Skip to Main Content

The Esoteric Community Tantra with The Illuminating Lamp

Volume I: Chapters 1–12

A new presentation of Tantra with its most renowned commentary by one of the foremost translator/scholar teams of Indian and Tibetan Buddhism.

This volume is a translation of the first twelve chapters of The Glorious Esoteric Community Great King of Tantras (Sri Guhyasamaja Maha-tantra-raja), along with the commentary called The Illuminating Lamp (Pradipoddyotana-nama-tika), a commentary in Sanskrit on this tantra by the seventh-century Buddhist intellectual and tantric scholar-adept Chandrakirti. Regarded by Indo-Tibetan tradition as the esoteric scripture wherein the Buddha revealed in greatest detail the actual psycho-physical process of his enlightenment, The Esoteric Community Tantra is a preeminent text of the class of scriptures known to Indian Buddhist scholar-adepts as great yoga tantra, and later to their Tibetan successors as unexcelled yoga tantra. The Illuminating Lamp presents a system of interpretive guidelines according to which the cryptic meanings of all tantras might be extracted in order to engage the ritual and yogic practices taught therein. Applying its interpretive strategies to the text of The Esoteric Community Tantra, The Illuminating Lamp articulates a synthetic, “vajra vehicle” (vajrayana) discourse that locates tantric practices and ideals squarely within the cosmological and institutional frameworks of exoteric Mahayana Buddhism.

“The Treasury of the Buddhist Sciences series stands out as one of the most important translation projects of the immense heritage of Indic religions and philosophies. This volume, with the English translation from Sanskrit and Tibetan of the fundamental Guhyasamajatantra and its pivotal commentary, the Pradipoddyottana, offers the reader another precious contribution of the series to the knowledge of Buddhist wisdom.”

– Giacomella Orofino, University of Naples

“The field of tantric studies is still in its infancy, with the large number of important works that remain unedited, untranslated, and unstudied. With this translation of the first twelve chapters of the Guhyasamaja Tantra with Chandrakirti’s commentary, Campbell and Thurman are casting a bright light on one of the most influential Buddhist tantras, as elucidated by Chandrakirti, one of the great Indian exegetes on this work. Campbell’s introduction nicely explicates the Buddhist hermeneutical project, while Thurman unveils a critique of Western misunderstandings of tantra and shows how Chandrakirti’s explanations can be a corrective. The translation is eloquent and seems very sound; the fruit of decades of intensive textual labor. I strongly recommend this volume for anyone interested in understanding the Buddhist tantras and their interpretation, and I look forward to the publication of the second volume.”

– David B. Gray, Santa Clara University

“This translation will be of great benefit to everyone intent on delving into the theory and practice of this tantric cycle as well as into the principles of the ground and path of the Vajrayana in general. The extensive introductions by Campbell and Thurman contextualize the Guhyasamaja and Candrakirti’s commentary from broader historical and doctrinal perspectives and challenge some of the persisting, bias-based, interpretative approaches to the Vajrayana.”

– Vesna Wallace, University of California, Santa Barbara

More books in this series: Treasury of the Buddhist Sciences