David Gray

in Buddhism

ISBN: 9780195393521
Published online September 2010 | | DOI:

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The traditions of literature and practice associated with the siddhas, the “accomplished ones” or great masters (mahāsiddha), played a central role in the development of both Buddhist and Hindu tantric traditions. Active from about the 8th through the 12th centuries, these legendary figures are widely believed to have revealed new scriptural collections and practice traditions. They are characterized by unconventional but heroic behavior, their dedication to their spiritual pursuits, and their achievement of magical powers (siddhi), such as flight. Both Buddhists and Hindus compiled lists of eighty-four mahāsiddhas and attribute many of their traditions of tantric yogic practice to them. Although little is known about these figures in a historically verifiable sense, rich collections of hagiographies, practice texts, and song collections attributed to them have been preserved, and they thus constitute an extremely important facet of the early history of tantric Buddhist traditions. They have also inspired a considerable amount of artistic production. Additionally they have been emulated by later practitioners, most notably in Tibet, including a number of famous saints who followed directly in their footsteps.

Article.  6575 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism ; Tibetan Buddhism ; Zen Buddhism

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