Comments on “Vajrayana is not Tibetan Buddhism (and vice versa)”

Add new comment

Greg 2013-11-27

I don’t see how Newar Buddhism could be described as “tantra-only (single yana).” Kapstein: The status of Mahayana-Vajrayana texts as they evolved in the early modern Newar tradition is expressed in the set of Nine Texts (Navadharma or Nava Grantha) arranged in the dharma mandala and used in the vrata rituals (discussed in chaps. 4 and 5): Prajñaparamita, Saddharmapundarika, Lalitavistara, Subvarnaprabhasa, Lamkavatara, Dashabhumika, Gandhavyuha, Samadhiraja, Guhyasamaja Tantra . . .the vast cumulative tradition
of Mahayana-Vajrayana ritual remains one of the most distinctive characteristics of Newar culture.” Popular Buddhist Texts from Nepal pgs 15-18

That is where we got many if not most of the Sanskrit editions we have for Mahayana texts.

David Chapman 2013-11-27

Hi, Greg — I know little about Newar Buddhism, so I may be quite wrong… However, my understanding is that it has no path of renunciation and therefore no Sutrayana as a practice.

A Fan 2013-11-27

David you are on fire! Carry on brother!!!

Michael Dorfman 2013-11-27

I’m not sure it’s fair to say In recent centuries, Tibetans have blurred the distinction between Sutrayana and Vajrayana– it seems to me that this has been going on from at least the time of Tsongkhapa, which, put another way, is about half of the time that Buddhist tantra has been around.

David Chapman 2013-11-27

Michael — That’s true! It does go back a long way. Some historians think all the way back, and that non-monastic tantra in India was fictional.

But I was thinking of the three centuries of Gelukpa hegemony starting from the Fifth Dalai Lama. Before that, the Gelukpa weren’t all that numerous, and—more important—they couldn’t dictate modes of practice to the other Schools.

(And then again, maybe I consider Tsongkhapa recent because my heart’s in the Dark Age :-) )

Sabio Lantz 2014-01-15

Excellent, again! Best of all, it clarifies different uses of the mind instead of presenting a bland, tasteless, undesirable soup.

BTW: “World Yana” – may I ask where you got that phrase (reminded me of the Prosperity Gospel in a sense): “Adhymatic Yana” or “Samsaric Yanas” or ....?

David Chapman 2014-01-15

Thanks, Sabio!

The phrase “worldly yana” most often refers to the yana that aims at better rebirth—which is similar analogous to Christianity in terms of concern with better circumstances in life after death. However, sometimes there’s said to be two worldly yanas, and the “lower” one of the two is about better circumstances in one’s current life, which is indeed similar to the Prosperity Gospel. (To complicate matters, there’s a different system of two worldly yanas in which both are about future lives.)

These are rarely discussed. I’m not sure why. The best treatment is in Samuel’s Civilized Shamans but I don’t remember whether he uses the term.

Bruce 2014-02-03

Hi, maybe you mean to include this by your reference link to The Origins of Yoga and Tantra: Indic Religions to the Thirteenth Century, but Kashmirian Shaivism is also non-dual and tantric, though Hindu rather than Buddhist.

Saraha 2014-03-28

as Lord Buddha said, Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intend to throwing it at someone else, you are the one who get burned” so here in your case(David Chapman) that someone must be Tibetan or Tibetan Buddhism. I hope one day you will find a true moment to take a peaceful breath and stay in silence. try to look after your monkey like mind, it is thousand times faster than speed of light, collect all the rubbish THINGS from every garbage then start to contaminate others. The point is not how others appear to you rather how you perceive or conceptualize about them. it is nothing but projection of your own mind. you are nothing but collection of habitual predilections.

well, I don’t think that you are qualified to judge about Tibetan Buddhism, firstly you are not a Tibetan, Secondly you are not a monk and thirdly you don’t seemed practice Buddha Dharma at all. may be you are a scholar who read dozens of books and got to say thousand lines like parrot but that doesn’t make you to discern what true spirituality is.

Another things is that we are not saying vajrayana tradition is not from India, it is from Indian Buddhis masters, such as, Padma Sambava, Naropa, Niguma, Vairocana and Virupa. from them the transmission purely continued in Tibet. it is because of sincerity and determination of Tibetan people all these great teachings are still available for anyone even today. Buddhism was completely razed to dust in India since 12th century during the muslim invasion. Mughal empire covered from afghanisan in the north to bengal in the east, from kashmir to beyond the vindhya mountain in south india. many indian Buddhist scholars from Bengal fled to Tibet and sought refugee. Buddhism in Tibet developed independently and became diversified into a number of lineages. No country preserve Buddhism as Tibet did.

