The fifteenth and sixteenth lectures by Prof David Eckel on Buddhism explores more into the Tantric tradition, the first video being on the use of the mandala, and the second on the passing of the Vajrayana to Tibet.
Practitioners of Buddhist Tantra pictured the universe in the shape of a mandala or ritual circle. Mandalas were used to explore symbolic and ritual connections between the self, important Buddhist deities, and the universe as a whole.
Mandalas can be represented in two dimensions, as they are in many varieties of Tantric art. They also can appear in three dimensions, ranging in size from small ritual implements to large temples. The landscape of a city or a nation can be visualized as a mandala, and movement through the mandala often serves as a guide for Buddhist pilgrimage.
Mandalas help understand how Tantric practitioners use the doctrine of Emptiness to transform ordinary awareness into an awareness of the Buddha’s awakening.
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In the seventh century, as the Tibetan tribes coalesced into an organized kingdom, they became aware of sophisticated Buddhist civilizations in China and India. The “First Diffusion of the Dharma” into Tibet began when the Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo built a temple in Lhasa to house an image of the Buddha.
Under his successors, Tibetan Buddhism took on the complex institutional features of Indian Buddhism. The Indian saint Padmasambhava, or Guru Rinpoche, gave Tibetan Buddhism a Tantric character, and Shantarakshita introduced Tibetans to the intellectual traditions of the Indian monasteries.
With the arrival of Buddhism came the formation of a native Tibetan tradition known as Bon. Sometimes called the indigenous shamanism of Tibet, Bon is now so thoroughly infused by Buddhist influence that it seems little more than a variety of Tibetan Buddhism itself.