara, rather than from any living human teachers. There is some evidence that the great dakini and Vajrayana teacher Sukhasiddhi may have been a student of Niguma's. Other evidence indicates that they may never have met while living during the same time period.
Both Niguma and Sukhasiddhi were teachers of Khyungpo Neljor, both Niguma and Sukhasiddhi are credited with the formation of the Shangpa Kagyu lineage of Vajrayana Buddhism. The great meditation master and translator, Marpa Lotsawa received teachings from Niguma on at least two occasions. Marpa is said to have visited Niguma each time he traveled to India. Sources say; the story is told thusly, in The Life of Marpa:Naropa said, "On the shores of the poison lake in the South, in the charnel ground of Sosadvipa, is Jnanadakini Adorned with Bone Ornaments. Whoever encounters. Go before her and request the Catuhpitha. You can request of the kusulus there whatever teachings you desire." Having arrived in the charnel grounds at Sosadvipa, Marpa met this yogini, living in a woven grass dome. Offering her a mandala of gold, he supplicated her, she joyfully gave him oral instructions on Catuhpitha. Another source says that Marpa's first visit to Niguma was suggested by Naropa and that a visit to Niguma was suggested by Shantibhadra.
During the first meeting, Marpa received the Catuhpitha emp
The Nyingma tradition is the oldest of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. "Nyingma" means "ancient," and is referred to as Ngangyur because it is founded on the first translations of Buddhist scriptures from Sanskrit into Old Tibetan in the eighth century. The Tibetan alphabet and grammar was created for this endeavour; the Nyingma believes in hidden terma treasures and place an emphasis on Dzogchen. They incorporate local religious practices and local deities and elements of shamanism, some of which it shares with Bon; the Nyingma tradition comprises several distinct lineages that all trace their origins to the Indian master Padmasambhava. Traditionally, Nyingmapa practice was advanced orally among a loose network of lay practitioners. Monasteries with celibate monks and nuns, along with the practice of reincarnated spiritual leaders, are adaptations. In modern times, the Nyingma lineage has been centered in Kham and has been associated with the Rime movement. Traditional Nyingma texts see themselves as a lineage, established by Samantabhadra, the “primordial buddha” and, the embodiment of the Dharmakāya, the "truth body" of all buddhas.
Nyingma sees Vajradhara and other buddhas as teachers of their many doctrines. Samantabhadra's wisdom and compassion spontaneously radiates myriad teachings, all appropriate to the capacities of different beings and entrusts them to "knowledge holders", the chief of, Dorjé Chörap, who gives them to Vajrasattva and the dakini Légi Wangmoché, who in turn disseminate them among human siddhas; the first human teacher of the tradition was said to be Garab Dorje. Padmasambhava is the most famous and revered figure of the early human teachers and there are many legends about him, making it difficult to separate history from myth. Other early teachers include Vimalamitra, Jambel Shé Nyen, Sri Simha, Jñanasutra. Most of these figures are associated with the Indian region of Oddiyana. Buddhism existed in Tibet at least from the time of king Thothori Nyantsen in the eastern regions; the reign of Songtsen Gampo saw an expansion of Tibetan power, the adoption of a writing system and promotion of Buddhism.
Around 760, Trisong Detsen invited Padmasambhava and the Nalanda abbot Śāntarakṣita to Tibet to introduce Buddhism to the "Land of Snows." Trisong Detsen ordered the translation of all Buddhist texts into Tibetan. Padmasambhava, Śāntarakṣita, 108 translators, 25 of Padmasambhava's nearest disciples worked for many years in a gigantic translation-project; the translations from this period formed the base for the large scriptural transmission of Dharma teachings into Tibet and are known as the "Old Translations". Padmasambhava supervised the translation of tantras. Padmasambhava and Śāntarakṣita founded the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet: Samye. However, this situation would not last: The explosive developments were interrupted in the mid-ninth century as the Empire began to disintegrate, leading to a century-long interim of civil war and decentralization about which we know little; the early Vajrayana, transmitted from India to Tibet may be differentiated by the specific term "Mantrayana". "Mantrayana" is the Sanskrit of what became rendered in Tibetan as "Secret Mantra": this is the self-identifying term employed in the earliest literature.
