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(4,770 words)

Author(s): Péter-Dániel Szántó
The Hevajratantra is the most important scripture of the yoginītantra class. Shortly after its appearance around 900 ce in East India (Davidson, 2004, 41), it engendered – or promoted in a codified form – a widespread and influential cult of its eponymous deity and his retinue; its teachings became of such authority that there were hardly any esoteric Buddhist authors who could afford to ignore them. While the text continued the antinomian tradition set out in the Guhyasamājatantra and the Sarvabuddhasamāyogaḍākinījālaśaṃvara, it also introduced a number of innovations – mo…

Ritual Texts: South Asia

(4,672 words)

Author(s): Péter-Dániel Szántó
For most of its flourish in South Asia, Buddhism was not averse to rituals. In fact, in its highly successful esoteric manifestation, the prescriptive literature of which forms the focus of this entry, performance of rituals became the dominant feature of the religion. From relatively humble beginnings as short scriptures containing spells and their applications promising the fulfillment of a variety of worldly aims, ritual literature grew at a very fast pace, culminating in grand compendia of s…


(3,718 words)

Author(s): Péter-Dániel Szántó
Catuṣpīṭha may be either an abbreviation of the scriptural title Catuṣpīṭhatantra or the name of the textual cycle and teachings directly or supposedly based on that scripture. The Catuṣpīṭhatantra is one of the earlier yoginītantras, the penultimate wave of scriptural revelation in Indian esoteric Buddhism. It was composed most likely in the late 9th century in northeast India (Szántó, vol. I, 2012, 35ff.). Like other examples of the genre, the text for the most part teaches a pantheon, the initiation rite meant to create a qua…

Tantric Prakaraṇas

(4,608 words)

Author(s): Péter-Dániel Szántó
Prakaraṇas are usually short or mid-length treatises on a particular aspect of doctrine and/or practice, either tacitly endorsing and promoting a viewpoint or phrased in an apologetic style; in other words, they are descriptive or argumentative, essay-style exegetical writings. While there is nothing specifically tantric about the term prakaraṇa itself, in the present article it refers to those related to esoteric literature. These treatises do not claim to be revelation: the author is known, or there is at least supposed to have been a human…


(4,300 words)

Author(s): Péter-Dániel Szántó | Arlo Griffiths
The Sarvabuddhasamāyogaḍākinījālaśaṃvara (hence-forth Śaṃvara) is a significant transitional scripture between what later came to be viewed as the yogatantra and the yoginītantra (or yoganiruttara) classes (Tanaka, 2010, 340); in modern scholarship, it is sometimes referred to as the “proto- yoginītantra” (Tomabechi, 2007, 904; Sanderson, 2009, 147). Along with the Guhyasamājatantra, it bridges the gap between the type of esoteric Buddhism that by and large still operates within the realm of ritual purity and that of transgressive, antinomian esoteric revelation. The Śaṃvar…