Piercing to the Pith of the Body: The Evolution of Body Mandala and Tantric Corporeality in Tibet †
1. Introduction: Acts of Mapping Landscape, Body, and Text
2. Contributions and Goals
3. Mapping the Body in a Ritual Text from Dunhuang
4. Goddesses, Elements, and Winds: Mkhas Grub Maps the Guhyasamāja Body Mandala
“The Samāja-sādhana-vyavasthole intends for one to arrange the goddesses who are the five mothers [yum] on the bodies of both the father and mother deity. It’s unreasonable [mi rigs] to arrange the four, Locanā and so forth on the navel, heart center, throat, and crown”.22
- “The arrangement of the goddesses is taught.
- Moharatī Locanā is the earth element.
- Dveṣaratī Māmakī is water.
- Rāgaratī Pāṇḍaravāsinī is fire.
- Vajraratī Tārā is rlung.
- We look to the root tantra to clarify the meaning:
- ‘As for the element of earth, it is explained as Locanā.
- As for the element of water, it is explained as Māmakī.
-  As for the element of fire, it is explained as Pāṇḍaravāsinī.
- As for the element of air, it is known as Tārā.’
- So it is said.”23
- “In the Piṇḍīkṛta (it says):
- ‘As for Locanā and Māmakī, likewise Pāṇḍaravāsinī and Tārā,
- they are arranged by the mantrika on the earth (element) and so forth.’24
- And in terms of the explanation of arranging the four goddesses in the sites of the four elements:
- ‘It is proper to arrange Locanā in (the area of) the genitalia, the abode of earth rlung, Tārā at the navel, the abode of wind rlung, Māmakī at the heart center, in the abode of water rlung, and Pāṇḍaravāsinī at the throat, in the abode of fire rlung.’ So it is said. 25
- “Nevertheless, as far as I’m concerned, this is how it is:
- Within the classification of five root rlung, the abode of the earth rlung, downward-clearing rlung, is the secret place.
- The abode of balancing, wind rlung, is the navel.
- The abode of life-sustaining, water rlung, is the heart center.
- The abode of the upward moving, fire rlung, is the throat.
- The abode of the all-pervading, space rlung, is the whole body.”30
“In light of this explanation, as for the one who explains the four (goddesses), Locanā and so forth, as the four elements here (this may be said):Generally speaking, there are many contexts for applying the four elemental winds to the four such as Locanā. However, having construed the four goddesses as the elements such as earth, here one generates the four goddesses as the aspects of bodily solidity, moisture, heat, and motility. If one arranges them like that, having condensed all five root rlung into just the element of rlung, it is necessary to make all of those the basis of accomplishing Tārā. So then it would not be fitting to apply the generation of Locanā from the earth rlung and so on, on account of the absence of the characteristics of solidity in the downward-clearing rlung”.32
“In the Vajramālā Explanatory Tantra (it says):‘Moreover, the Bhagavatī Locanā abides in the earth element, in the fat and so forth of this one. The Bhagavatī Māmakī abides in the water element, the blood and so forth. The Bhagavatī Pāṇḍaravāsinī abides in the fire element, heat and so forth. The Bhagavatī Tārā abides in the rlung element, trembling and so forth.’Thus it is clearly explained”.39
How could anyone in their right mind claim that the flesh of the body (is endowed with/made up of) the earth rlung and the blood (with/of) fire rlung?40
“In that case, there is the explanation for dissolving earth, water, fire and rlung and so forth. At the time of dissolution of the twenty-five coarse [rags pa] (constituents) the potential for producing the consciousnesses [rnam shes kyi rten phyed pa’i nus pa] dissolves. The bodily deities, the (set of) four, Locanā and so forth, are taught to be dissolved in accord with the dissolution (of) those.That being the case, at the time of the dissolution of the subtle elements [khams phra pa], a vision akin to a mirage manifests on account of the dissolution of earth into water and so forth. Thus there is the teaching concerning the dissolution of the coarse among the many subtle and coarse (components) possessed by the four elemental rlung. If you don’t know how to make distinctions like this, not knowing how to distinguish the dissolution of the coarse and the dissolution of the subtle, how would it be possible to realize the essential point of the completion stage (rdzogs rim gyi gnad zab mo dag rtogs par lta ga la ‘gyur)?”41
“(With regard to) that which is referred to as the “dissolution of the subtle,” the three, earth, water, and fire are coarse. Compared to these, the element of rlung is subtle. There are many distinct degrees of coarse and subtle for the internal subdivision of rlung itself.”42
Alternatively, then you must reflect on how to account for the explanation from the Saṃputa Tantra of arranging Locanā in the navel, the abode of earth and Tārā in the crown, the abode of rlung.43
5. Dissolving the Bodies of Fifteenth-Century Tantric Practitioners
6. Conclusions: Piercing to the Pith
“So, if you ask, ‘why is the body mandala superior to the two fabricated external mandala?’ (i.e., mandala paintings and altars/sand mandala):The distinction emerges based on the fabricated and unfabricated basis of establishment. The completion stage, generated from meditation by piercing to the pith of the body [lus la gnad du bsnun], is the main cause of establishing the supreme accomplishments. By cultivating the transformation repeatedly while generating all the current parts as deities, the channels, winds and drops of the body become workable [rung du gyur]. By piercing to the pith of the body in meditation, the ripening of the effortless generation of realizing the completion stage becomes supreme”.50
Conflicts of Interest
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For more on the supine demoness, see (Gyatso 2003).
