Vajrayana Buddhism is the most unique form of Buddhism also known as Tibetan or Tantric Buddhism. This branch of Buddhism engages in rituals that are a secret to the world. Vajrayana Buddhism is believed to be the final turning of the Buddha’s teachings. Though Vajrayana developed as a branch of Mahayana Buddhism, it became a distinctive path beside Mahayana and Theravada, the other two types of Buddhism. The Buddhist thought and practice are said to be a quick and effective way to enlightenment.

To understand the secrets of Vajrayana Buddhism, let’s start with learning more about its history, philosophy, and rituals.

Vajrayana Buddhism: An Overview

In the 7th century BC, a major movement arose within Mahayana Buddhism which later led to the development of another branch of Buddhism known as Vajrayana Buddhism. Of the popular branches of Buddhism, Vajrayana established itself as a mysterious form of Mahayana Buddhism with an accelerated path to enlightenment. The term vajra in Sanskrit translates to “thunderbolt”, or “diamond”. It is a symbol of the real and indestructible spirit in a human being, while yana is the spiritual pursuit. Thus, Vajrayana Buddhism is also known as “The Thunderbolt Vehicle” or “The Diamond Vehicle”.

Samye Monastery in Tibet: Vajrayana Buddhism
Samye Monastery in Tibet

Though this tradition began in India, it spread to Tibet where it is widely followed and thus came to be known as Tibetan Buddhism. Vajrayana Buddhism brings together the meditation practice of the Theravada monks, many distinct beliefs of Mahayana philosophy, the practice of tantras, and several other mysterious rituals. Tantras have a vital role in Vajrayana, therefore, it is also called Tantrayana or tantric Buddhism.

The understanding of Vajrayana Buddhism lies in learning about its distinctive philosophy that has both a mix of Theravada orthodox traditions and the practicality of Mahayana. However, it is yet a very different branch of Buddhism.

The mysterious branch of Buddhism is highly complex and ceremonial. Also, it requires a secret monastic setting along with the guidance of a guru. Though Tibet has a wide population of Vajrayana Buddhism followers, the school also has followers in India, Nepal, Japan, and other countries.

Vajrayana Buddhism Ideology

Vajrayana Buddhism is a mysterious branch of Buddhism. As with Mahayana Buddhism, Vajrayana Buddhism also emphasizes the role of the Bodhisattva, the one who can attain enlightenment and be Buddha-like for the betterment of all beings. Vajrayana school believes that every individual naturally has an enlightened mind, and with the practice of understanding the ultimate truth, one can attain the Buddha-nature. While in Mahayana, the path to become the Bodhisattva is a simple practice, Vajrayana takes on a highly complex and ritualistic approach. The Tibetan Buddhist traditions revere fierce deities and a significantly large Bodhisattva pantheon along with the worship of the Buddhas.

Another important philosophy of Vajrayana Buddhism is the two truths doctrine. Though almost all branches of Buddhism also believe in the two truth principle, it is a vital philosophy in the Vajrayana path of practice. The two truths are-

  • conventional truth of consensus reality which dissects into common-sense notions of what does and does not exist and,
  • the ultimate truth, which is the reality as viewed by an enlightened or awakened mind.

Vajrayana Buddhism is based on the concept of “skillful means” (Sanskrit: Upaya) which is also seen in Mahayana Buddhism. As the Diamond Way, Vajrayana believes in an accelerated path to enlightenment, therefore the skillful means mainly relate to tantric practices.

Vajrayana Rituals & Practice

Mandala: Vajrayana Buddhism

Vajrayana is an esoteric (complex; understood only by few) branch of Buddhism. The rituals and practices are also mysterious in the sense that certain teachings of Vajrayana can only be taught by the teacher directly to students. One cannot learn the teachings of Vajrayana from a book or through self-attempt. If a person wants to engage in Vajrayana practice, then they need permission or initiation from their teacher. There are also chances that if one does not follow the guidelines of the techniques correctly, then the person practicing it might harm himself mentally as well as physically. Hence, to avoid any such incident most of the Vajrayana practices are kept “secret”. The relationship between the teacher and the student is a sacred bond of secrecy and commitment. This secrecy is a measure of precaution for the practitioner and also to keep intact the integrity of the teachings. Also, a layer of secrecy is added to the teachings by making it a “self-secret”, which means that even if the practices are revealed to a person, it is not necessary that they can understand the teachings in the case of absence of proper context. The Vajrayana teachings are mostly “secret” to those people who have no particular objective to follow the path and are doing the same just out of curiosity.

Vajrayana rituals employ a complex array of other rituals with three vital practices-mantra, mandala, and mudra. Mantra can be a phrase or syllable used for chanting as well as meditation. Believed to be a sacred power, the mantra invokes divine energies that are within. Mandala is a cosmic diagram or geometric pattern that represents the various revered Buddhas and bodhisattvas. On the other hand, mudra is a gesture or pose made by hands or body during meditation or chanting.

Vajrayana Buddhism in Singapore

Singapore respects all forms of Buddhism. There are many non-profitable organizations that promote Vajrayana Buddhism in Singapore inviting people to learn its tradition and beliefs that to have an important place in its history and culture. The mysterious practices and rituals of Tibetan Buddhism are practiced in various monastic communities in the city. The secrets of Tantric Buddhism are just another path to enlightenment.