From this basis, Vajrayana was established in its entirety in Tibet. From the eighth until the eleventh century, this textual tradition was the only form of Buddhism in Tibet. With the reign of King Langdarma, the brother of King Ralpachen, a time of political instability ensued which continued over the next 300 years, during which time Buddhism was persecuted and forced underground because the King saw it as a threat to the indigenous Bön tradition. Langdarma persecuted monks and nuns, attempted to wipe out Buddhism, his efforts, were not successful. A few monks escaped to Amdo in the northeast of Tibet, where they preserved the lineage of monastic ordination; the period of the 9-10th centuries saw increasing popularity of a new class of texts which would be classified as the Dzogchen "Mind series". Some of these texts present themselves as translations of Indian works, though according to David Germano, most are original Tibetan compositions; these texts promote the view that true nature of the mind is empty and luminous and seem to reject traditional forms of practice.
An emphasis on the Dzogchen textual tradition is a central feature of the Nyingma school. From the eleventh century onward, there was an attempt to reintroduce Vajrayana Buddhism to Tibet; this saw new translation efforts which led to the foundation of new Vajrayana schools which are collectively known as the Sarma "New translation" schools because they reject the old translations of the Nyingma canon. It was at that time that Nyingmapas began to see themselves as a distinct group and the term "Nyingma" came into usage to refer to those who continued to use the "Old" or "Ancient" translations. Nyingma writers such as Rongzom and Nyangrel were instrumental in defending the old texts from the critiques of the Sarma translators and in establishing a foundation for the mythology and philosophy of the Nyingma tradition. Rongzom Chokyi Zangpo was the most influential of the 11th century Nyingma authors, wr
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
Tsongkhapa taken to mean "the Man from Onion Valley", born in Amdo, was a famous teacher of Tibetan Buddhism whose activities led to the formation of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism. He is known by his ordained name Losang Drakpa or as "Je Rinpoche", he is known by Chinese as Zongkapa Lobsang Zhaba, He was the son of a Tibetan Longben Tribal leader who once served as an official of the Yuan Dynasty of China. In his two main treatises, the Lamrim Chenmo and Ngakrim Chenmo, Tsongkhapa meticulously sets forth this graduated way and how one establishes oneself in the paths of sutra and tantra. With a Mongolian father and a Tibetan mother, Tsongkhapa was born into a nomadic family in the walled city of Tsongkha in Amdo, Tibet in 1357, it is said that the Buddha Sakyamuni spoke of his coming as an emanation of the Bodhisattva Manjusri in the short verse from the Root Tantra of Manjushri: After I pass awayAnd my pure doctrine is absent, You will appear as an ordinary being, Performing the deeds of a Buddha And establishing the Joyful Land, the great Protector, In the Land of the Snows.
According to hagiographic accounts, Tsongkhapa's birth was prophesied by the 12th abbot of the Snar thang monastery, was recognized as such at a young age, taking the lay vows at the age of three before Rolpe Dorje, 4th Karmapa Lama and was named Künga Nyingpo. At the age of seven, he was ordained as a śrāmaṇera by Döndrup Rinchen, the first abbott of Jakhyung Monastery, was given the ordination name Losang Drakpa, it was at this early age that he was able to receive the empowerments of Heruka and Yamantaka, three of the most prominent wrathful deities of Tibetan Buddhism, as well as being able to recite a great many Sutras, not the least of, Mañjuśrīnāmasamgīti. He would go on to be a great student of the vinaya, the doctrine of behaviour, later of the Six Yogas of Naropa, the Kalachakra tantra, the practice of Mahamudra. At the age of 24, he received full ordination as a monk of the Sakya school. From Zhönnu Lodrö and Rendawa, he received the lineage of the Pramanavarttika transmitted by Sakya Pandita.
