Esoteric Buddhism is better known as Vajrayana Buddhism, from the Sanskrit meaning “Diamond Way.” This is the major form of Buddhism in Tibet, Mongolia, in the Russian states of Buryatia and Kalmykia. It is also a minority group within Buddhists in Japan (Shingon school). This is generally considered a third “yana” or “vehicle” in Buddhism. The other two are the Hinayana (“lesser vehicle”) and the Mahayana (“greater vehicle”). Most of the earlier forms of Hinayana have died out, though the stream that has continued into the present is now termed ‘Theravada’ to avoid the somewhat pejorative implication of a lesser vehicle. All of the varieties of esoteric Buddhism share much doctrine with the other two schools, especially the Mahayana schools, and to that add influences from the Pan-Indian spiritual movement known as Tantrism.
Tantrism was a development in Indian spirituality that came in reaction to the asceticism and restraint of typical Hindu or Buddhist practice. It is sometimes...
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