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Parallels between Vajrayana and Western Magic in the Maha-Vairocana Abhisambodhi Tantra

I’ve been reading a translation of the Maha-Vaircocana Abhisambodhi Tantra by Stephen Hodges. This is one of the root tantras used in China (when Tantric Buddhism existed there) and Japan. The ritual work that I do is ultimately derived from it along with some other sources. In my experience within the Tibetan tradition, since translations of the tantras are so uncommon, most people have never read them. In that tradition as well, given a thousand years of commentary and elaboration, many lamas seem not to bother either. They focus on the later material.

If any of my pagan or magician friends want to see the parallels between the magical traditions of the West and those of Buddhism, look below. This is part of the description on how the master practitioner lays out or visualizes the mandala of the deities before doing the ritual work to transform into the primary deity. It ought to seem rather familiar in tone and in some of the structural elements.

Chapter X: The Wheel of Letters

Verse 19

Having done the ritual to transform the colours, he should make the mudra or mantra of the Blessed Lady Prajna-paramita and recite this Vidya Queen eight times. Then arising from [that samadhi], he should circumambulate the Mandala and enter within. With the power of great kindness and compassion, he should focus his attention upon the trainee practitioners (sadhaka) and transform himself into the Action Vajra-sattva with Va, together with Varada-vajra, and then he should draw the Mandala which Arises from Great Compassion. For that, the specifications of the inner mandala are as follows: In the centre there is the Bhagavat Maha-Vairocana, seated upon a white loture, with topknot and crown, wearing a lower garment of cotton or silk and an upper garment of embroidered silk. He is encircled by an aura which shines like gold in colour. He should draw either his mudra, his body-image, or his syllable. Of this, his syllable is A. In the east, the letter A with an anusvara, the essence of the dharmakaya of all the Buddhas: AM. In the north-east, he should draw the Mother of all the Buddhas, the Blessed Lady Gagana-locana, or else her syllable GA. In the south-east, he should draw the symbol of all the Bodhisattvas, the Wish-fulfilling Gem, or its syllable KA. In the north, he should draw a lotus symbol or the syllable SA for the Bodhisattva Padmapani together with all the Bodhisattvas who are held back by one birth. In the south there are three sections. He should draw the vajra symbol or the syllable VA for the Lord of the Secret Ones together with his vajra entourage. In those three sections, he should draw the symbol of all the Vajradharas or the letter HUM. Below the Bhagavat Vairocana he should draw either the symbol or syllable of Acala who is seated upon a crag, holding a sword and a noose in his hands, and who is encircled with a blazing aura, threatening all obstructors. His syllable is HAM. In the north-west he should draw either the symbol or the syllable of the destroyer of great obstructors, Trailokya-vijaya. He has a flaming aura above, which is like the fire at the time of the Great Destruction. He causes absolute terror. In his hands he holds a vajra that radiates light. His syllable is HA. Then in the four directions, the four great Guardians should be arranged. In the east he should draw either the symbol or the syllable of the great guardian Abhaya, like gold in colour, wearing white garments, with a slightly fierce face and holding a staff in hand. His seed syllable is CA. In the north he should draw the symbol or syllable of Sarva-trasa-vinasa, coloured white, holding a sword in his hand, wearing white garments, with a blazing aura that destroys all fear. His syllable is GA. In thw west he should draw the symbol or syllable of Durdharsa, coloured like red asoka flower, wearing red garments, with a smiling face, looking at the mandala of the entire assembly. His syllable is SAH. In the south he should draw the symbol or syllable of Vajradanta-damaka, the great guardian, black in colour, with a face wrinkled in wrath, wearing a black lower garment, with a crown and topknot, who causes all world systems to be illumined with his lustre, holding a club in his hand and destroying the great obstructors. His syllable is KSA. They should be accompanied by their entourages and their servants, all seated upon white lotuses.

Following this and more mandala creation (which is layered on this), the master of the ritual generates bodhicitta (loving kindness towards all beings or the mind of enlightenment), makes the appropriate mudras and transforms himself ritually in tothe action form of Vajrasattva.