Mkhas grub, rje dge legs dpal bzang. (1385–1438). [Ocean of Attainment of the Guhyasamāja Generation Stage] Gsang ‘dus bskyed rim dngos grub rgya mtsho. TBRC W384.vol. 7 (ja), pp. 5–384: See pp. 233–62. new Zhol par khang edition of gsung ‘bum/_mkhas grub rje (zhol). Reproduced from a set of prints from the 1897 Lhasa Old Zhol (Ganden Puntso Ling) blocks. TOH 5481. New Delhi: Mongolian Lama Guru Deva. 1980–1982. TBRC W384.
(Bentor 2006). I look forward to engaging with Bentor’s forthcoming translation of the entirety of Mkhas grub’s Ocean of Attainment, with particular attention to points of exchange with Ngor chen kun dga’ bzang po’s body mandala debate texts.
See Red mda’ ba gzhon nu blo gros. 2009. Gsang ba ‘dus pa’i bsgrub thabs mdor byas dang bsgrub thabs rnam gzhag gi ṭika rnam gnyis kyi mi ‘dra ba’i khyad par zhus pa’i lan,” in “Spring yig gi tshogs,” Red mda’ ba Gzhon nu blos gros kyi gsung ‘bum, vol.5, pp. 273.4-283.5. Kathmandu: Sa skya rgyal yongs gsung rab slob gnyer khang.W23629.
At the root of many of these points of distinction are their relations to and conflicts with the interpretations of the eleventh-century figure, ‘Gos khug pa lhas btsas, particularly those articulated in his Gsang ‘dus stong thun. Wedemeyer 2014 challenges previous depictions of ‘Gos as a tantric “reformer” of the second dissemination of Buddhism in Tibet, purging the tradition of practices employing sex and violence inherited from the chaos of the dark age. In addition to ‘Gos’s text on the Guhyasamāja, Wedemeyer also evaluates the “Refutation of Mistaken Mantra” (Sngags log sun ‘byin), attributed to him. Wedemeyer makes a valuable observation that resonates with my own project of disentangling the critiques articulated in the fifteenth-century body mandala debate texts of the Sakyapa and emerging Gandenpa or Gelukpa traditions. Namely, he observes that representations of ‘Gos as “puritanical” reveal “a conflation of two separate issues within the Tibetan religious world: on the one hand, a criticism of the authenticity of certain Tantras, and on the other, a criticism of mistaken practice of Tantra based upon misinterpretation of the fundamental scriptures (mūlatantra)” (Wedemeyer 2014). I am grateful to Nancy Lin for bringing this article to my attention.
See (Luczanits 2008) for an important introduction to the evolution of the form and structure of early mandalas. Luczanits’ essay deals specifically with many of the drawings and paintings from the library cave at Dunhuang for examples that challenge the standard definitions of mandala, definitions based in later iconographic standards (Luczanits 2008).
Though of course the fingers and toes are not the only sites on the body to absorb sensation, they are more obvious instruments of touch.
