Monopoly of Vajracharyas
-Punya Prasad Parajuli
In classical terminology Vajracharyas are those who grant Vajrayana initiation and who can explain the philosophy of Vajrayana. It is the name of a title but not the monopoly of a certain caste. But nowadays it is confined to the Vajrachatyas of Nepal Mandal. The place of Vajracharyas in the society is the highest. Every Mahayana practitioner has to receive initiation from Vajracharyas in various stages. The stage of initiation starts from Chudakarma when the children of Buddhists must become a monk for certain days. After initation as a monk, the title of Bodhisattva Samvar is granted. Then, dekha (initiation of Vajrayana) is conferred.
There is the practice of granting dekha in almost all vihars of Nepal Mandala.So long Vajracharyas, Shakya or Tuladhar do not receive dekha, they are not allowed to enter Agam house, the place where secret Tantric worship takes place. Charyageet and dance are also displayed at the time of conferring dekha of Charasamvara. No Buddhists of castes other than Vajracharya, Shakya and Tuladhar are not entitled to initiation of Maha Mandala (Chakrasamvara dekha).
Even though they are given the instruction about the method of dhyana (meditation), Shakyas and Tuladhars are not eligible for Acharya Abhisekh (the highest initiation). The person who has not received Acharya Abhisekh cannot confer ordination to others. That is why, the privileges of Vajracharyas cannot be transferred to other castes. Besides this, the service of Vajracharyas is indispensable for carrying homa (fire sacrifice) and rituals. It is because of the dominant role of Vajracharyas in ritualism that they are compared with Hindu Brahmins. This is unusual as no caste has such special privilege in the whole religious history of India. This special privilege is not given to any class of people in Tibet, Bhutan and Sikkim. Therefore, this caste distinction is not the ordinary characteristic of Mahayana and Vajrayana but it is only the special characteristic of Nepal Mandala.
Suggestions for improvement of the status of Mahayana
Nepali Gurus have been conferring dekha to the Lamas of Tibet since the ancient times. Nepali Buddhists also received initiation from Tibetan Lamas especially up to the medieval period. This confirms that the Nepali Buddhists exchanged initiation with the people of other places and countries. But, recently, some rigidity can be seen among the Vajracharyas of Nepal Mandala. They do not confer Vajracharya Abhisekh to persons other than belonging to Vajracharya caste. Similarly, they do not confer Chakramvara Abhisekh to persons other than belonging to Shakya and Tuladhar castes. Therefore, there is no possibility of extending this privilege to Tibetans, nor is there the possibility of receiving the same from the Tibetan Lamas. It is because of this orthodox view that Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism of Nepal Mandala is becoming weaker. But, on the contrary, some flexibility is discernible among the non-priest Baudhamargis of Nepal Mandala more particularly among Shakyas and Tuladhars. Shakyas and Tuladhars have an ardent desire for receiving abhisekh from the Tibetan Gurus. They invite Tibetan Lamas and get worship activities done. Most of the Newars invite Theravada monks for Buddha Puja and recitations of Paritran (for wishing salvation to the departed soul).
Vajracharyas, being confirmed Buddhists, must make the teachings and meanings of Mahayana and Vajrayana easily accessible to all by changing their attitude of caste discrimination. They must demonstrate that Mahayana and Vajrayana contained the elements or virtues of Theravada.
At present, the term “Buddhist meditation” means Shamath and Vipassana. Meditation of gods and goddesses, worship and Vrata are branded as Hindu. The Vajracharyas must be able to convince that the succession of origin and that of end of gods and goddesses is nothing but Shamath and Vipassana. They must make a comparative study of the Hindu meditation process and the meditation process of Mahayana and Vajrayana in order to be able to distinguish the two. They must be able to understand the relation of Mahayana and Vajrayana with Theravada.
Due to the ascendancy of modernisation, a tendency of looking at the Vajracharyas with hatred has been developing. For this, the title of Vajracharya has to be made honourable or dignified. There must be institutes of study to make Vajracharyas organised and well-versed in different aspects of Buddhism not limiting themselves to the caste of Vajracharya. A system or situation must be developed so that educated as well as rich jajamans (clients) who also take pride in their culture pay to Vajracharya priests for the services rendered by them in accordance with the demand of time. If this is done so, capable youth Vajracharyas need not twitch to other professions for livelihood.
Selected portions from the authoer’s paper as it was published in http://www. aioiyama. net/