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John Guy. Crowns of the Vajra Masters: Tracing Nepalese Buddhist Ritual

At the centre of Vajrayana ritual in the Newar Buddhist community of Nepal are the consecration rites that initiate boys as Buddhist priests known as Vajracharyas, a tradition that has its antecedents in the final phase of Indian Buddhist esoteric thought and practice from the 10th to 12th century. A defining moment in this induction is the Consecration of the Crown puja, known (in Sanskrit) as acharyabhisheka. To undertake this, the initiate must already have undergone the Monastic Initiation ceremony, which enters him into the community of monks. At the climax of the acharyabhisheka, the newly inducted Vajracharya has the crown placed on his head and becomes a buddhamargi, a follower of the path of the Buddha (Gellner, 1997, p. 660). This ceremony takes place in the courtyard of a Newari baha (Sanskrit: vihara; Newari: bahal—a traditional urban monastery), the ground-floor chapel of which houses the monastery’s presiding Transcendent Buddha and its upper—and secret—shrine room, the tantric deities. Admission to the latter is restricted to ordained Vajracharyas. Henceforth, when engaging in ritual service, the ordained Vajracharya is identified with one of the Five Transcendent Buddhas and empowered to aid others along the path to spiritual awakening. On occasions the identification is with Vajrasattva (epithet Vajradhara), the supreme Buddha of the Vajra family, who presides over the five (Fig. 2).

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Mar/Apr 2018
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