Newar Buddhism is to be classified in the tradition of Indian Vajrayana or Tantric Buddhism deriving its lineages from the Siddha tradition of N a landa and Vikramasila monastic universities. However, in course of time it has developed its own peculiar characteristics. One should not forget that Newar Buddhism possesses quite a number of indigenous elements, which are not to be found in Indian Mahayana Buddhism. Now, that Mahayana Buddhism has disappeared from Indian, Newar Buddhism that existed in the Kathmandu Valley represents one of the few traditions in the world and which has retained features inherited directly from India . At one time, all forms of Buddhism were believed to have been found in Nepal . At present, there are no celibate monks among the Newar Buddhists. The members of the particular community live in the Vihara and have retained its designation called Sangha.
There are two main caste communities among the Newar Buddhists namely Vajracarya (Master of the Thunderbolt) and Sakyabhiksu. The Vajra caryas were the masters of tantric Buddhism and ritual specialists whereas the Sakyabhiksus were Buddhist monks. The Vajracaryas played higher role than Sakyas because they were given additional initiation ( Acaluyegu ) on Buddhist tantra. Only the Male members of this community after having undergone through the rise monastic ordination (Skt: Cudakarma) become members of the Sakya and Vajracarya boys normally undergo this monastic on at the age of five, seven or nine. Elders of the monastery addressed as Sthavira Aju will give them Pravrajya Vrata or monastic initiation. The initiated boy stays in the monastery for 4, 10, 16, 20, and 25 years for Buddhist studies. After finishing the studies, he disrobes himself for lay Bodhisattva life. To facilitate his spiritual career, he goes through the marriage ceremony. When the couple receives instruction on Buddhist practices, they will be given Vajracarya Abbiseka or Acaryabhisaka . It forms one of the series of life cycle ritual. It should also be noted that Newar Buddhism has no place for higher ordination (Upasampada) by which a novice monk becomes a fully obtained Buddhist monk. Newar Buddhism has no place for monastic life except for the four days observance of Cudakarma ritual. In the eyes of the Buddhists and the Western educated persons, it seems to be a serious weakness.
Newar Buddhism has recently become the subject of great attraction for the foreigners. Siegfried Lienhard, David Gellner, Michael Allen and others pursued researches on different aspects of Newar Buddhism. Similarly, John K. Locke has also done a lot of significant researches on Vajrayana Buddhism of Nepal .
The unique features of Newar Buddhism and the validity of monasticism is analysed in this chapter. Newar Buddhists describe the structure of religion as integrated in the nature of Sravaka, Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions.
Sravakayana in Newar Buddhism
To explain the integrated behaviour of Newar Budddhism, it is befitting to give an account of monastic rites to be observed when young boys receive ordination of Cudakarma. Before the neophyte’s topknots (Nep: Tupi) are cut off, a ritualized exchange words the disciples and the preceptor takes place. It runs thus:
Oh! Guru, in accordance with your instructions, from this day, and until I have attained enlightenment, I shall go for Lord Buddha’s blessings ( Sri bhagavan yake darsana wane ). Thus, the Guru is requested.
The Guru says,
I of such-and-such name go for refuge to the Buddha. I go for refuge to the Dharma . I go for refuge to the Sangha . While this Mandala remains, give up desire (Skt: trnsa ). (You, as pupil should say) Oh! Lord, Oh! Guru, you are greatly compassionate. For the rest of my life, ten Akusala Karma must be given up, and other sins, various other words-now I shall save beings and so forth.
The pupil says, hearing this instruction Oh! Lord, Oh! Guru (as you are here) Killing and so on is despicable you say. Oh! Lord, Oh! Guru, you have graciously spoken, I must go.
The Sanskrit version of the ritual handbook runs as follows: The
Kulaputra idanim grhinama evam Pravrajyavratam Dharayam; Sakyo si va sakyoh?
(Now, son of good family, are you capable or not of taking up the observance of going forth as you should?)
