Published: Sunday Despatch of The Rising Nepal; June 14, 1992
It is a well known fact that the form of Buddhism that has flourished in Nepal since the ancient times has
been Vajrayana. The Newars of Kathmandu Valley follow the Vajrayana school of Buddhism as well as the entire
Sector of Nepal and its ethnic groups (like the Sherpas, Manangis, Tamangs, Lopas, Bhutias, Depchas etc.). Given
this fact, it would not be an exaggeration to say that Vajrayana Buddhism has had the strongest effect in the
of Nepal Valley i.e. Kathmandu specifically.
To deny Vajrayana is to deny the very roots of Nepalese culture, especially if you understand that even the
forms of Tantric Hinduism flourishing in Nepal since the ancient times has been strongly influenced by
Recent renaissance of Theravada Buddhism in Kathmandu Valley has produced an upsurge of some writers who
eager to prove that Vajrayana is a decrepit form of Buddhism and that Theravada is the only true and original
As part of their weak reasoning, they are always excited to show that the Newari Vajrayana has caste systems
alien to Buddhist ethics and the Tibetan Buddhism (also wrongly given the misnomer Lamaism) is influenced by Bon
and thus not a pure form of Buddhism.
Needless to say none of these amateur writers have given any solid proof as to why they feel Tibetan
is influenced by Bon. In my own studies I have found that it is actually the other way around in that Bon has
the centuries been influenced by Vajrayana to the extent that their dress, rituals etc., have become quite
(though still different).
Of course I am not saying that Vajrayana was never even touched by Tibetan culture which pre-existed even
Buddhism went to Tibet but then the same can be said of the Theravada of Sri Lanka, Thailand, Laos and Burma
It has been the nature of compassionate Buddhism to accept the cultures of the areas it spreads to without
either the culture or itself. So this characteristic is not found solely in Vajrayana but in all forms of
be it Zen of Japan, Tien Tai of China or the Theravada of the Laotian mountains.
As far as the basics of Buddhism go, all forms of Buddhism - Zen, Tien Tai, Jodo, Vajrayana and Theravada
the same principles. All forms of Buddhism agree in the concept of Anattma, impermanence, and that conditioned
is sorrow. The only difference is the depth or subtlety in interpreting these concepts and in the methods of
Since the Sunyata of Nagarjuna is basically talking about the Anattma of the Theravada in a more refined and
way and since the basic view of Vajrayana is the basic view of Nagarjuna, Vajrayana does not contradict the
philosophy of the Buddha in any way whatsoever. It is only in the depth of interpretation and mode of
of the Buddha’s teachings that they vary, but not in the teachings themselves. So it is utter nonsense to say
Vajrayana has changed or distorted the teachings of the Buddha.
Also all forms of Buddhism still practice Vipassyana (Pali: Vipassana) and Samatha. It is not true, as some
Theravadian teachers have wrongly proclaimed that only the Theravadian form of Buddhism has Vipassyana. All of
various form of meditations found in Vajrayana are Vipassyana. The forms of practices called Mahasandhi,
The Six Yogas of Naropa, The Six Yogas of Niguma, Marga Phalam (Called Lam Dre in Tibetan) etc. are all forms of
Vipassyana. The very word Lhag Thang in Tibetan is a technical word for the Sanskrit term Vipassyana. In
Buddhism, it is called Kan, in Chinese Buddhism Kuan. Out of the four mindfulness practices that the Buddha
Chittanusmriti (mindfulness of mind) is the form of Vipassyana mostly used in the Vajrayana tradition, whereas
Theravada tradition seems to concentrate mostly on Vedanannusmriti (mindfulness of sensation). Of course you can
find all the four forms of Mindfulnesses in all traditions of Buddhism; I am merely explicating the general
within the tradition. So to proclaim that Vajrayana is not pure Buddhism, because it does not have forms of
meditation is to prove one’s own ignorance and narrow mindedness (to use a classical Buddhist word, Moha).
To claim that since the Newar Buddhists have castes, Vajrayana has caste system and therefore is not a pure form
is utter nonsense because no text or form of Vajrayana Buddhism vouches for the caste system. That the Newars
a weird caste system of their own even though they claim to be true Buddhists is a result of Newari culture and
Vajrayana Buddhism. Anybody with even an inkling of Nepalese history knows that the Newari culture was forced to
accept the caste system.
Proclaiming that Vajrayana has all sorts of deities and therefore cannot be a pure form of Buddhism is
mistake of the unthinking critics. Firstly, deities like Indra, Braham etc. are found all over the Pali texts
claim that they too became Arhats after receiving teachings from the Buddha. Secondly, all the Theravada
have one or the other form of deities as their protector of Buddhism, for example Sri Lanka has a festival of
Indra where he is considered as the protector of Buddhism. Thirdly, the Abhidharmakosha has Devannuati as one of
the meditations. So if Vajrayana is an impure form of Buddhism for the above reasons, then the Buddhism of the
texts are also impure, the Buddhism of Sri Lanka etc. are also impure. And fourthly, only amateur writers who
absolutely no idea how these deity practices are used as skillful means for Vipassyana itself write that
uses Gods and Goddesses like Hinduism. It is surprising to see how even some so called Vajracharyas think that
has made all sorts of Pancha Buddhas and given them wives and children. I would like to advise them to study the
significance of Utpanna Krama (Development Stage) and Sampanna Krama (Completion Stage) in deity practices
they give naive interpretations which show their own ignorance. I challenge any scholar to prove how the Utpanna
Krama and the Sampanna Krama of deity practice are not the Vipassyana and Samatha of Chittanusmriti of the
To make the deity practices of Vajrayana like the Gods and Goddesses of Hinduism is to show ones own
about these practices.
Some have even gone so far as to claim that the Vajrayana and Mahayana have substituted the Buddha for God
Creator as in other religions. It must be made clear that neither form of Buddhism has made the Buddha an
The claim of some Theravadian writers that in Vajrayana Buddhism, the Buddha has been made into some kind
Super Human whom they worship like God is totally non-valid. First of all, to claim in Theravada Buddhism that
Buddha was born with the thirty-two characteristics and then to say he was just an ordinary human being is a
contradiction. I would like to ask how many ordinary people are born with the thirty-two characteristics.
the Buddha is not worshipped as a God in Mahayana but as a Revered Teacher - Guru.
Some writers have tried to point out that the Pali texts talk about a man being reborn immediately after he
dies whereas the Tibetan Buddhism talks about a Bardo (Intermediate State in English and Antarabhava in Sanskrit
). They say this is the influence of Bön. But again, they seem to lack enough studies of Buddhist history as
of the eighteen schools of Early Buddhism believed in the concept of Antarabhava.
The Theravad is a true form of Buddhism as taught by the Buddha and there is no doubt about it, but so are
and Vajrayana. It is interesting to note that Vajrayana, which is our Nepalese culture, has the openness (Amoha)
to say, he who criticizes Hinayana criticizes Vajrayana. The Hinayana is the foundation on which Vajrayana is