Guhyasamaja Tantra

Sanskrit guhyasamaja: Secret Observances
Tib., gsang ba 'dus pa: Assembly of Secrets

This assembly of secrets is probably the earliest and most important of Buddhist Tantric scriptures; attributed to Asanga, the 4th century Yogacara master. This treatise, sometimes simply referred to as the Samaja Tantra but also as Tathagata Guhyaka, represents one of the root texts that were instrumental in the development of Vajrayana and belongs to the highest class of its teachings, the Anuttara Yoga Tantra.

According to tradition, these teachings were given from Tilopa to Naropa, through whom they arrived in the Kadam-pa/Gelug-pa and Kagyud-pa traditions.

The ancient Tantra also states that - if psychic powers (siddhis) are to be acquired - women must always be associated with those who attempt to reach this goal. Such attainment of psychic powers and training in magic is one of the main topics of the Guhyasamaja, and some of the magic spells and rituals are clearly ancient ones in that they are also known in cultures the world over.

The text also speaks of the virtues inherent in desire and sensory enjoyment, the well-being of body and mind, and of realizing the Buddha nature through the union of female and male. It differs from many later texts in not condemning male ejaculation but says that

when the diamond (i.e. lingam) is connected to the lotus (i.e. yoni) in the union of both polarities, one worships the Buddhas and the diamond beings with the drops of one's semen.

We also read that the male adept, or yogi, lets his semen flow out continuously in the form of mandalas. [translated from the German edition. Gäng. p.145f]

The text allows for ritual union between siblings and between mother with son, indicating that even within the fold of Buddhism (with its unequivocal prohibition of "adultery" and its demand for continence), Tantra preserved its radical element of civil disobedience. This is also evident in works such as the Prajnopaya-viniscaya Siddhi.

Here two more quotes from the text, their similarity clearly showing its general tone.

Do not suppress your feelings,
choose whatever you Will,
and do whatever you desire,
for in this way you please the Goddess.

No one succeeds in attaining perfection
by employing difficult and vexing operations;
but perfection can be gained
by satisfying all ones desires.

There are various similarities between this text and the later Kalachakra Tantra (ca. 750), as both texts deal extensively with magic and ritual sexuality; especially the so-called Sadanga Yoga (Yoga of Six Limbs) all six stages of which are practiced while the two partners are sexually aroused and joined in the yab-yum position.


Gäng, Peter. Das Tantra der verborgenen Vereinigung: Guhyasamaja-Tantra. Munich: 1988.
Wayman, A. The Yoga of the Guhyasamaja Tantra: The Arcane Lore of Forty Verses. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1977.