The pupil says:
Bho AcÃƒÂ£rya mamatmane Pravrajyavratam vamcayami; krpam kuru tvam, aham itthamnama yavajjivam buddham bhagavantam
Mahakarunikam sarvajam sarvadarsinam sarvavairya Bhayatiam mahapursam abhedyakayarnniruttara-kayaim harmakayaq ara gacchami gaflnarti agram.
(Oh! My preceptor, I wish to undertake the observance of going forth. Please be compassionate. I of such and such name shall for the rest of my life go for refuge to the Lord Buddha who is greatly compassionate. Beyond the danger of all enemies, great men of indivisible body, of the ultimate body, foremost in all religious groups.)
The Guru says:
Sadhu sadhu kulaputra grhalingam parityajya
pravrajyalingam sakyo si trisatyam eva kuru.
(Well done, well done! Son of good family, swear three times that you are capable of abandoning the insignia of a householder and taking up the insignia of the going-forth.)
The pupil says:
Bho Acaryopadhyaya Pravrajyavratarp Sakyarni niscayam trisatyam.
(Oh! Preceptor and your assistant, I am capable of the observance of going forth, (I declare it is true) three times.
The Guru says:
Adhunaham pravaksyami srnu vatsa maharatah-vratacare kathascaiva paflcasiksa vidhiyate pranam hanyat na pibec ca madayarp mrsa na haret parasvam (Madanasvabhavam parisamisadya), Svargan ca gacched grhavat naranam, punas ca. Himsa kale tatha nunarn smanas vacas pi va).
(Now, I, the greatly delighted one, shall explain. Listen dear one, the five precepts followed in this observance are laid down with explanations. He should kill no living being, nor drink any alcohol, lies are not to be uttered, he should not take others’ goods. He should not actually. If he does all this, he goes to a heaven with other men though he be a householder. Furthermore, desire to kill even for a particular occasion even in mind or speech is wrong.)
Tasmat himsa na kuryani alpayus ca bhavet naram. Yada mayaratas caiva sarvajnanam parayate. Dhavamsanam sarvasastrani tasmat madayam na pibayet, mrsavadaratas caiva manyahinam sada bhaver. Tena mithya na sevanti duhkhapamkesu jayate. Paradravyanulbhena mahadubkhesu jayate. Daridravarnapamkesu paradravyani naharer. Kamakrda sadacari sada duhkhi bhavisyati. Sada bhayam sada kamam na sevayet. Iti upasakacarya.
(Therefore, desire to kill is not to be done. (Otherwise) a man’s life is short. When men are addicted to drinking, all knowledge and all learning is destroyed. Therefore, he should not drink alcohol. He who is addicted to telling lies will also be despised. His falsehood will be useless; he will be reborn in the mud of suffering. By covering what belongs to others one is reborn to great sufferings (sunk) in the mud of wretched untouchability, so, he should not take others’ things. He who is always indulging in sex and love games will always suffer. Forever fear, forever misery. Therefore, he should not pursue physical pleasure. This is the conduct of the layman.)
Then disciple promises:
Aham itthamnama yavajjivam Pravrajyavratam dharayami samana vaharantu mm Upadhyaya.
(I, of such and such name, for all my life take up the observance of going-forth. Bear witness for my assistant priest.)
After such a marvelous dialogue between the Guru and his disciple, the priest proceeds to perform necessary rituals
Now, the neophyte’s topknot is cut off with a gold plated razor while reciting; ‘Om sarva jnana avarana chedaya chedaya hum phat’ (Cut cut all obstacles to understanding)
The absence of topknot is perhaps the most crucial market of the distinction between Sakya, Vajracarya and the rest people of other castes in the Kathmandu Valley . After consecration by holy water from white conch shell, the boys are given a new name and three robes. They are given begging bowl and a staff (Silaku), which has an image of the Buddha (or of a Stupa) at the top. They are permitted to enter into the main shrine of the Vihara and pay homage to Kwapadyo (the main deity) and make offerings. Newar Buddhists are very much attached to this four-day observance of monastic ideal in order to maintain their Buddhist identity rather than to renounce the worldly desires and become a monk.