He mastered all the courses of study at Drigung kagyud Monastery in Ü-Tsang. As an emanation of Manjusri, Tsongkhapa is said have been of "one mind" with Atiśa, received the Kadam lineages and studied the major Sarma tantras under Sakya and Kagyu masters, he studied with a Nyingma teacher, the siddha Lek gyi Dorjé and the abbot of Shalu Monastery, Chö kyi Pel, his main Dzogchen master was Drupchen Lekyi Dorje known as Namkha Gyaltsen. In addition to his studies, he engaged in extensive meditation retreats, he is reputed to have performed millions of prostrations, mandala offerings and other forms of purification practice. Tsongkhapa had visions of iṣṭadevatās of Manjusri, with whom he would communicate directly to clarify difficult points of the scriptures. Tsongkhapa was one of the foremost authorities of Tibetan Buddhism at the time, he composed a devotional prayer called the Migtsema Prayer to his Sakya master Rendawa, offered back to Tsongkhapa, with the note of his master saying that these verses were more applicable to Tsongkhapa than to himself.
Tsongkhapa died in 1419 at the age of sixty-two. After his death several biographies were written by Lamas of different traditions. Wangchuk Dorje, 9th Karmapa Lama, praised Tsongkhapa as one "who swept away wrong views with the correct and perfect ones." Mikyö Dorje, 8th Karmapa Lama, wrote in his poem In Praise of the Incomparable Tsong Khapa: Tsongkhapa was acquainted with all Tibetan Buddhist traditions of his time, received lineages transmitted in the major schools. His main source of inspiration was the legacy of Atiśa. Tsongkhapa received two of the three main Kadampa lineages from the Nyingma Lama, Lhodrag Namka-gyeltsen. Tsongkhapa's teachings drew upon these Kadampa teachings of Atiśa, emphasizing the study of Vinaya, the Tripiṭaka, the Shastras. Atiśa's Lamrim inspired Tsongkhapa's Lamrim Chenmo, he practised and taught extensively the Vajrayana, how to bring the Sutra and Tantra teachings together, wrote works that summarized the root teachings of the Buddhist philosophical schools, as well as commentaries on the Prātimokṣa, Candrakirti's Madhyamakavatara, Pure Land and the Sarma tantras.
According to Thupten Jinpa, the following elements are essential in a coherent understanding of Tsongkhapa's understanding and interpretation of the Madhyamaka refutation of essentialist ontology: Tsongkhapa's distinction between the domains of the conventional and ultimate perspectives. Tsongkhapa's first principal work, The Golden Garland of Eloquence demonstrated a philosophical view in line with the Yogacara school and, as became one of hi
Labrang Monastery is one of the six great monasteries of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism. Its formal name is Genden Shédrup Dargyé Trashi Gyésu khyilwé Ling. Labrang is located in Xiahe County, Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu, in the traditional Tibetan area of Amdo. Labrang Monastery is home to the largest number of monks outside the Tibet Autonomous Region. Xiahe is about four hours by car from the provincial capital Lanzhou. In the early part of the 20th century, Labrang was by far the largest and most influential monastery in Amdo, it is located on a tributary of the Yellow River. The monastery was founded in 1709 by the first Jamyang Zhépa, Ngawang Tsöndrü, it is Tibetan Buddhism's most important monastery town outside the Tibetan Autonomous Region. Labrang Monastery is situated at the strategic intersection of two major Asian cultures—Tibetan and Mongolian — and was one of the largest Buddhist monastic universities. In the early 20th century, it housed several thousand monks.
Labrang was a gathering point for numerous annual religious festivals and was the seat of a Tibetan power base that strove to maintain regional autonomy through the shifting alliances and bloody conflicts that took place between 1700 and 1950. In April 1985 the Assembly Hall burned down, it was replaced and the new building was consecrated in 1990. The monastery complex dominates the western part of the village; the white walls and gilded roofs feature a blend of Indian Vihara architectural styles. The monastery contains 18 halls, six institutes of learning, a gilded stupa, a sutra debate area, houses nearly 60,000 sutras. At its height the monastery housed 4,000 monks. Like so many religious institutions, it suffered during the Cultural Revolution. After it was reopened in 1980, many of the monks returned, it has a Buddhist museum with a large collection of Buddha statues and murals. In addition, a large amount of Tibetan language books, including books on history is available for purchase, together with medicines, calendars and art objects.
