On Supreme Bliss: A Study of the History and Interpretation of the Cakrasaṃvara Tantra

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On Supreme Bliss: A Study of the History and Interpretation of the Cakrasaṃvara Tantra
Dissertation
Dissertation

Abstract

This thesis explores the development of an important Indian Buddhist scripture. the Cakrasaṃvara Tantra, and the tradition of exegesis and practice based upon it. It consists of an edition and translation of the first four chapters of the Cakrasaṃvara Tantra, as well as a translation of the corresponding portion of Tsongkhapa's Total Illumination of the Hidden Meaning, a Tibetan commentary on this scripture. These texts are contextualized via efforts to define "Tantric Buddhism" as it is understood by the tradition itself, and via explorations of both the intellectual and socio-historical contexts within which Tantric Buddhism developed, and the ways in which different subtraditions within it were elaborated and categorized.
      It is argued that a common element of Tantric traditions is their resistance to the hegemonic ideology of caste. An exploration of this ideology and Buddhist resistance to it is undertaken. Tantric discourse was deployed as a form of resistance against caste ideology, but also constituted a counter ideology, which centered around the figure of the guru as a nexus of power and authority, and articulated in the model of the maṇḍala.
      The Cakrasaṃvara Tantra, is notable for the strong presence of "non-Buddhist elements." The Cakrasaṃvara Tantra, is a composite text drawing from diverse sources, and while it probably reached its final form in a Buddhist monastic context, there is significant textual evidence suggesting that it was the product of a non-monastic, renunciant milieu in which sectarian identification was not particularly relevant. The Cakrasaṃvara Tantra, is, in Levi Strauss' terms, a bricolage. It provides a particularly striking example of the processes of adaptation and reinterpretation which have continually led to the development of religious traditions. The Cakrasaṃvara's identification as a Buddhist tradition was the result of the efforts of commentators in India who constructed it as such, and by Tibetan commentators, who completed this process of adaptation.

Citation Gray, David Barton. "On Supreme Bliss: A Study of the History and Interpretation of the Cakrasaṃvara Tantra." PhD diss., Columbia University, 2001.