Duties of the Sakyabhiksu
The Sakyabhiksus who observe four days of going forth as part of the Vajrayana ritual, require observing specific duties:
- For the four days the Sakyabhiksus must beg alms daily,
- Must live the life of a Buddhist monk though they continue to live at home,
- Must observe the regulations of the diet of a monk
- Must avoid contact with unclean (association with dogs and shoes), and
- Must keep ten precepts.
The neophyte receives his first alms from the senior ten elders (Dasaparamita Sthavira Aju) of the Vihara Sangha and family priest. During the tenure of monkhood, he must visit the main shrine and pay homage to the Kwapadyo and make offerings.
On the fourth day, the neophyte returns to the lay life. The boy then gives up the begging bowl and staff, and takes off the robe. It is called Chudakarmavisarjana. Since the topknot is never maintained by Sakyabhiksus even after the disrobing ceremony they are given the status of Sakyabhiksu. The disrobing ceremony does not signify the abandonment of monastic vows but transition from Sravakayana to Mahayana practice. They remain as Bodhisattva for the rest of their lives.
It is difficult to pinpoint the exact time when the system of celibate monasticism disappeared in Nepal . But, it is certain that celibate monks existed during the seventh century. Chinese pilgrim Xuan Zang had mentioned in his travel diary that the number of Hinayana and Mahayana Buddhist monks were more than two thousand.
The inscription of Amsuvarma also confirms a conspicuous presence of Bhiksuni Sangha of Mahasanghika sect as well as Mahasanghika Bhiksu Sangha. The inscription mentions:
Tad prayojane ca caturvimsa Mahayana pratipanna Aryabhiksuni Sangha paribhaga akhayanivi.
Now, the question arises as to what was the Vinaya lineage of Newar Buddhist tradition. At present, we come across difficulty in parallel reference of the Chudakarma initiation with mahasanghika or Mulasarvastivada tradition. A newly discovered inscription in Bhaktapur also proves the presence of Mahasanghika Bhiksuni lineages.
Duties of the Sangha of Newar Buddhists
The duties of the elders are to oversee the daily, monthly, and annual Buddhist functions and festivals. They also organize initiation rituals as well as regular the Sangha.
All the male members who are initiated in a Mahavihara constitute the Sangha. Mahavihara has several Guthis including all the initiated members. The senior most member of the Vihara is addressed as Mahasthavira and Cakrevara. All other elders are addressed as Sthavira Aju.
In the Viharas of Kathmandu daily worship of the main deity enshrined in the Vihara is performed. At one time, the Viharas of the Kathmandu Valley had a complete schedule of rituals for the whole day. This is no longer in practice except at Jana Baba in Kathamandu and Kwa Baba in Patan. Among the ritual practices, the recitation of Namasangiti, Danagatha, Aparimita Dbaratni, Saptavidhanottara Puja Stotra, Dasaparamita Stotra and Buddha Trailokya Stotra occupy the foremost place. The recitation of Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita, Pancaraksa and Nava Sutra is the scriptural basis of Newar Buddhism. However, meditation on Samatha and Vipassana is definitely lacking among them. The Vajracaryas and Sakyas who receive initiation of Cakrasamvara tantra or those who receive the Acaluyegu initiation, however, meditate for some time on deity yoga and recite hymns. Nowadays, Vajracaryas or Sakyas very rarely retreat for intensive practice.
Duties of the Theravada Bhiksu Sangha
The Buddhist Sangha has played a role of immense significance in keeping alive the Buddha teachings and continuation of the lineage. Every Buddhist monastic community has certain common religions practices. It is brief and simple in Theravada monastries. For an instance, Buddha Puja, and Paritrana as well as Mangal Sutra recitation and Kathinotsava are very simple Theravada rituals. On regular occasions, Theravada monks give instructions on the practice of Samatha and Vipassana meditations for lay followers.
