Tantric Buddhism (also known as Vajrayana Buddhism) evolved as a branch of the Mahayana Buddhist tradition, becoming its own distinct movement that was especially popular in Tibet. (See Tibetan Buddhism). Tantric Buddhism focuses on the present rather than the goal of enlightenment (nirvana).

The tantras themselves are ritual texts that are said to be original teachings by the Buddha that were passed secretly from one generation into the next until the 5th century where they emergered in India. There, the tantras were more fully developed by siddhas (Tantric saints), including such notable figures as Saraha and Naropa.

The texts include the evocation of various deities, mantras (sacred chants), mudras (sacred gestures), mandalas (representations of the universe), and meditation practices.

Teachers (usually from an unbroken lineage) are an integral part of Tantric Buddhism. He/she guides the student through meditations, transmits the appropriate texts when the student is ready for them, and teaches the correct methods of practice and discipline.

Although Tantric Buddhism dissappeared entirely from India, teachers such as Padmasambhava had already brought the movement to Tibet where it became the dominant religion.