This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

The Tibetan canon

As the name suggests, this collection of scriptures is utilized by the Buddhism of Tibet, throughout the Himalayas, and in Mongolia.

We could perhaps classify Tibetan Buddhism as a part of the Mahayana, but their canon is not derivative of the Chineses. It was rather put down in Tibet from translations originating in India. There are two parts to this canon (as opposed to the tripartite division in the Mahayana and Theraveda canons).

First, the Kangyur, which is a translation of the words of the Buddha, containing a Sutra and a Vanaya section; and then the Tengyur, which contains the teachings of the Buddha not considered to be direct quotes, for example commentaries on the sutras. With the two-part Kangyur and the Tengyur, we approach something analogous to the Tripitaka.

Here we will mention the Tibetan Book of the Dead (Bardo Thodol), which is not part of the canon, so to speak, but is very well-known in the West. It describes the experiences of the dying person on throughout the first 49 days after death, and describes funerary practices, etc.

We must also include mention of the Vajrayana texts used in Tibetan Buddhism, although we will explain their nature and relevance in a section dedicated to the doctrine and method of that branch. For now, we will say that these texts are related to Tantric Buddhism and it is from this word that the term ‘diamond way’ is derived. Vajrayana will be found to contain the more uniquely Tibetan practices of spiritual alchemy that have no equal.

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