One might also consider the power invested in the apertures of the body as sites of liminality, not just between interiors and exteriors but between life and death. Alexis Sanderson discusses Buddhist tantric descriptions of how the consciousness leaves the body at death through one of nine doors or orifices, depending upon one’s karmic “destiny”. The door at the crown of the head is considered the most auspicious. Sanderson traces this model back to Brahmanical sources as well as to early non-tantric Buddhist ones. See (Sanderson and Einoo 2009), note 297. Sanderson uses the term utkrānti in his description. Sanderson refers to the Abhidharmakosabhasya 3.43abc, where Vasubandhu describes the cessation of consciousness at various bodily sites and the specific case of the arhat for whom consciousness may cease at the heart or crown. Among the tantric sources, he refers to Bhavabhatta’s commentary on the Catuṣpītha-tantra f.52r2. (Sanderson and Einoo 2009).
See (English 2002, pp. 163–66). Gavin Flood’s description of nyāsa practices in the content of Hindu tantra reinforces the emphasis upon guarding bodily extremities and the senses observed in the Dunhuang text. Flood describes how in the Vaiṣṇava text, the Jayākhya Saṃhita, the practitioner redistributes the same mantras associated with the same deities from the previous portion of the ritual “on the head, eyes, ears, mouth, shoulders, hands (again), buttocks, heart, back, navel, hips, knees and feet”. The bodily points articulated here are oriented around external points, with the exception of the heart and perhaps the navel, as well as around the sensory orifices. The process is one of armoring the body with mantra, culminating in the distribution of the mantra of Nārāyaṇa across the entire span of the body. Touch, sound, and vision all figure in this process. The practices of purification and protection, as described in the first two phases of the Jayākhya, appear in early Buddhist tantric literature and are elaborated on in the generation stage practices of the body mandala (Flood 2000, 2006).
Nāgārjuna. Piṇḍīkṛta. Mdor byas. sde dge bstan ‘gyur Vol. 34 ff.1v–11r Toh 1796. See Wright’s 2010 translation (Wright 2010).
Wright notes that Tsongkhapa’s text elaborates upon the basis of the Piṇḍīkṛta but “maintains the same sequence of visualizations and mantras.” (Wright 2010, p. 54). See Tsong kha pa T5303: Dpal gsang ba ‘dus pa’i sgrub thabs rnal ‘byor dag pa’i rim pa. See also (Wright 2010), Appendix A, which compares the structure of the two texts.
Mkhas grub grapples with the modes of mapping the jinas from Chapter Eight, verse nine of the Guhyasamāja Root Tantra, Nāgārjuna’s Śrī guhyasamāja-mahāyogatantrotpattikrama-sādhana-sūtra-melāpaka-nāma [Mdo bsres], a short commentary on generation stage practice based upon the first seventeen chapters of the root, and Candrakīrti’s Pradīpoddyotana [‘grel pa sgron gsal] to clarify ambiguities and resolve apparent discrepancies among them. See Matsunaga’s 1978 edition of the root tantra, p. 24 for the Sanskrit text: Stanāntaraṃ yāvacchikhāntamadhye caraṇāntare cāpi nyased vidijñā˙/Nābhikatiguhye jinātmajānāṃ nyāsaṃ prakuryāt kulapañcakānām/. Matsunaga (Matsunaga 1978, fn 16) states that two manuscripts, BG & BT read valgāntare vs. caraṇāntare. Fremantle (Fremantle 1971)’s edition likewise footnotes this alternative and also makes note of a manuscript C that reads sparśāntare instead. See 24.5–24.6 of the sde dge bstan ‘gyur edition of the Mdo bsres. Nāgārjuna. Śrī guhyasamāja-mahāyogatantrotpattikrama-sādhana-sūtra- melāpaka-nāma; Rnal ‘byor chen po’i rgyud dpal gsang ba ‘dus pa’i bskyed p’i rim pa’i bsgom pa’i thabs mdo dang bsres pa zhes bya ba. Translated by Dharmaśribhadra and Rin chen bzang po. P2662, vol. 60–61; T1797. See 118.4–119.3 of (Candrakīrti (zla ba grags pa). Candrakīrti (zla ba grags pa). Pradīpoddyotana-nāma-tīkā. Sgron ma gsal bar byed pa zhes bya ba’i rgya cher bshad pa. sde dge bstan ‘gyur edition. Toh 1785. vol. 29, pp. 2–402 (ff.1v–201v).