Duties of the Sangha in Tibetan Buddhism
In most of the Tibetan monasteries, monks usually gather with the morning bell at about 4 O’clock in the morning. They clean up the floor and prostrate in front of the main deity. Then, water bowls and butter lamps are offered. Then they recite texts praying the Guru, Vajrasattva, Ta and the Aparimitayu Buddha. The forms of Guru Yoga (Padmasambhava and his lineage in case the of Nyingma-pa tradition) may vary in each tradition. After a formal group recitation, some meditate until 8 O’clock . If sponsors have some specific Puja this routine is broken. Sometimes they go out at the request of sponsors. In some monasteries, novices ( thaba ) usually learn Tibetan grammar and English in the afternoon. They also practice recitation of small ritual texts.
Around 5 to 7p.m. monks assemble for performing the Puja of protective deities like Mahakala and so forth. Sometimes monks have to perform the Puja on the founder’s birthday (Drubchen) ceremonies. The ceremonial rituals may continue sometime even for two months at the most and a week at least. For Sakyapa, ceremony of Hevajra lasts for ten days.
In Gelug-pa monasteries, especially in the Kopan monastery where training facilities are available for resident monks, full time study programmes are conducted. They focus on studying philosophy, debate, English, Tibetan, Nepali language and thangka painting. monks are trained to become teachers, meditation masters and translators.
In some famous Kagyu and Nyingma monasteries particularly in Kyaning and Sechen monasteries in the Bouddha area, resident monks and novices do have the opportunity to study Bodhicaryavatara of Santideva and Pramanavartika of Dharmakirti. Most of the monasteries are run by the support and donations received from individual benefactors and sponsors. The Abbot of each monastery holds responsibility for the functioning of the monastery.
It should be noted that Tibetan Buddhist monasticism is also based on Mahayana and Vajrayana tradition. It has two types of Buddhist monks: celibate Buddhist monks and tantric Buddhist masters with consorts. Both of them wear maroon robes.
To become a Buddhist Master one should thoroughly go for training under a competent Buddhist Master and should undertake retreats for at least three years. In short, they should have some degree of realization. When his realization is authenticated by lineage Guru, he is authorized to act as the Vajra Master. Because of high degree of realization of the tantric knowledge and profound doctrine, they are conferred higher status. This tradition is valid and substantiated by the Buddhist Sutras and tantras.
To cite a few examples, in the seventh century, Candrakirti revered Master Candragomin for his proficiency and dexterity in the Namasangiti doctrine. Gampopa revered Guru Milarepa as his root Guru of the realization of Mahamudra. Ven. Rwa-Lotsaba (Rwa Lotsaba Dorse-grags) revered Nepalese Vajracarya Bharo for his realization of Vajrabhairava doctrine. He also revered his Guru Mahakaruna (Ye Rang ba) of Patan. He mastered in Samputa tantra, Cakrasamvara, Heruka abhyudayanama, Vajrabhairava tantra and several other tantras. The Vinaya lineage of Tibetan tradition is the Mulasarvastivada tradition.
Mahayana / Vajrayana
Newar Buddhists, like the Buddhists everywhere, take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. In the Mahayana and Vajrayana context, the Buddha, is of course, Sakyamuni. In Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism, the five Tathagatas (Panca Buddhas) are well-known in rituals than the historical Buddha.
The Dharma is realization of Prajnopaya namely unity of and skilful means. The important Sutras are the Vaipulya these Sutras. These Sutras are recited at various times, and at the same time, the Sutras texts are also worshipped. In fact, worship is favoured than scholarly study.
The Sangha is, of course, the Bodhisattva Sangha. Much of the devotional life of the people revolves around the worship of eight Bodhisattvas focusing on Avalokitesvara and Manjusri. Avalokitesvara is recognized as the chief of eight Bodhisattvas. He is the representative of the Sangha of Bodhisartvas. In Newar Buddhist tradition, Sravaka Sangha is excluded in the same way as Bodhisattva Sangha is excluded in Theravada Buddhism.
