Encyclopedia of Psychology and Religion

2020 Edition
| Editors: David A. Leeming

Buddhism’s Vajrayāna: Tantra

  • John ThompsonEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-24348-7_9348

Vajrayāna, the “thunderbolt vehicle,” is probably the most exotic of the three major branches of Buddhism. Much of the attraction to this style of Buddhism, both to “insiders” and “outsiders,” stems from the role of Tantras, texts describing complex meditations and rituals, as well as the evocative symbolism and transgressive behavior associated with them. To a large extent, these aspects reflect the infusion of non-Buddhist practices from various Indian religious movements; doctrinally speaking, Vajrayāna does not differ appreciably from Mahāyāna. Since Vajrayāna remains the dominant religion in the Himalayan region (Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, etc.), this discussion will use Sanskrit and Tibetan technical terms.


Often considered the secret teachings of the Buddha, the Tantras were likely composed more than a thousand years after the historical Buddha’s passing. The term tantraitself is Sanskrit for “fabric/woven” and refers to practices that weave together body, speech, and mind...

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Christopher Newport UniversityNewport NewsUSA