For example, one might consider the role of the Pradīpoddyotana in Mkhas grub’s mapping of the jinas onto the body. Bentor (2015a) focuses upon Mkhas grub and Tsongkhapa’s interpretations of three Ārya tradition sādhanas: Nāgārjuna’s Piṇḍīkṛta and his Śrī guhyasamāja-mahāyogatantrotpattikrama-sādhana-sūtra- melāpaka-nāma [Mdo bsres] as well as Nāgabodhi’s Samāja-sādhana-vyavasthole (sthāli) [Rnam gzhag rim pa]. Although Bentor refers to the Pradīpoddyotana, the article focuses more on Mkhas grub and Tsongkhapa’s interpretations of Nāgabodhi’s text. Bentor mentions that Red mda’ ba taught his commentary on the Pradīpoddyotana, the Yid kyi mun sel, to them and also that Tsongkhapa taught the Pradīpoddyotana to Red mda’ ba in 1401–2. Just a couple years later, Red mda’ ba entered retreat, and Tsongkhapa composed his commentary on Nāgabodhi’s text. (Bentor 2015a, p. 185) Bentor observes how Tsongkhapa refutes Red mda’ ba’s positions therein and how Mkhas grub continues Tsongkhapa’s project of refutation in the Ocean of Attainment. As a result, she extends her 2006 assessment of Mkhas grub’s “unnamed opponents” to focus more definitely upon the refutation of Red mda’ ba. Bentor’s elaboration upon her initial thesis adds further support to my approach to Mkhas grub’s body mandala debate writings as an attempt to distinguish the emerging Gandenpa tradition from its Sakyapa roots.
The incorporation of the body mandala of the consort, or “mother deity,” here in relation to that of the male practitioner or “father deity,” is one reason for the added complexity of the argument surrounding the goddesses.
Toh 1809 Sde sde bstan ‘gyur Vol. 35 ff. 121a–131a by Nāgabodhi. For partial editions, see (Tanaka  2002, 2004, 2009). For Tsongkhapa’s position on the attribution of texts to Nāgabodhi, see (Tsong-kha-pa and Kilty 2013, pp. 65–66). See also Tsongkhapa’s commentary on this text: Rnam gzhag rim pa’i rnam bshad dpal gsang ba ‘dus pa’i gnad kyi don gsal ba. In Gsung ‘Bum/Tsong kha pa blo Bzang Grag pa. Reproduced from Lhasa zhol par khang blocks. New Delhi: Lama Guru Deva, vol. 6. pp. 5–166.
Rnam gzhag rim par yum lnga’i lha mo rnams bkod pa ni yab yum gnyis ka’i lus kyi [240.2] dbang du byas pa’i lha rnams la dgongs pa yin no spyan ma la sogs pa bzhi lte ba snying kha mgrin pa spyi bo rnams su ‘god pa yang mi rigs te.
I have located and translated this passage using Kimiaki Tanaka’s partial critical edition, which has been emerging over the course of a series of articles. See Tanaka 2001–2002, 2004, & 2009. (Tanaka  2002, 2004, 2009). It is perhaps of note that the alternate names for the goddesses provided in the Rnam gzhag citation above are found in the body mandala of the father deity; in that text, the names Locanā et al. refer instead to the goddesses in the body mandala of the consort.
This initial quote from the Piṇḍīkṛta is derived from the mahāsādhana section of that text, explaining the arrangement of the body mandala of the consort. In the context of laying out the body mandala of the father deity, in the atiyoga section of the text, the Piṇḍīkṛta instructs: “With Moharatī, the mantrin should place them on the earth (element), and so forth: that with solidity, that with fluidity, that with warmth and that with airiness respectively.” See Wright (Wright 2010) translation and edition v61.
mdor byas su; spyan dang ma’ ma ka’i dang ni ; de bzhin du ni gos dkar mosgrol ma yang ni sngags pa yis; sa [240.3] la sogs bar rnam par dgod; ces ’byung ba bzhi’i gnas su lha mo bzhi dgod bar bshad pas; sa rlung gi gnas ‘doms su spyan ma dang; rlung gi rlung gi gnas lte bar sgrol ma dang; chu rlung gi gnas snying khar ma’ ma ki dang; me rlung gi gnas mgrin par gos [240.4] dkar mo dgod par rigs so; zhes zer ro
I was also unable to locate it in Tanaka’s partial editions of the Rnam gzhag thusfar but continue to pursue this citation.