The rationale behind the abandonment of Sravaka practice is the disrobing ceremony of Cudakarma. As part of the ritual, there is always a dialogue between the Gum and the disciple. It thus goes-
‘Oh! Lord Guru! By your grace, I have undertaken the vow of going forth, have given up the ten unproductive sins in accordance with the five and eight precepts and have carried out the disciple’s path. Now I shall take up the path of Mahayana.’
The Guru says –
‘Very good, lay disciple, rake up the path of Mahayana. Take up the practice of the great Lord of Liberation, the Guru Vajrasattva, Lord of Mystic Circle. What is the practice of the Mahayana like? Listen! I will tell you the most fundamental of religious practices. Mahayana goal can never be fulfilled without a consort. Nor can the Mahayana practice or its observance be complete without tantric initiation. Know how much more tantric initiation is necessary for liberation. Therefore, you know the ultimate god and god take up the practice of Mahayana and abandon that of the Sravaka.
The Buddha often placed Dharma first and then the Vinaya. According to the Buddha, Vinaya is the most important part in the Tripitahka for the survival of Buddhism. Vinaya rules are used for collective practice of the Sangha. Dharma is for inward development and the attainment of good life.
Celibacy is considered to be holy and good in most religions of the world, especially in the Buddhist Sangha of Theravada and Mahayana tradition. As Buddhism has spread in Western countries, the practice of Celibacy is being critically questioned for the first time. In those places, many people consider that the voluntary abstention from sexual activity is strange or unnatural. If celibacy is a necessary Buddhist religious ideal, it is not practicable in the case of Japanese and Korean monks and Tibetan Lamas whose marriages are accepted. Are they all subject to ostracism as sinner then?
History shows that the practice of Celibacy is as old as that of ascertism. Thus, the practice is much older than the time of the historical Buddha. At the time of Buddha’s birth, there were ascetics who practiced celibacy as a spiritual discipline required for the attainment of enlightenment. Although celibacy was quite common, the practice was very strict since some seers of India took wives to practice asceticism in solitary places. When Buddha taught celibacy as important commitment, it was held in highest regard for its own sake as well as for the pleasing impression it created among the pious lay people. Once the strict practice of celibacy was prescribed and made a rule, its transgression was regarded as a sinful thing.
In the first sermon, the Buddha mentioned sexual intercourse as low act performed by common people. He said that indulgence in sensual pleasures and the practice of self-torture are both extreme practices. All extremes are inconsistent with the Middle Path of Buddhism. In the Theravada tradition, all kinds of sexual behaviour are prohibited.
Only celibates are proper candidates for ordination. Remaining aloof from sensual pleasures, a monk can devote fully to spiritual development. If he is not active in spiritual practices there nothing special about his monkhood. It is waste of both time and energy.
According to Parajika rules of Vinaya, the ordained monks who violate celibacy lose the status of a monk. He cannot attain Nirvana. It should be noted that the ultimate aim of the practice of celibacy is to eradicate mental defilements, which leads to the path of Nirvana.
In Newar Buddhist tradition, Bahis are said to be the repositories of celibate monastic tradition. If celibate monks decided to become householder monks, they would leave monastery and join a Bahi. According to John K. Locke, two institutions namely celibate and non-celibate monks existed side by side. As a result of dominance of becoming non-celibate monks, the number of celibate monks (Brahmacarya Bhiksu) decreased). However, the celibate community was always in minority.
In Mahayana/Vajrayana Buddhism, the Buddha advocated the path of transformation from ordinary to the advance status of Bodhisattvas. He taught the doctrine of Great Bliss and Emptiness to attain the state of Buddhahood (Skt: Apratisthita Nirvana i.e. non-abiding Nirvana). In this teaching, Buddha Vajradhara made use of sexual bliss to take the path to enlightenment. Tantric Buddhists regard the practice of tantra as authentic in view, meditation, practice and function. This idea is regarded blameless as far as the middle path philosophy of Buddhism is concerned.