Alphonse Capone 2014-10-27

Keep up your studies. Vajrayana is a difficult subject, both to follow and to learn the history. As you begin to learn about it, look at Tsongkhapa and the works that followed. Notice that in Kagyu and Geluk the path is from open to secret, these are not two paths. Notice that Atisha referred to Sutra and Tantra as a single path. Then study the notion that between these schools you woul have the majority of Tibetan practitioners, including monks and nuns. Therefore, you realize that it is true that the majority of Tibetans are on the path of Vajrayana, which is synonymous with Tibetan Buddhism, as opposed to Theravada or Chan.

Keep studying, you will enjoy it more as you learn more.

Well, what to say. I agree with the comment above: please study the subject more in debth, before you rush to conclusions. For instance, you write, that the Shamarpa advice modern people not to renounce the world. I would like to see a citation of that, because in fact: this is not what Shamarpa advices. In the text, that you do refer to, Shamar Rinpoche advice most people not to take upon themselves the various wows of monks and nuns, because it might prove to make life more difficult, rather than easier. But in various other texts, he sternly advice us all, that we have to renouce the World in order to achieve enlightenment, though for most of us, it should not be done in a formal way. Check out his papers here:

David Chapman 2014-12-30

Thank you for the correction! I have edited the text to more precisely reflect the text of Shamar Rinpoche’s letter.

Aisling Kelledia 2015-04-07

@Saraha, your comment speaks also for me.
No one is claiming that Vajrayana is limited to Tibetan Buddhism, but I also want to clarify that within the Tibetan tradition, Vajrayana is synonymous with it. I think there was some ambiguity in coming across your post, that Saraha and I am noting? I am a Tibetan Buddhist and a member of the Karma Kagyu community. Many “skillful means” are available to Buddhist practitioner’s, whether their interest is in Tibetan, Japanese, or any other recognized form. The subject is so profound, who could fail to find interest! As long as the tradition belongs to an unbroken lineage and avoids un-Buddhist speech and behavior, they are all pathways toward enlightenment. Sarva mangallam! ()

Antique Buddhas 2015-05-27

Tibetan and Vajrayana Buddhism are quite different.
I don’t know about western countries, but from what I have seen, most are well known as Vajrayana and Tibetan.
And what do you mean by “Vajrayana is reserved for social elite”.

Kym Chaffin 2015-07-04

your picture looks a lot like one of the two new karmapas. I can only assume you are the Karmapa moonlighting through a secret identity from which you can vent what you really believe. seriously, my name is chaffin and they say we were all one group back before our last name was reduced to being written down. that makes he some kind of blood kin to one of the karmapas! wow. this blog was very interesting and I know what you’re saying is true. I liked it. take care.

Vajrayana Buddhism 2016-11-28

I think Vajrayana Buddhism evolved out of India in around 6th Century BC rather than Tibet. One of the main goal of this practice of Buddhism is to become a Bodhisattva. The practitioner of the Vajrayana Buddhism takes his or her innate Buddha nature as the means of practice. Since we, as humans already have an enlightened mind, Vajrayana Buddhism helps us, the humans, to see the world in terms of ultimate truths.

growingreener 2017-11-20

There is so much inaccuracy in this, for anyone who is interested in doing their own research, have a look at and a book by the Buddhist scholar, Lama Jampa Thaye, ‘Wisdom in Exile’. Or perhaps look at the website for Sakya Trizin, head of the Sakya lineage of Tibetan Buddhism - there are four main Tibetan Buddhist traditions, Gelug (Dali Lama), Sakya, Kagyu and Nyingma.

David Chapman 2017-11-20

Could you be specific about what you think is inaccurate?

Vajrayana isn't tibetan

Karma Sang Gye Gyasto 2023-09-19

In climbing the big mountain we’re all facing, it really is irrelevant to me if Vajrayana is or isn’t Tibetan. What matters is that the person practicing Vajrayana is becoming a better, happier person for the benefit of others!

You could spend 1000 years analyzing dharma, histories, monks, tantrayana, and sutrayana and more, but still, it is, for me, connecting with the individual deities/archetypes that brings release, not academic speculation.

And meditation? Great, relaxing, clears the mind etc. However, meditation can never be more than an ephemeral solution to suffering. Quit meditating, and the suffering pops back up–every time–maybe it’s less because you disassociated from it somewhat for a time, but trust my experience, the only way to constantly be happy and in bliss, for me anyway, and probably you, is to constantly connect with a deity. Constantly. Then you become a part of their bliss. It’s unexplainable. The other huge advantage comes at death; you need to be commiserating with an advanced being when you enter the bardo; otherwise, you’ll be like a leaf in a windstorm–you’ll be at the mercy of your own accumulated energies.

You connect with a deity through visualization and their mantra, but this isn’t understood or believed by the masses.

Add new comment:

You can use some Markdown and/or HTML formatting here.

Optional, but required if you want follow-up notifications. Used to show your Gravatar if you have one. Address will not be shown publicly.

If you check this box, you will get an email whenever there’s a new comment on this page. The emails include a link to unsubscribe.