Mulakalpa. The former deals with yoga (ordinary meditation) and
anuttarayoga (Tantric forms of meditation), and the latter with mudras
(finger and body poses), mandalas (mystic diagrams), mantras (mystic
spells), and the like.
However, many Tantric circles practised rites only symbolically, and their
teachers often produced works of considerable philosophical subtlety, while
the ethical tone of some passages in the Tantricist Saraha’s Dohakosa
(Treasury of Couplets), one of the last Buddhist works produced in India, is
of the highest order.
Thus, the followers of Vajrayana believed that salvation could be best
attained by acquiring magical power, which they called vajra (thunderbolt or
diamond). The chief divinities of this new sect, the Taras (wives of the
Buddhas and Bodhisattvas) were to be compelled rather than persuaded to
bestow magical power on the worshipper by performing the tantra and
reciting the mantra. It became popular in eastern India, particularly Bengal
and Bihar from the eighth century AD under the patronage of the Palas, and
later it spread to Tibet.
The Buddhist Pantheon and Dhyani Buddhas
The extensive and diversified pantheon of later-day Buddhism owes its origin
to Tantric Buddhism or Vajrayana, and it is likely that Buddhism had no
pantheon before Tantricism was well established. In early days, Buddhism
recognised thirty-three gods of the Hindus, who were the residents of the
Tavatimso or Trayastrimsa heaven (literally the heaven where the thirty-three
gods reside), which is one of the different rupa heavens. The Buddha was no
doubt deified by the Mahayana school which considered him to be lokottara
or superhuman. Though we do not find any of the Buddha’s images in the
earlier schools like Sanchi or Bharhut, the Gandhara and Mathura schools can
have equally strong claims for sculpturing the first images of the Buddha.
With the transformation of Mahayana into Vajrayana in the seventh-
eighth century AD, a wide pantheon emerged which was further elaborated in
the 10th century AD. A number of gods and goddesses are described in the
Manjusri Mulakalpa, but it is in the Guhyasamaja that we find the idea of the
Buddhist pantheon properly and systematically developed. At the apex of the