Newar Buddhism – the Lay Bodhisattva Practice
It seems that Mahayana or particularly Vajrayana Buddhism made a provision for lay Buddhist monkhood which became very popular in the Kathmandu Valley . The validity of this tradition was also corroborated by Acarya Santideva in Sikasamuccaya. It mentions:
Punaraparam kulaputra bhavisyanti anagata
Adhavani grhastha pravajita adikarmika Bodhisattva.
(Again, oh, sons of the family, in the future, there will be a householder monks, a beginner-practitioner Bodhisattva.)
Concerning the Adikarmika Bodhisattva, Pandit Anupamvajra stands prominent. His work had a great influence on Nepalese Buddhist tradition. It should be noted that Adikarmapradipah, composed in 1098 A.D. by Acarya Anupamvajra has profound impact on the daily practice of Newar Buddhists. To state briefly, Adikarmapradipah deals with following practices of Newar Buddhists).
- Taking refuge in Triple Gems (Triratna:Buddha, Dharma, and
- Reciting Namasangiti
- To recite Bhadracarya Pranidhana
- To offer Preta bali
- To circumambulate Caitya, Buddha’s images etc.
- To perform Guru Mandala rite
- To meditate on tutelary deity
- To recite Prajnaparamita and other Mahayana Sutras
- To recite Danagatha (stories on generosity)
- To perform Bodhisattva practices joyfully
- To study Buddhist scriptures
- Offering prayers to Triple Gems and tutelary deity before eating
- Offering fivefold prostration to the Buddha in ten directions, and
- Sleeping in a lion’s posture after meditating on deity Yoga
According to the Newar Buddhist tradition, the Sakya and Vajracaryas do not cease to be called monks even after abandoning monastic life. Passing from the stare of celibate Bhiksu to household Bhiksu, the term Barebhiksu and Sakyabhiksu are refer to their status. In the disrobing ceremony, following uttered about the status of Bhiksu.
“You have gone through Sravakayana and now you have come to Mahayana, the greatest of the Buddhist Yanas. You have participated in some Vajrayana rituals and after going through some higher ordinations you will know what Crkrasamvara is.”
Asita’s Teachings and Newar Buddhism
Atisa, who wrote Bodhisattva Karmdimargavatra also prounded the concept of the Adikarmika Bodhisattva practice. Since Anupamavajra and Advayavajra were contemporary scholars of Atisa, both of them borrowed the idea of lay Bodhisattva practice from him.
- Atisa first emphasized the practice of refuge and generation of Bodhicitta on the basis of sevenfold practice (Skt: Saptavidhanottara Puja) Newer Buddhists are proficient in performing Sattvapuja (verse 5 of Adikarmapradipah).
- He also promulgated the theory of moderation of consuming food habits and food offerings to Gurus and three jewels (Adikarmapradipah verses 10 and 11).
- One should recite profound Mahayana Sutras intending to teach the entire sentient beings (Adikarmapradrpah verse no. 7)
- One should practice the act of fivefold prostration to Triple Gems with a view to liberate all other sentient beings and should sleep in lion’s posture (Caryasamgrahapradipah verse 14).
- One should practice the unity of Samatha and Vipasana realize the emptiness of all body and the ephemeral nature of all phenomena.
- Offering food to tutelary deities and Dharmapala is fundamental daily practice of Adikarmika Bodhisattva.
These references attest char Atisa’s teaching had a great influence on Newar Buddhism. Atisa’s reformation in Buddhist monasticism is well-known in Tibet . He tried his best to uplift Buddhist monasticism during his sojourn in Nepal . He composed Caryasamgrahapradipah and Vimalaratnalekbanama to enhance the monastic ideal Buddhism. He strongly prohibited taking initiation of highest Yoga tantra. Later, Anupamvajra superseded Atisa’s influence because of the his tantric teachings.
