Since 1978 I have had several chances to visit the Kathmandu Valley. Where I have been able to observe Mahayan Buddhist tradition alive today on a considerable large scale. Apparently, the Buddhism in the Valley. Which has been preserved and developed bay the Newar people has a form close to that of Indian Mahayana Buddhism. Of course one should not forget that the Newar Buddhism possesses a number of indigenous elements which are not found in Indian Mahayana Buddhism. Nonetheless, no one can deny that the present form of the Newar Buddhism has retained a lot of the so-called "Indian elements." For example a huge number of Sanskrit manuscripts have been preserved in the Valley and considerable number of Newar Pndits are able to read the Buddhist canons written in Sanskrit. Now that Mahayana Buddhism has disappeared from India. Newar Buddhism in the Kathmadu Valley represents one of the few traditions which has retained features inherited directly from India. And one fo the most striking of these features is the Preservation of the mandala.


Judging from the descriptions found in the first group of Tantras called "Kriyatantra" one may guess the simplest form of mandala was made in the fourth or the fifth century. Probably the mandala the earliest stage was something like small altar where the icons or symbols of several deities were installed according to a simple instruction. The Vairocanasutra  which has been thought to date from around the seventh century and is considered as representing the second tgroup of Tantras called "carya-tantra" describes a fairly complicated mandala named "grbha-udbhava".  The form of the outerframe of he mandala is square not round as seen in the case of Newar or Tibetan mandalas preserved today. The most important mandala in the history of Tantric Buddhism is the Vajradhatu Mandala, which is drawn on the basis of the Tattvasamgraha (around the seventh century) the champion of the third group of Tantras called "yoga-tantra". The Garbha-udbhava and the Vajradhatu Mandalas were introduced by Kukai into Japan in the beginning of the ninth century. Since then the two mandalas have been treated as the two most basic mandalas in Japanese Tantric Buddhism (cf.Figures 1,2) The form of Japanese Garbha-udbhava and the Vajradhatu Mandalas are also square not round. From the eight or ninth century on wards the fourth group of Tantras called "anuttarayoga-tantra" were flourished in India, Nepal and Tibet. Here into Japan however the fourth group of Tantras was not introduced until the Meiji Period. 


 Back to top