These sites differ from the set critiqued by Mkhas grub in that the genitalia [‘doms] replace the crown. Neither the crown nor the feet, for that matter, are included here.
Gsang gnas is literally translated as “secret place,” but the phrase is understood to refer to the genital region.
spyan ma sogs bzhi sa la sogs pa la dgod par bshad pas gsang gnas sogs su dgod dgos par ‘dod pa de ni khyed cag rgyud don la zhib par ‘byed pa’i blo dang mi ldan pa dag la de lta bu’i dogs ba ‘byung ba [245.5] bden no. Khenpo Choying Dorje and Khenpo Yeshe suggested that the use of ‘dod pa may contribute the derogatory tone of the passage (whereas dgong pa would have been the more neutral choice).
‘on kyang nga ni ‘di yin te; rlung la rtsa ba’i rlung lngar phye ba’i sa rlung thur sel gyi gnas gsang gnas dang; mnyam gnas rlung gi rlung gi gnas lte ba dang; srog ‘dzin chu rlung gi gnas snying kha dang; gyen rgyu me rlung gi gnas mgrin pa dang; khyab byed [245.6] nam mkha’i rlung gi gnas lus thams cad la.
See entries by OT, IW, & RY on thlib.org [srog ‘dzin, gyen rgyu, khyab byed, me mnyam, thur sel] Garrett (2008, pp. 65–66) describes how these five root winds (together with five subsidiary winds) are common in tantric physiological accounts, citing the twelfth-century Sakyapa patriarch Grags pa rgyal mtshan as one example. She locates the winds at areas of the body: thur sel in the anus, mnyam gnas (or me mnyam) in the navel, srog ‘dzin in the heart, gyen rgyu in the throat, and khyab byed throughout the body. They bear associations with the elements and with colors as well as bodily functions. On the medical conception of rlung, see pp. 62–63. The three humors are rlung, bile, and phlegm; each is construed in terms of five types. Further research into both tantric and medical systems will produce subtleties in our understanding of rlung. Garett 2008 makes some important inroads in chapters four and six. See (Garrett 2008) especially see (Kon-sprul et al. 2005, fn 47).
...bshad pa yin la; ‘dir spyan sogs bzhi sa la sogs pa’i khams bzhir bshad pa ni spyir ‘byung ba bzhi’i rlung dang spyan sogs bzhi sbyor ba’i skabs mang du yod kyang; ‘dir ni lus kyi sra ba’i cha dang; [246.1] gsher ba’i cha dang; dro ba’i cha dang; g.yo ba’i cha rnams la sa’i khams la sogs pa bzhir byas nas; de dag lha mo bzhir bskyed ba yin zhing; de ltar bzhag pa na ni; rtsa ba’i rlung lnga ka yang rlung gi khams gcig bur byas nas de thams cad sgrol ma’i bsgrub gzhir [246.2] byed dgos kyi sa rlung las spyan ma bskyed pa sogs byar mi rung ste; thur sel gyi rlung la sra ba’i mtshan nyid ma tshang ba’i phyir ro
As identified by Tanaka in the context of its citation within the Rnam gzhag.
This term was coined by Charlotte Furth in her 1999 study of women’s medicine in Imperial China, to describe the multiple relationships of yin and yang as a correlative set to one another as well as to other like sets such as male and female (Furth 1999).
For this quote, see 49.15–19 [III.3.2] in Luo Hong and Toru Tomabechi edition of the text (Candrakīrti and Tomabechi 2009). Bentor (2015a) points out that Red mda’ ba and Ngor chen, together with a number of other prominent Sakyapas, dispute the attribution of this text to Candrakīrti, providing a reference to Ngor chen’s comment in his Shin tu rnal ‘byor gyi khyad par sgrub thabs kyi yan lag tu bris pa. See (Bentor 2015a, p. 166).
Bentor’s recent contributions further substantiate this assessment in showing how Candrakīrti’s sādhana informed Tsongkhapa’s (and Bu ston’s) interpretation of the Samāja-sādhana-vyavasthole in terms of these three buddha bodies. See (Bentor 2015a, p. 174).
