- Most of the important Mahayana sutras (Buddhist scriptures that include teachings by the Buddha)
- The Mahayana concept of of bodhisattvas. That is, one's personal goal is not to achieve Nirvana. It is to almost achieve enlightenment, but to make the decision to return to the world in their next reincarnation in order to help others reach enlightenment.
- The concept that Buddhism is to be practiced by both monks and the laity.
A Practitioner "... tries to identify with the enlightened body, speech and mind of a buddha." 2 Unlike Theravada Buddhism in which the practitioner is expected to take many lifetimes before reaching nirvana, Vajrayana and Mahayana Buddhism teach that one can attain full Buddhahood much quicker -- sometimes in a single lifetime.
According to Wikipedia:
"Vajrayana relies partially on various tantric techniques rooted in scriptures known as tantras." A sadhana is the means by which the sadhaka (practitioner) can attain enlightenment. A sadhana may include:"
- Verbal repetition of mantras (special ritual phrases). These help clear the mind and connect the practitioner to the spiritual. The most famous mantra is "Om mani padme hum."
- Mani wheels -- prayer wheels -- contain multiple repetitions of the mantra in printed form. Spinning the wheel releases the mantra to the universe.
- The use of various yoga techniques, including:
- Pranayama -- breath control,
- Yantra -- typically a picture consisting of a series of nested geometrical shapes, and
- Mudras -- a symbolic gesture made with the hand or fingers.
- Visual aids, such as cosmic mandala diagrams that represent the world in pictorial form. They help the practitioner awaken their spiritual potential.
- Symbolic tools and musical instruments the use of Ritual Objects such as the vajra (thunderbolt), ghanta (bell), phurba (ritual dagger), damaru (hand drum), etc.
- Specialized rituals rooted in Vajrayana cosmology and beliefs.
- An esoteric Relationship between the chela (student) with a guru (teacher), who gradually releases hidden or inner knowledge to the initiate.
- Oral teachings given by a tantric master.
- Meditation on the Yidam.
Vajrayanists feel that the best way to achieve the goal of overcoming desire, and to work towards enlightenment, may be to experience desire "... fully and thereby drain it of every mystery." 5 One technique involves Tantric sex. This includes sexual intercourse with the goal of spiritual growth rather than sexual pleasure. More details.
Vajrayana Buddhists celebrate New Years, harvest festivals and anniversaries of five important events in the life of the Buddha.
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