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Just about all texts when discussing this subject quote the earliest known Buddhist definition of the word tantra, found in the Guhyasamāja Tantra: "Tantra is called continuity, and this tantra is classified into three aspects: ground, together with its nature, and inalienableness. Nature is the basic cause, ground is called the method, and inalienableness is the result. The meaning of tantra is contained in these three." (rgyud ni rgyun chags zhes bya ste // rgyud de rnam pa gsum du 'gyur // gzhi dang de yi rang bzhin dang // mi 'phrogs pa yis rab phye ba // rang bzhin rnam pa rgyu yin te // gzhi ni thabs zhes bya ba'o // de bzhin mi 'phrogs 'bras bu ste // gsum gyis rgyud kyi don bsdus pa'o //) [TSD]

rgyud - [alt.] being, mind, stream, a) continuity, being b) Tantra. abbr. {rgyud} Mahayoga. 1) tantra, tantra-texts, being [body, speech and mind], stream of being, mind-stream, continuity, continuum, "linked together", area, location, stream of existence, mind, heart, nature, existence. 2) the tantric teachings, texts. 3) via, through [sm. {brgyud}. 4) bank, shore, coast, edge, side, range. 5) lineage, descent. 6) area, location. 6) individual, person 7) bow string {mdo rgyud} sutra and tantra]. 8) continuum [or continua], tantra, string, cord. mind-stream; tantra/ continuum; mind-stream [RY]

See (gsang sngags rdo rje theg pa rgyud) - tantrayana, tantra, esoteric or inner teachings of the Mahayana vehicle, the secret and sublime adamantine / vajra vehicle of Secret Mantra, Vajrayana [RY]

Tantra (rgyud)

  • In Buddhism, tantra is defined as a natural continuum or unbroken stream flowing from fundamental ignorance to enlightenment. As such, it refers to the continua of ground, path and result (gzhi lam 'bras bu), which together form the dynamic process through which all fruitional aspects of buddhahood are fully manifested. Through the continuum of the path (lam gyi rgyud), the atemporally present continuum of the ground (gzhi'i rgyud) is actualised as the continuum of the result ('bras bu'i rgyud). Because tantra includes sophisticated techniques which, unlike the sūtras, enable dissonant mental states (kleśa), such as attachment (rāga) and aversion (dveśa), to be transmuted into blissful states of realisation, without renunciation or rejection, the practitioner can cultivate an uninterrupted continuum between the ordinary initial mind, the advanced mind on the path, and the resultant fully enlightened mind of a buddha.
  • The term tantra may also refer to the literature of the six classes of tantra (rgyud sde drug) which expound this dynamic. These comprise: the three outer tantras of austere awareness (phyi dka' thub rig pa'i rgyud), namely: Kriyātantra, Ubhayatantra, and Yogatantra, and the three inner tantras of skillful means (nang pa thabs kyi rgyud), namely, Mahāyoga, Anuyoga and Atiyoga. For a detailed discussion on the superiority of the tantras to the sūtras, see bDud-'joms Rin-po-che, NSTB, pp. 243-256. Although tantra-texts are represented in the Chinese Tripiṭaka, the most extensive collections are contained in the Collected Tantras of the rNying ma pa (rnying ma'i rgyud 'bum) and in the bKa' 'gyur. GD (from the Glossary to Tibetan Elemental Divination Paintings)

--from Deity Yoga in Action and Performance Tantra by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tsongkhapa, and Jeffrey Hopkins, published by Snow Lion Publications:

"Through the practice of tantra one is seeking to achieve the supreme feat (siddhi) of Buddhahood in order to become a source of help and happiness for all beings. Along the way common feats are also sought for the sake of enhancing the accumulation of merit necessary for attaining Buddhahood. For both supreme and common feats deity yoga is necessary, the initial process being called 'approximation' because through imagining the deity one is approaching closer to it. Without preliminary approximation the feat of lengthening the lifespan, becoming youthful, gaining the five clairvoyances, and so forth cannot be achieved. It is to achieve such feats that prior approximation is performed, called 'prior' because it necessarily precedes actualising a specific feat and using it for the welfare of others."