Decline of Celibate Monasticism
Question arises on the reasons which led Newar Buddhists to prefer to become householder monks rather than practice celibate monasticism. Some of the Buddhist historians opine that celibate monasticism tended to cease after King Jayasthiti Malla (1382-95) introduced social reforms in Nepal based on the Hindu caste system. However, another section of Nepalese historians believe Jayasthiti Malla alone had not wiped out celibate monastic Newer Buddhism. The decline of celibate monasticism in Nepal started long before his reign. He was held responsible for the disappearance of celibate monastic tradition because he activated so-called social reformation. It is assumed that there were only a few celibate monks even during Atisa’s visit to Nepal . One of his fellow monks Atisa to promulgate non-tantric Mahayana Buddhist doctrine in Nepal . Accepting his request, Atisa composed Caryasatrigradipah to comfort him.
There might have been two main reasons for the decline of celebate monastic practice among the Newar Buddhists. These include the lacks of royal patronage, and the impact of Vajrayana tantric practice.
Lack of Royal Patronage
If the historical backgrounds of other Buddhist countries of Asia is analysed, it becomes clear that strong patronage of the rulers is essential in order to maintain celibate monastic community. While considering the events since the Buddha’s period, we find that monastic pities were patronized by King Prasenajit, King Bimbisara, King Ajatasatru, Emperor Asoka, King Kaniska and King Harsa Vardhana, and some Pala and Sena Kings too had patronized the Buddhist Sangha.
When Islamic invasion took place in India , they not only ransacked but also thoroughly destroyed the Buddhist monastic sites. Due to the lack of supporters, Buddhist Sangha could not thrive in India . Consequently, it completely disappeared at the end of 12 th century.
Buddhist Sangha flourished with the support of Kings and wealthy patrons in Tibet , Sri Lanka , Thailand , Myanmar and in some Southeast Asian countries. The decline in the monastic community is attributed to the withdrawal of patronage by the rulers. The same reason played a role in the decline of celibate monastic practice among the Newar Buddhists. Due to the lack of support from the Hindu rulers of the Kathmandu Valley , celibate monastic tradition could not survive.
Impact of Vajrayana tantric practice
To deal with celibate monasticism of the period from 880 to 1200 A.D. will be more speculative because no historical evidence of that period is available.
The emergence of Vajrayana Buddhism and the cults associated with it were distinctly visible in that period due to the impact of Mahasiddha tradition of highest Yoga tantra both in Nepal and India . The rise of Vajrayana Buddhism paved the way for the growth of non-celibate monastic tradition in India , Nepal and Tibet till the advent of Atisa (982-1054). Along with the rise of Vajrayana Buddhism, celibate monastic practice began to dwindle. As a matter of fact, it slowly disappeared from the Newar Buddhist community in Nepal . It completely disappeared by the end of 15 th century.
The transitional period of Nepalese history witnessed the rise of several outstanding Buddhist scholars well versed in tantric Buddhism. Nepalese Buddhist scholars had constant relations with their counterpart in India and Tibet .
According to the Nyingma tradition, Guru Padmasambhava visited Sankhu, Pharping and other places in the Kathrna and diffused tantric Buddhist teachings. He took two female called Sakyadevi and Kalasiddhi as his consorts for the practice of Atiyoga Sadhana.
Guru Pindapa and Chitherpa were the famous and gifted disciples of tantricist Naropa of Nalanda University. Marpa, the great translator of Tibet had stayed in the Kathmandu Valley for three years to study Anuttara Yoga tantra under Paindapa and Chitherpa. He received teachings on Catuhpitha tantra and Cakrasamvara tantra from these Nepalese Gums at Ratnakara Mahavihara ( Hakha Baha ) in Patan.
