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Esoteric transmission (initiation) is a technique used by Vajrayana Buddhists to attain accelerated Buddhahood. This may alternatively be referred to as "pointing out", "pointing out transmission", or "introduction to the nature of mind". Senior Shambhala Buddhist teacher Jeremy Hayward describes this as "a direct pointing out of the nature of mind, that is mind's simplicity and universality—all appearances arise within the mind and in that sense there is nothing other than mind, yet mind itself is emptiness, openness beyond concept."
This conspicuous aspect of Vajrayana Buddhism is esoteric. In this context esoteric means that the transmission of certain accelerating factors only occurs directly from teacher to student during an initiation and cannot be simply learned from a book. The term adhisthana (literally "blessing") refers to the spiritual energy that is received in the mindstream of the aspirant when successful transmission takes place.
The esoteric transmission framework can take varying forms. The Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism uses a method called Dzogchen. Other Tibetan Kagyu schools and the Shingon school in Japan use an alternative method called Mahamudra.
Many techniques are also commonly said to be secret, but some Vajrayana teachers have responded that the secrecy itself is not important but only a side-effect of the reality that the techniques have no validity outside the teacher-student lineage. As these techniques are said to be highly effective, when not practiced properly, the practitioner can be harmed physically and mentally. In order to avoid these kind of dangers, the practice is kept secret. The esoteric aspects of Vajrayana Buddhism results in several alternative names for Vajrayana: Secret Buddhism, Esoteric Mahayana, Secret Mantrayana, and Esoteric Buddhism (the most common name in Japan).
- Hayward, Jeremy (2008) "Warrior-King of Shambhala: Remembering Chögyam Trungpa" ISBN 0861715462
- Empowerment as explained at khandro.net
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