The Vajramālā (Explanatory Tantra). Śrī-vajramālā-abhidāna-mahāyogatantra-sarvatantra-hṛdaya-rahasya-vibhanga-nāma: Rdo rje’i ‘phreng ba’i rgyud. Rnal ‘byor chen po’i rgyud dpal rdo rje phreng ba mngon par brjod pa rgyod thams cad kyi snying po gsang ba rnam par phye ba zhes bya ba. Toh 445, rgyud, vol. Ca, (208a–277b) 415–554.
(Kittay 2011, p. 188). As Kittay notes, some chapters of the text explicitly clarify the Mahāyoga or Yoginī-tantric basis for interpretation.
bshad rgyud rdo rje ‘phreng ba las kyang; yang ‘di’i sha sogs [246.6] sa khams la; bcom ldan ‘das yum spyan bzhugs so; khrag sogs chu’i khams la ni; bcom ldan ‘das yum ma ma bzhugs; dro ba la sogs me khams la; bcom ldan ‘das yum gos dkar bzhugs; bskyod pa la sogs rlung khams la; bcom [247.1] ldan ‘das yum grol ma bzhugs; zhes ches gsal bar gsungs te. This quotation can be found in the sde dge edition of the Vajramālā 270a.3–4 [539.3–4], where the only real difference in mi bskyod vs. bskyod pa. For Kittay’s translation see (Kittay 2011, p. 743).
lus kyi sha sa rlung dang; khrag me rlung du shes rig dang ldan pa su zhig khas len par byed. I have emended ma to me and shas to shes.
des na rags pa nyi shu rtsa lnga thim pa’i skabs su; sa chu me rlung sogs thim [247.2] pa bshad pa ni; lus kyi sra ba’i cha la sogs pa la sa la sogs par byas nas; de dag gis rnam shes kyi rten phyed pa’i nus pa thim pa’i dbang du byas te; de dag thim pa dang mthun par lus kyi lha spyan ma la sogs pa bzhi yang thim par gsungs pa yin [247.3] la; khams phra pa thim pa’i skabs su, sa chu la thim pas smig rgyu lta bu’i nyams ‘char ba sogs ni ‘byung ba bzhi’i rlung la phra rags du ma yod pa’i nang nas rags pa thim pa’i dbang du byas nas gsungs pa yin te; ‘di lta bu’i rnam dbyed dag ma shes na rags [247.4] pa thim pa dang phra ba thim pa tsam gyi khyad par yang mi shes na rdzogs rim gyi gnad zab mo dag rtogs par lta ga la ‘gyur.
phra ba thim zhes pa yang; sa chu me gsum rags shing; di las rlung gi khams phra pa yin gyi; rlung rang gi nang gses kyi dbye ba [247.5] la phra rags kyi khyad par rim pa du ma zhig yod do.
gzhan du sam pu ta las; lte ba sa’i gnas su spyan ma dang spyi gtsug rlung gi gnas su sgrol ma ‘god par bshad pa ji ltar ‘chad soms [248.2] shig.
The comparison of the relationship between the role of rlung in cosmic creation and destruction (derived from the Abhidharma tradition) and its role in tantric conceptions of bodily creation and dissolution is compelling. Kittay (2011, p. 133) observes that the five winds presented in the Vajramālā accord with those found in the Visuddhimagga 11: 37.
Garrett (2008) also refers to (Bentor 2006)’s discussion of Tsongkhapa’s and Mkhas grub’s participation in debates over this practice, in particular over the questions of whether only birth is purified by the generation stage and whether the rules only apply for birth from a womb (Garrett 2008, p. 114). See (Bentor 2006, p. 186 fn4 & p. 192 respectively). It is of interest to note that Tsongkhapa and Mkhas grub postulate that the purification of the three states occurs in the generation stage, while the generation of the Buddha bodies occurs in the completion stage.
As discussed above, Candrakīrti’s Vajrasattva-sādhana organized generation stage practice in terms of the production of these bodies.