There used to be a great gold-painted statue of the Buddha, more than 50 feet high, surrounded by rows of surrounding Buddhas in niches. The monastery today is an important place for Buddhist activities. From January 4 to 17 and June 26, to July 15, the great Buddhist ceremony will be held with Buddha-unfolding, sutra enchanting, sutra debates, etc; the Hui Muslim Ma clique under Generals Ma Qi and Ma Bufang launched several attacks against Labrang as part of a general anti-Golok Tibetan campaign. Ma Qi occupied Labrang Monastery in 1917, the first time non-Tibetans had seized it. Ma Qi defeated the Tibetan forces with his Hui troops, his forces were praised by foreigners. After ethnic rioting between Hui and Tibetans emerged in 1918, Ma Qi defeated the Tibetans, he taxed the town for 8 years. In 1921, Ma Qi and his Muslim army decisively crushed the Tibetan monks of Labrang Monastery when they tried to oppose him. In 1925, a Tibetan rebellion broke out, with thousands of Tibetans driving out the Hui.
Ma Qi responded with 3000 Hui troops, who retook Labrang and machine-gunned thousands of Tibetan monks as they tried to flee. During a 1919 attack by Muslim forces, monks were executed by burning. Bodies were left strewn around Labrang by Hui troops. Ma Qi besieged Labrang numerous times. Tibetans fought against his Hui forces for control of Labrang until Ma Qi gave it up in 1927. However, not the last Labrang saw of General Ma. Ma Qi launched a genocidal war against the Goloks in 1928, inflicting a defeat upon them and seizing Labrang Monastery; the Hui forces ravaged the monastery again. The Austrian American explorer Joseph Rock encountered the aftermath of one of the Ma clique's campaigns against Labrang; the Ma army left Tibetan skeletons scattered over a wide area and Labrang Monastery was decorated with decapitated Tibetan heads. After the 1929 battle of Xiahe near Labrang, decapitated Tibetan heads were used as ornaments by Hui troops in their camp, 154 in total. Rock described "young children"'s heads staked around the military encampment.
Ten to fifteen heads were fastened to the saddle of every Muslim cavalryman. The heads were "strung about the walls of the Moslem garrison like a garland of flowers." In March 2008 there were protests by monks from Labrang Monastery as well as by other ethnic Tibetans linked to previous protests and rioting that broke out in Lhasa. Cabot, Mabel H.. Vanished Kingdoms: A Woman Explorer in Tibet, China & Mongolia, 1921–1925, pp. 148–157. Aperture Publishers in association with the Peabody Museum, Harvard. ISBN 978-1-931788-18-2. Dorje, Gyurme. Footprint Tibet Handbook. Footprint Publications, England. ISBN 978-1-906098-32-2. Nietupski, Paul Kocot, Labrang: A Tibetan Monastery at the Crossroads of Four Civilizations. Snow Lion Publications, New York. ISBN 1-55939-090-5. Makley, Charlene E.. "Gendered Practices and the Inner Sanctum: The Reconstruction of Tibetan Sacred Space in "China's Tibet"." In: Sacred Spaces and Powerful Places in Tibetan Culture: A Collection of Essays, pp. 343–366. Edited by Toni Huber.
Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, Dharamsala, H. P. India. ISBN 81-86470-22-0. Tamm, Eric Enno. "The Horse That Leaps Through Clouds: A Tale of Espionage, the Silk Road and the Rise of Modern China," chapter 13. Va
Deity yoga is a practice of Vajrayana Buddhism involving identification with a chosen deity through visualisations and rituals, the realisation of emptiness. According to the Tibetan scholar Tsongkhapa, deity yoga is what separates Buddhist Tantra practice from the practice of other Buddhist schools. Deity yoga involves the generation stage and the completion stage. In the generation stage, one dissolves the mundane world and visualizes one's chosen deity, its mandala and companion deities, resulting in identification with this divine reality. In the completion stage, one dissolves the visualization of and identification with the yidam in the realization of sunyata or emptiness. Completion stage practices can include subtle body energy practices; the purpose of Deity yoga is to bring the meditator to the realization that the yidam or meditation deity and the practitioner are in essence the same, that they are non-dual. According to John Powers. "Deity yoga is a technique for becoming progressively more familiar with the thoughts and deeds of a buddha, until the state of buddhahood is actualized through repeated practice."According to Gyatrul Rinpoche, the point of this practice is to "understand your buddha nature, the essence of your being" and is "intrinsically present" in all beings.
The fact that the deity is a reflection of qualities inherent in the practitioner is what makes this practice different than mere deluded or wishful thinking. The yidam appears in a mandala and the practitioner visualizes himself or herself and their environment as the yidam and mandala of their Deity Yoga practice; this visualization method undermines a habitual belief that views of reality and self are solid and fixed, enabling the practitioner to purify spiritual obscurations and to practice compassion and wisdom simultaneously: Deity Yoga employs refined techniques of creative imagination and photism in order to self-identify with the divine form and qualities of a particular deity as the union of method or skilful means and wisdom. As His Holiness the Dalai Lama says, "In brief, the body of a Buddha is attained through meditating on it". Representations of the deity, such as a statues, paintings, or mandalas, are employed as an aid to visualization in both the Generation Stage and the Completion Stage of Anuttarayoga Tantra.
The mandalas are symbolic representations of sacred enclosures, sacred architecture that house and contain the uncontainable essence of a yidam. In the book, The World of Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lama describes a mandala: “This is the celestial mansion, the pure residence of the deity.” In the Vajrayāna Buddhism of Tibet and East Asia, which follow the Nālandā Tradition of India-Tibet-China, there are fifteen major tantric sādhanās, each connected with a specific yidam: All of these are available in Tibetan form, many are available in Chinese, some are still extant in ancient Sanskrit manuscripts. Mandalas are used as an aid in realizing the inner ground: xternal ritual and internal sadhana form an indistinguishable whole, this unity finds its most pregnant expression in the form of the mandala, the sacred enclosure consisting of concentric squares and circles drawn on the ground and representing that adamantine plane of being on which the aspirant to Buddhahood wishes to establish himself.
The unfolding of the tantric ritual depends on the mandala. In Tantric Buddhism, the generation stage is the first phase of Deity yoga, it is associated with the'Father Tantra' class of anuttara-yoga-tantras of the Sarmapa or associated with what is known as Mahayoga Tantras by the Nyingmapa. An example of a'Father Tantra' is the Guhyasamāja Tantra; the generation stage engages creative imagination or visualization as an upaya or skillful means of personal transformation through which the practitioner either visualizes a meditational deity or refuge tree before themselves in front generation, or as themselves in self generation, to engender an alteration to their perception and/or experience of the appearance aspect of reality. One practices oneself in the identification with the meditational Buddha or deity by visualisations, until one can meditate single-pointedly on being the deity. According to Tsongkhapa, throughout the various stages of visualization one is to maintain the cognition of emptiness and "one trains in everything to appear as like illusions".
Reginald Ray writes that during the process of yidam visualization, the deity is to be imaged as not solid or tangible, as "empty yet apparent", with the character of a mirage or a rainbow. In the generation stage of Deity Yoga, the practitioner visualizes the "Four Purities" which define the principal Tantric methodology of Deity Yoga that distinguishes it from the rest of Buddhism: Seeing one's body as the body of the deity Seeing one's environment as the pure land or mandala of the deity Perceiving one's enjoyments as bliss of the deity, free from attachment Performing one's actions only for the benefit of others Front generation is a form of meditative visualization employed in Tantric Buddhism in which the yidam is visualized as being present in the sky facing the practitioner as opposed to the self-identification that occurs in self generation. According to the Vajrayana tradition, this approach is considered less advanced, hence safer for the sadhaka, is engaged more for the ri