The study of highest Yoga tantra had been a common curriculum of tantric studies. It is said that the practice of highest Yoga tantra is not accessible to common people. For those who lacked necessary qualification, the tantra practice is extremely dangerous. Such people can greatly harm themselves if they enter into such tantric practices. The 14 th Dalai Lama cautions that such tantra is not appropriate for the minds of many. If one’s mental continuum has not been ripened by the practices common to both Sutra and tantra for the on of suffering, impermanence, refuge, love, compassion, mind generation, and emptiness of inherent existence, the practice of tantra can be ruinous. Therefore, the free dissemination of tantra is prohibited. The practitioners must maintain secrecy from those who not the vessels of this path.
Those who are judged to be suitable receptacles for tantric initiations have to take the oath of secrecy. The initiates are required to take s series of vows (Samaya), one of which is not to reveal tantric teaching openly. The promised retributions for breaking the vows painful suffering in Vajra hell. It is reserved for those who transgress tantric promises. The study of tantra involves taking many initiations. Four of the most important initiations are:
Kalasabhiseka (Vase empowerment)
Guhyabhiseka (Secret empowerment)
Prajnabhiseka (Wisdom empowerment), and
Sabdabhiseka (Word empowerment)
The Kalaubhiseka involves giving initiation using water in a vase. This empowerment is common in all four sets of tantra. The other three empowerments are used only in the highest yoga receiving the vase initiation one attains the rank of Nirmanakaya body of the Buddha.
The secret, wisdom and word empowerments sometimes involve the practice with Karmamudra (actual consorts) and ingestion of impure substances. The Karmudra and substances may be either imagined or real. In the Nepalese tradition the use of real Karmamudra is stressed while taking Acaryabhiseka. The followers of tantra use desire in the path of enlightenment. They can transform energy of sexual desire into blissful wisdom consciousness. Through the deity Yoga, they enhance the experience of wisdom and compassion. The ultimate goal is to attain Buddhahood in one life time. Since these things involve sexual practices, the vow of celibacy is threatened. Thus, Atisa strongly prohibited practicing highest Yoga tantra endangers celibacy. He preferred to follow the lay Bodhisattva life for the practice of highest Yoga tantra. The Boddhipathapradiph mentions.
For attaining Bodhisamvara in a simple way, it has been set forth in the Kriya-Carya ways. If one is desirous practice of Guhyamantra by pleasing the Guru, receives complete Acarydbhiseka. Blessed thus, you will purify all the negativities and become a suitable achieve realization. In Adi Buddha Mahatantra, it is mentioned that secret wisdom initiation is not the privilege of celibate monks. If the ordained one who abides by the asceticism receives that initiation, the vow of asceticism will degenerate due to the practices of restrictions. The practitioner will be defeated, downfall will arise, due to which he will fall down the lower realms and never will re be realization.
If this is so, Newar Buddhists do not prefer to take the risk of being a celibate monk and at the same time practice Anuttara Yoga tantra. So their preference to be a lay Bodhisattva practitioner is most likely. Atisa also gives option that for the adherents of monasticism who were highly advanced practitioners, and who had obtained permission from the authentic Master, there was no prohibition to receive initiations and practice tantra. Later on, tantric Masters began to confer these initiations without caking notice of the qualification of the aspirants. This gradually led to the decline of celibate monastic the Vajrayana tradition of the Newars.
It is true that the lay Bodhisattva practice is a valid tradition authenticated by Siksasamuccaya of Santideva. Thus, Newar Buddhism cannot be denigrated as the corrupt form of Buddhism. All forms of religious principles are followed by Newar Buddhists.
However, it is necessary for them to revive as well as receive the once lost teachings of tantric Buddhism from Tibetan Buddhist Masters in order to bridge the gap of the lineage of practice that has been ignored since many centuries.
If the tradition of celibate monasticism revives, the structure of Newar Buddhism can be complete. In order to achieve this goal, a good relations and interaction with the Theravada and Tibetan monks is essential.
The four days observance of monastic vows is too symbolic in character. It lacks the foundation of monastic upgrading. So, the Theravada monks who were trained in Burma , Thailand and Sri Lanka even criticize that Newar Buddhist monasticism has no base. The basis of such a harsh criticism is that Vajracaryas and Sakyas are only the lay Buddhists but monks.