I read somewhere that there are a number of Tantric Theravadan Buddhists practicing in Cambodia. What is Tantric Theravda and what are it's distinguishing practices? Can it be said to be a vajrayana practice? Does it use visualisations practices and if so what sort of things are visualised? How is it different to non-tantric Therevadan practice?

  • Never heard of this. But if you think about it, any tantra is about playing with energies of mind made constructs, with certain goals in mind. In this sense the four jhanas and the four immeasurables can be seen as primitive kinds of tantric practice. So I don't see why there couldnt be a Southern school that would max out that aspect.
    – Andriy Volkov
    Mar 9, 2015 at 3:30
  • I've briefly read about it popping up in various Pāli traditions but it was always just a scant notation. Since Buddhist Tantra was originally a secret oral tradition between the teacher and the student, it is very like it wasn't recorded; when it was practiced in unfriendly environments. I heard Buddhist Tantra referred to as "playing with emptiness," which I thought was intriguing. May be a connection there to the Girimānanda Sutta? Mar 31, 2015 at 14:28

3 Answers 3


This particular tradition of practice is actually not based on Vajrayana practice, but is more of a mixture of traditional Theravada meditation with Hindu Tantra, not Buddhist Tantra, so there isn't any deity yoga, but is instead based on generating a nimitta made of light and then moving it around within one's body.


I found this scholarly article by Kate Crosby. To summarise the distinctive feature

  1. The creation of a Buddha within through the performance of ritual by placing and recognising within one's body the qualities of the Buddha, which in turn become the Buddha.
  2. The use of sacred language, combined with microcosm to macrocosm identity. Sacred syllables or phrases are used to represent a larger entity.
  3. Sacred language as the creative principle. The Dhamma arises out of the Pali alphabet and sacred syllables. This refers to formation of Dhamma in all senses of the term:
  4. Esoteric interpretations of words, objects and myths that otherwise have a standard exoteric meaning or purpose in TheravBda Buddhism.
  5. The necessity of initiation prior to the performance of a ritual or practice.
  6. The application of the methodologies outlined above to both soteriological ends, i.e. the pursuit of Nibbaa, and worldly ends, such as healing, longevity, protection, invincibility and, potentially, the harming of others.

Interestingly it appears to be using the Pali langauge itself as a focus for esoteric practices. It's practiced in Cambodia and Laos.


This might interest you - http://journals.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/index.php/jiabs/article/view/9290/3151

Jump to p. 470 for the good stuff. From what I've read, it sounds like a blending of traditional indigenous religious practice mixed with Buddhism. In other words, it reads an awful lot like Vajrayana!

I also found this by Googling around - http://santidhammo.blogspot.com/2011/11/theravada-tantra.html.

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