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Religions 2014, 5(3), 684-699; doi:10.3390/rel5030684

Possible Selves, Body Schemas, and Sādhana: Using Cognitive Science and Neuroscience in the Study of Medieval Vaiṣṇava Sahajiyā Hindu Tantric Texts

Department of Religion, Bloomfield College, 467 Franklin Street, Bloomfield, NJ 07003, USA
A version of this paper was presented at the International Workshop on Buddhism and Science, 14 April 2013 held at the University of Toronto, Scarborough. I extend my thanks to the convener Geoffrey Samuels, as well as to the Tung Lin Kok Yuen Foundation for their generous support which enabled the conference to happen. An even earlier version of this paper was presented in Chicago at the 2012 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion (AAR), at a session co-sponsored by the Cognitive Science of Religion Group and the Tantric Studies Group.
Received: 27 June 2014 / Revised: 19 July 2014 / Accepted: 25 July 2014 / Published: 5 August 2014
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Science and Religion: Buddhist and Hindu Perspectives)
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Abstract

In recent decades, historians of religions have turned to, and developed, entirely new methodologies for the study of religion and human consciousness. Foremost among these are a collection of approaches often termed the “cognitive science of religion” (CSR), typically drawing on cognitive science, neuroscience, linguistics, and contemporary metaphor theory. Although we are still “early” in this enterprise, I hope to show how a meaningful dialogue between religious studies and contemporary neuroscience and cognitive science can help us to better understand some intriguing mystical texts and practices from a tradition of medieval South Asian Hinduism. Known collectively as the Vaiṣṇava Sahajiyās, these followers of transgressive and antinomian Tantric Yoga provide excellent examples for exploring the nature of religion, ritual, consciousness, embodiment, identity, gender, emotions and sexuality. This paper will show how the study of these rich materials from 17th through 18th century Bengal in northeastern South Asia can be enhanced using insights from the philosopher, Shaun Gallagher, and the neurologist, Patrick McNamara. View Full-Text
Keywords: Tantra; Yoga; Sahajiyā; neuroscience; cognitive science; sexuality; gender; embodiment; emotions; self Tantra; Yoga; Sahajiyā; neuroscience; cognitive science; sexuality; gender; embodiment; emotions; self
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 3.0).

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Hayes, G.A. Possible Selves, Body Schemas, and Sādhana: Using Cognitive Science and Neuroscience in the Study of Medieval Vaiṣṇava Sahajiyā Hindu Tantric Texts. Religions 2014, 5, 684-699.

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