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date: 17 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Tibetan Buddhism is characterized by an extensively diverse corpus of contemplative practices that draws from over one thousand years of Indian historical developments in Buddhist philosophical discourse and experimentation with contemplative techniques. Traditions of Chinese and Central Asian Buddhism also played a role in influencing some of the contents and structure of the Tibetan Buddhist canon that contains a voluminous collection of exoteric and esoteric meditations. The purpose of Tibetan Buddhist meditations (sgom pa) is to progress toward the cherished goal of Mahāyāna: to lead oneself and all others to liberation. In order to offer a general and useful overview of meditations across Indo-Tibetan lineages and schools, this chapter will resort to emic categories of classification, such as the distinction between exoteric (sutra) and esoteric (tantra), and between meditations with and without a “reference object” (sgom bya). By invoking traditional categories of distribution we will come to appreciate how Tibetan scholars and practitioners have organized and understood the rich Buddhist heritage they have inherited. At the end, we will consider rituals (cho ga), even if they are not strictly classified as meditation techniques, as an in-between category where contemplation is an integral part of the performance.

Keywords: Tibetan meditations, Vajrayāna, Mahāyāna, Tibet, esoteric Buddhist rituals, exoteric Buddhist doctrines

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