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The Chinese Hevajratantra

The Chinese Hevajratantra
Item Code: IDG430
Author: Ch. Willemen
Publisher: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
Edition: 2004
ISBN: 9788120819450
Pages: 208
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details: 8.5" X 5.5"
weight of the book: 0.396 kg

About the Author:

Charles Willemen, M.A. in Classics (Latin and Greek), M.A. and Ph.D. in Oriental Studies, all in Belgium, where he has been a full professor since 1977. He is lifelong member of the Belgian Royal Academy of Sciences, and has been visiting professor in Nalanda, Benares, Santineketan, Beijing, Shanghai, Xi'an, Calgary. He has written extensively about the spread of Buddhism from India to East Asia, both in books and in such periodicals as the Indian International Journal of Buddhist Studies, etc.

From the Desk of Ch. Willmen

Considering the diverse areas of Buddhist studies, the issues raised around the Chinese Mantrayana texts attracted my attention for a number of reasons. I found the content matter of the anuttarayoga-tantras particularly intriguing. In both East and West some scholars with strict and exacting moral standards have judged these contents harshly. This in itself aroused my interest. In addition, I found myself unable to share the apparent surprise at the considerable differences noted between the Chinese texts and the Indian originals. Only an uncertain grasp of Chinese, when combined with a more thorough knowledge of both Sanskrit and Tibetan, would lead one to assume the answer to many of the problems raised, was to be found in the Chinese versions. A specific study of the relation between the Indian originals and the Chinese versions seemed urgently required to resolve some of the difficulties in this respect. What was surprising, was the virtually total absence of any material engaging with this matter in a European language. Although there may be a Shingon boom in Japan, one would be hard put to hear even a whisper in the West. This provided a third and powerful incentive for the present study.

These were some of the main factors that decided me to take a close look at the tantras. Not as a believer, or a practitioner, but as someone confronting a specific object of study requiring dispassionate, unprejudiced but rigorous attention. I trust that no follower of the tantric way who has traveled any appreciable distance along the path to wisdom, will hold it against me that I consider this way to be but one means among others leading to the same ultimate goal.

It should be made clear from the outset that this book does not seek to provide an exposition of the philosophy of Mantrayana. Both an account of the history of this Buddhist path in China and its role in Chinese society fall outside the scope of this study. Whilst acknowledging that objections to apparent oversights are often forestalled by protestations that more than one book would be required to do justice to the issues, in the case of the Chinese Mantrayana this is exactly what would be required. The primary materials, the texts themselves, have begun only now to be studied. Indeed, it is only very recently that a sound critical edition of basic texts such as the Sanskrit Guhyasamaja and the Tattvasamgraha was published. All the present study attempts to establish is a foundation for further work.

I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge my indebtedness to Prof. Dr. L. Lancaster of the University of California at Berkeley; to my esteemed colleague, Prof. Dr. J. Delue; to Mr. K. Watanabe and to Mr. R. Smet, as well as to the staff of the Instituut Kern at Leiden. I also owe a profound debt of gratitude both to Miss. T. Abbott and to Mr. P. Willemen for their invaluable assistance. Furthermore, I would like to thank the sinologists of Ghent State University, the Orientalia Gandensia, and its editor, Prof. Dr. L. De Meyer, for their encouragement and the confidence they placed in my work. This book owes much to their contributions. For its errors and deficiencies the responsibility is mine alone.

From the Jacket:

The Hevajratantram, the well-known Anuttarayogatantram, about 'unsurpassed yoga', is a direct successor of the Tattvasamgraha, a yogatantram. It was translated from Sanskrit into Chinese in the 11th century. The Tibetan version dates from that same period. During the Yuan Dynasty in China (1279-1368), the Mongol emperor Qublai was initiated into this tradition. The Tibetan Sa-skya School, for which the Hevajratantra is a central text, was the leading Buddhist school during the Yuan period. The present book is a first translation of the Chinese text into English, shedding light on the Chinese version of a well-known Indo-Tibetan text. The mantras contain Apabhramsa, and the text seems at times quite different from the Sanskrit original. The Chinese translators offer a text which remains true to its contents, but which is at the same acceptable to the Chinese milieu of the 11th century. This diplomatic effort explains many discrepancies, which were no problem to the initiate.


It is a pleasure to treat this remarkable translation from the Chinese version of the HEVAJRATANTRA. The text was previously translated by D.L. Snellgrove in his two volumes of 'HEVAJRATANTRA; A Critical Study', 1959; his Part I containing his English translation, and his Part II with the Sanskrit and Tibetan texts he used. There were so many differences in Willemen's translation as though he were translating a different text. Motilal has published another version-'The concealed Essence of the HEVAJRATANTRA' (Delhi, 1992), with the Sanskrit verses and sentences followed by English and then some commentary remarks. This study by G.W. Farrow and I. Menon of the Tantra seems clearer than the Snellgrove version. Returning to the Willemen volume, it is splendid in the clarity of what the Tantra is saying; and the numerous footnotes have excellent data.




  Foreword by Alex Wayman 5
  Introduction 9
I. Introductory Chapter: The One of the Adamantine Family 33
II. Spells for Ceremonies with the Group of Dakinis 40
III. The Deities who are Body, Speech and Mind of all the Tathagatas 47
IV. The Section on Divine Consecration 50
V. The Great Reality 51
VI. The Performance 55
VII. The explanation of Secret Signs 58
VIII. The Great Associated Circle 62
IX. Symbolization 69
X. Consecration 72
XI. The King of the Ritual. The Perfect Realization of Vajragarbha Bodhisattva 77
XII. Perfection, ascertained by numerous Dakinis 81
XIII. The Explanation of Means 86
XIV. A Collection of Parts from Rituals 95
XV. The Manifestation of the Adamantine King 103
XVI. The Way of making a Painting of the Adamantine One with Knowledge of the Void and of the numerous Dakinis 112
XVII. Feasting 113
XVIII. Instructing 115
XIX. On Reciting 118
XX. The Meaningfulness of the Simultaneously-arisen 119
  Bibliography 122
  Abbreviations 133
  Chinese-Sanskrit Glossary 135
  Chinese Text 194

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