The term “subtle body” generated a lively conversation at the 2016 meeting of the Society for Tantric Studies. Skepticism about the use of this term is warranted by its history. In his recent edited volume on the “subtle body,” Geoffrey Samuel has traced the Western usage of the term back to a translation of the Vedantic term sukṣma-śarīra employed by members of the Theosophical Society. Samuel accounts for the challenges posed by the history of the term while preserving it as a workable category for a complex network of concepts and practices suggested by early Upaniṣadic, late Vedic, and classical Vedantic literature in addition to their more explicit and familiar development in yogic as well as Buddhist and Hindu tantric literature. The specificity and diversity of conceptualization and practical application varied across traditions. See (Samuel and Jay 2013). Lorelai Biernacki pointed to the concept of the subtle body as transmigrating body, the puryaṣṭaka, in the writings of Abhinavagupta. (Biernacki 2016) For more on this type of subtle body, see p. 98 fn 398 in (Bansat-Boudon and Tripathi 2014). James Mallinson suggested that Sanskrit sources may not articulate a distinction between subtle and gross components of the body’s physical elements in the way that the Tibetan sources Garrett and I are working with do. I am grateful to Mallinson for sharing his chapter on the yogic body with me. We do find a comparable formulation of a spectrum of gross and subtle in the depiction of the channels in Mallinson’s translation of a passage from the Parākhyatantra 14.54. See (Mallinson and Singleton 2017). Scholars working on the Kālacakra corpus may also add valuable background for better understanding Buddhist tantric conceptions of subtle and gross elements, and especially the winds.
(Garrett 2008, p. 153). Garrett observes that: “the names and functions of the winds, as taken from the Buddhist sutra, are the most prominent and consistent details these medical commentators add to their accounts of the body’s weekly development.” These winds include the five root winds discussed above along with five subsidiary winds, all drawn from tantric physiology. None of these, however, seem to be labeled specifically as elemental winds.
Khenpo Choying Dorje, Personal Communication, Spring 2011. “Piercing to the pith” may have different meanings in the different cycles and transmissions of tantric practice. It is possible that it is a practice that evolved in conjunction with acts of reading the yoginī tantras back into the Guhysamāja system (as the Vajramālā does). I have been unsuccessful to date in locating the Sanskrit equivalent of gnad du bsnun or in securing the Indian origins of this practice. Some potential clues emerge in Mallinson and Singleton’s chapter on the yogic body, namely references to piercing the cakras and knots [granthi] from the Netratantra and Yogabīja respectively. See (Mallinson 2017). In communicating with Mallinson about the terminology for such practices, he suggested granthi-bhedana as one term used in yogic contexts. Personal communication, June 2017.
zhes lus dkyil nyid bcos ma phyi’i dkyil ‘khor nyis las mchog tu bshad pa ci zhe na. bsgrub gzhi bcos ma bcos kyi [252.1] khyad par gyis mchog dman gyi khyad par de nyid byung ba yin te. mchog gi dngos grub kyi rgyu’i gtso bo ni. lus la gnad du bsnun nas bsgom pa las byung ba’i rdzogs rim nyid yin la; da lta kyi cha thams cad lhar bskyed cing byin gyis brlabs pa [252.2] yang yang goms pas lus kyi rtsa rlung thig le rnams las rung du gyur te; lus la gnad du bsnun nas bsgom pa’i tshe rdzogs rim gyi rtogs pa bde blag tu skye ba’i smin byed khyad par can du ‘gyur la.
On the etymology of mandala as ‘taking the pith’, see (Lee 2003, p. 130, fn 3). See reference to (Lessing and Wayman 1968, p. 270, fn 1): “Saraha writes in his Śri-Buddhakapālatantrapañjika-jñānavatī (T. 1652) Derge, Ra, 105a-5: ‘Maṇḍa’ means essence (or pith, sāra, hṛdaya); ‘-la’ means seizing that-thus, ‘seizing the essence’ maṇḍala)” (dkyil ni snying po’i/ ‘khor ni de len pa ste snying po len zhes pa’o) (Lee 2003).
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Dachille, R.E. Piercing to the Pith of the Body: The Evolution of Body Mandala and Tantric Corporeality in Tibet. Religions 2017, 8, 189. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel8090189
Dachille RE. Piercing to the Pith of the Body: The Evolution of Body Mandala and Tantric Corporeality in Tibet. Religions. 2017; 8(9):189. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel8090189Chicago/Turabian Style
Dachille, Rae Erin. 2017. "Piercing to the Pith of the Body: The Evolution of Body Mandala and Tantric Corporeality in Tibet" Religions 8, no. 9: 189. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel8090189