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Religions 2018, 9(6), 172; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9060172

“I Am Afraid of Telling You This, Lest You’d Be Scared Shitless!”: The Myth of Secrecy and the Study of the Esoteric Traditions of Bengal

J. Gonda Research Fellow at International Institute for Asian Studies, 2311 GJ Leiden, The Netherlands
Received: 5 March 2018 / Revised: 30 April 2018 / Accepted: 11 May 2018 / Published: 25 May 2018
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Abstract

As the verse chosen as a title for this article emblematically shows, esoteric movements have consistently used secrecy as a literary topos in their oral and written cultural expressions for a number of purposes. Scholars of South Asian religions, especially those in field of Tantric studies, have been scrutinizing for decades the need for secretive doctrines and a secret code-language (sandhyā bhāṣā), mostly interrogating textual sources and neglecting the contemporary experience and exegetical authority of living lineages. In this paper, I firstly address ethical and epistemological problems in the study of esoteric religious movements in order to propose innovative methodological strategies. Then, I offer numerous examples drawn from extensive field-work and in-depth literary study of contemporary esoteric lineages of West Bengal (India) and Bangladesh, in order to discuss the local discourse on secrecy. Finally, I review previously assumed notions on secrecy in South Asian religions, and I suggest to take into serious consideration local perspectives on the accessibility of esoteric knowledge, leading to a more nuanced idea of secrecy, constantly subjected to temporal and situational negotiations between silence and disclosure. View Full-Text
Keywords: Bāul Fakir; Sahajiẏā; Vaiṣṇava; Tantra; Kartābhajā; sandhyā bhāṣā; exegesis; guru; contemporary West Bengal; Bangladesh Bāul Fakir; Sahajiẏā; Vaiṣṇava; Tantra; Kartābhajā; sandhyā bhāṣā; exegesis; guru; contemporary West Bengal; Bangladesh
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).
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Lorea, C.E. “I Am Afraid of Telling You This, Lest You’d Be Scared Shitless!”: The Myth of Secrecy and the Study of the Esoteric Traditions of Bengal. Religions 2018, 9, 172.

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