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Buddhadharma : Spring 2008
buddhadharma| 69 |spring 2008 to paraphrase a famous Buddhist simile, just as the ocean has every- where the taste of salt, so the Bud- dhism of inner Asia—from newari shrines in nepal, to monasteries and retreats in tibet, to cliffside hermitages in ladakh or Bhutan, to temples on the steppes of Buri- yatia or Mongolia—is thoroughly imbued with the taste of tantra. the tantric flavor of inner-Asian Buddhism has been evident from the start, largely because the Bud- dhism that tibetans adopted from india from the seventh through the thirteenth century (and spread to other inner-Asian regions) was, like much indian culture of that era, suffused with the ideas and prac- tices found in tantric communities and the texts they produced. tantric ideas include our innate enlight- enment, the identity of microcosm and macrocosm, the indispensability of the guru, the centrality of the body for spiri- tual work, and our capacity to transform base emotions and energies into expres- sions of divinity. tantric practices include ritually serving one’s guru and buddha- deity; re-envisioning one’s body, speech, mind, and surroundings as their awakened counterparts; and utilizing yogic postures, mantras, meditation, and sometimes sex- RogeR JackSon iS a pRofeSSoR of Religion and South aSian StudieS at caRelton college in noRthfield, minneSota. he iS the authoR of TanTric Treasures: Three collecTions of MysTi- cal Verse froM BuddhisT india (oxfoRd). ual and aggressive energy to manipulate forces in one’s subtle body so as to con- quer death and attain enlightenment in this very lifetime. these ideas and practices—nowadays found as readily in Barcelona, cape- town, or Minneapolis as in kathmandu or lhasa—are rooted in the Buddhist tan- tras, which were composed in india in the last several centuries of the first millen- nium, though tradition attributes them to the Buddha himself. tantras, especially of the advanced type often known as high- est Yoga tantras, typically are named for the form of buddha that delivered them, and with which the practitioner must identify: Guhyasamaja, Yamari, Vajrakila, chakrasamvara, hevajra, kalachakra. Along with secret oral teachings, each of the basic tantras spawned a vast lit- erary tradition, which included explana- tory tantras, commentaries, initiation manuals, mandala instructions, ritual guidebooks, and sadhanas for step-by- step meditation. indeed, most of what a typical tantric practitioner knows of his or her tradition is actually contained in the ancillary literature, especially sadhanas, while the original or “root” tantra often is unknown and unread. this probably was as true one thousand or five hun- dred years ago in Asia as it is today in the West, largely because the basic texts are anything but simple; on the surface at least, they are unsystematic, cryptic, ritualistic, and replete with magic, sex, the strange root of tantra tHe CakRaSamvaRa tantRa (the Discourse of Sri Heruka): a Study and annotated translation By David B. Gray american institute of Buddhist Studies Columbia university Press, 2007 447 pages; $49 (hardcover) Reviewed by Roger Jackson (itemno.99)collectionofRubinmuSeumofaRt(acc.#f1997.7.2) Chakrasamvara eastern tibet, 1800 – 1899