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The Cult of the Deity Vajrakila.

This is a book rich in content that deals with an important figure in a widely practiced ritual by all Buddhist sects in Tibet. The presentation begins with an account of the historic foundation and reveals the author's careful research of all available texts relevant to the study of this figure, amongst which the Byang-gter chronicles with their psychological narratives and religious symbolism play a decisive role.

The Vajrakila figure itself is an archetypal image that goes back to the oldest recorded literature in India, the Rgveda, where Indra, the leader of the Aryan hordes destroying the indigenous civilization, is said to have slain Vrtra and stabilized the earth by pinning it down with a kila, a nail, or peg, or spike. The Buddhists took over this image and used its material representation as a magical protection of a site for a temple by means of wooden pegs and strings to mark the ground-plan. Sir Aurel Stein discovered such pegs with loops of strings in ancient watch-towers north of Dunhuang, dating back to the first century B.C.E. Today such pegs, usually made of bronze, are stuck into the ground before the door of the room in which the meditator wants to meditate undisturbed and protected from "evil" influences.

Another valuable contribution is the detailed discussion of the so-called empowerment ritual (dbang). In spite of the bloodcurdling language, the imagery used - in part, derived from the literal component of language - is strictly psychological. The author's unfamiliarity with psychology, archetypal psychology in particular, is reflected by his wrong use of the word "secret" in the triarchic pattern of "outward" (phyi), "inward" (nang), and "secret" (gsang). There is nothing "secret" in what is said to be gsang, even if the modern cultist, be he a Westerner or an Easterner, makes the most of secret-mongering and mystification. As in Western mystical literature, this word means that one has to experience for oneself in order to know (non-egologically).

It would go far beyond the scope of a review to list the many positive observations of the author. Suffice it to say that he substantiates his claims by original texts, some of which are given in transliteration in appendix II, while appendix I lists the three collections of the Byang-gter Vajrakila literature.

In conclusion, it can be unequivocally stated that this careful study breathes a much needed and long overdue amount of fresh air into the prevailing emptiness-nihilism miasma and its politically motivated and propagated misrepresentation of historical facts.

COPYRIGHT 1997 American Oriental Society
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Copyright 1997 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Guenther, Herbert
Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 1997
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