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HLye: right and left handed tantra

Newsgroups: alt.magick.tyagi,,alt.religion.sexuality,talk.religion.misc,talk.religion.newage,talk.religion.buddhism
Subject: HLye: Re: right and left handed tantra
Date: 10 Oct 1995 14:19:41 -0700

[from alt.religion.buddhism.tibetan: hl2m@poe.acc.Virginia.EDU (SkyWarrior)] writes:
> Hi all dharamadilos! What is the difference between  right handed tantra 
> and left handed tantra? The difference based on the lack of yab-yum 
> deities or it also belong to the difference on practice? 
> In my country as well as in China, the monks are not allowed to get 
> married, and I never see a statue of Bodhisattva or a Buddha or a Heruka, 
> Dharmapalas in position of sexual union lock as those of Tibet. The  
> Japanese mikkyo seems very familiar to the Tantric tradition in my 
> country as in China. 
> Thanks for all your generosity! 
> May Three Jewels always blessed all of sentient beings!
> -- 

I am no authority in matters regarding Tantra - either from a
scholarly perspective or from a practice perspective!  But...
since I have today off... I thought I will offer my random
thoughts on this matter regarding "left-hand" and "right-hand."
I somehow get a feeling that these terms were *probably* used
in India when Tantra as a movement emerged.  Vedic Indian
culture was by and large a "right-hand" culture.  The left
hand was considered impure and meant for doing "unclean things"
(like washing oneself etc).  I don't know anything about Hindu
Tantra but in some Buddhist tantras the "left hand" began to
play an important role.  Perhaps to emphasize the break from
Vedic ideas of cleanliness and purity (from the ritual point of
view), some Buddhist tantras (like the Vajrayogini types) began
to emphasize the use of the left hand for ritual matters.  For
example, one should start with the left hand, take the first
step with the left foot etc.  Mantras are counted using the
left hand fingers and the list goes on.  

In China, the terms "left-hand" and "right-hand" Tantra (and
even Taoism) began to be used as well.  I know that some
Chinese Buddhist monks will refer to Tibetan tantra as
"left-hand" and perhaps used it in a degoratory way!  For them,
"left-hand" referred to the sexual imagery and supposed
sexual practices taught by Tibetan Buddhist tantra.  But as far
as I am aware of, the terms "left-hand" and "right-hand" Tantra
are not used by the Tibetan tradition (at least not in this
context).  Can anyone verify this?

The Mikkyo of Japan (both in Shingon and in Tendai) has its
origins in the Tantric lineages that were brought to China in
the 7th century or so.  As far as I can tell, the Tantric
lineages brought to China by people like Subhakarasimha,
Amoghavajra, Vajrabodhi and others do not have the type of
sexual imagery that is found in later Tantric developments in
India.  The Tantric practices brought to China were heavily
focussed on purity, cleanliness and identification with the
Buddha through contemplation, mudras and mantras.  In the
Tendai tradition, it is said that for one day of Tantric
practice, there should be seven days of cleaning and
preparation before!  It should be mentioned that Tantras that
contained sexual imagery (tantras that were later on classified
as "anuttara-tantras) did make their way to China sometime in
the Sung dynasty.  These tantras were translated in to Chinese
but I doubt the practice-lineage was brought there.  Although
Mikkyo in Japan generally lacks any sexual imagery, there is
one deity (minor deity) which is found in the "father-mother"
form and that's Vinayaka.  I can't remember the name off-hand
but there was a group of Tantric practitioners in medieval
Japan who seemed to be doing somekind of practices that
involved sexual practices and they were soon branded
"non-Buddhists" or "psuedo-Taoists who practised the

I will let others comment on the use of sexual imagery in
Indian and Tibetan Tantra as I am sure there are lots of you
out there who can do a great job at that.  Hope these few
random thoughts are useful - even if it is only in a random

Hun Lye

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