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VAJRAYANA BUDDHISM (NORTHERN ASIA)

 
Though thoroughly based upon Mahayana, Tibeto-Mongolian Buddhism is sometimes characterized as Vajrayana or "Diamond Vehicle" (also referred to as Mantrayāna, Tantrayana, Tantric Buddhism, or esoteric Buddhism). It therefore accepts all the basic concepts of Mahayana, but also includes a vast array of spiritual techniques designed to enhance Buddhist practice. One component of the Vajrayana is harnessing psycho-physical energy as a means of developing profoundly powerful states of concentration and awareness. These profound states are in turn to be used as an efficient path to Buddhahood. Using these techniques, it is claimed that a practitioner can achieve Buddhahood in one lifetime, or even as little as three years. In addition to the Theravada and Mahayana scriptures, Vajrayana Buddhists recognise a large body of Buddhist Tantras, some of which are also included in Chinese and Japanese collections of Buddhist literature.
 

Vajrayana exists today in the form of two major sub-schools:

Tibetan Buddhism, found in Tibet, Bhutan, northern India, Nepal, southwestern and northern China, Mongolia and various constituent republics of Russia that are adjacent to the area, such as: Amur Oblast, Buryatia, Chita Oblast, Tuva Republic, and Khabarovsk Krai. There is also Kalmykia, another constituent republic of Russia that is the only Buddhist region in Europe, located in the north Caucasus. While Vajrayana Buddhism is a part of Tibetan Buddhism (in that it forms a core part of every major Tibetan Buddhist school), it is not identical with it, as the Vajrayana is seen as additional part to the general Mahayana teachings for somewhat advanced students. Vajrayana in Tibetan Buddhism, properly speaking, refers to tantra, Dzogchen (mahasandhi), and Chagchen (mahamudra).

 
 

Shingon Buddhism, found in Japan, includes many esoteric practices which are similar in concept to those used in Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism. However, the lineage for Shingon Buddhism is entirely different than that found in Tibetan Vajrayana, having emerged from India (via China) much earlier than the Tibetan lineage. As such Shingon shares common material such as the esoteric sutras and mandala, but the actual practices are not related. The primary text for Shingon is the Mahavairocana Sutra. The founder of Shingon Buddhism is Kukai a Japanese monk who studied in China during the Tang Dynasty, and brought back Vajrayana scriptures, techniques and mandalas that were popular at the time. This lineage of esoteric Buddhism later died out in China during the end of the Tang Dynasty, but was preserved and later flourished in Japan. Shingon is the one of the very few remaining branches of Buddhism in the world that continues to use the siddham script of Sanskrit language.

 
 
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