Special Issue "The Society for Tantric Studies Proceedings (2019)"

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 January 2021).

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Glen A. Hayes
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Religion, Bloomfield College, Bloomfield, NJ 07003, USA
Interests: history of religion; cognitive science; neuroscience; gender and sexuality; Tantra; Yoga
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals
Prof. Dr. Sthaneshwar Timalsina
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
College of Arts and Letters, San Diego State University, San Diego, CA 92182, USA
Interests: Vedic and Tantric traditions; Yogacara philosophy; literary theory; ritual studies
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

This Special Issue will contain a selection of papers presented at the 2019 meeting of the Society for Tantric Studies in Flagstaff, Arizona, September 27–29. At this conference, scholars from around the world, specializing in different areas and disciplines, came together to share their recent research into Tantric Studies. Although limited to those who participated in the actual meeting, this Special Issue will be of great interest to those interested in the most recent research and methodologies in Asian studies, Yoga, Tantra, Hinduism, Buddhism, History of Religions, Anthropology, Gender Studies, Embodiment, Philosophy, Cognitive Science, Ritual Studies, Traditional Medicine, and other areas.

Prof. Dr. Glen A. Hayes
Prof. Dr. Sthaneshwar Timalsina
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1200 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • tantra
  • yoga
  • India
  • Assam
  • China
  • Tibet
  • Japan
  • Hinduism
  • Buddhism
  • history of religion
  • cognitive science
  • anthropology
  • magic
  • ritual
  • gender
  • sexuality
  • embodiment
  • medicine

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Research

Article
Śaivism after the Śaiva Age: Continuities in the Scriptural Corpus of the Vīramāheśvaras
Religions 2021, 12(3), 222; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12030222 - 23 Mar 2021
Viewed by 606
Abstract
This article makes the case that Vīraśaivism emerged in direct textual continuity with the tantric traditions of the Śaiva Age. In academic practice up through the present day, the study of Śaivism, through Sanskrit sources, and bhakti Hinduism, through the vernacular, are generally [...] Read more.
This article makes the case that Vīraśaivism emerged in direct textual continuity with the tantric traditions of the Śaiva Age. In academic practice up through the present day, the study of Śaivism, through Sanskrit sources, and bhakti Hinduism, through the vernacular, are generally treated as distinct disciplines and objects of study. As a result, Vīraśaivism has yet to be systematically approached through a philological analysis of its precursors from earlier Śaiva traditions. With this aim in mind, I begin by documenting for the first time that a thirteenth-century Sanskrit work of what I have called the Vīramāheśvara textual corpus, the Somanāthabhāṣya or Vīramāheśvarācārasāroddhārabhāṣya, was most likely authored by Pālkurikĕ Somanātha, best known for his vernacular Telugu Vīraśaiva literature. Second, I outline the indebtedness of the early Sanskrit and Telugu Vīramāheśvara corpus to a popular work of early lay Śaivism, the Śivadharmaśāstra, with particular attention to the concepts of the jaṅgama and the iṣṭaliṅga. That the Vīramāheśvaras borrowed many of their formative concepts and practices directly from the Śivadharmaśāstra and other works of the Śaiva Age, I argue, belies the common assumption that Vīraśaivism originated as a social and religious revolution. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Society for Tantric Studies Proceedings (2019))
Article
Language of Gestures: Mudrā, Mirror, and Meaning in Śākta Philosophy
Religions 2021, 12(3), 211; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12030211 - 19 Mar 2021
Viewed by 428
Abstract
By contextualizing the ways gestures are used and interpreted in tantric practice and philosophy, this paper explores the cultural and cognitive domains of corporeal expression. Initiating the conversation with descriptions of basic dance gestures and widely understood emotional expressions, the paper proceeds to [...] Read more.
By contextualizing the ways gestures are used and interpreted in tantric practice and philosophy, this paper explores the cultural and cognitive domains of corporeal expression. Initiating the conversation with descriptions of basic dance gestures and widely understood emotional expressions, the paper proceeds to address the generative nature of corporeal language as it contextualizes varied forms of esoteric experience. Confronting simplistic readings of gestural language, the core argument here is that tantric gestures introduce a distinctive form of embodied language that relies on a propositional attitude for deciphering their meanings. This process becomes a ritual in its own right. Even when we accept that gestures represent meaning, tantric gestures are understood to mirror the innate experience, prior to being shaped by language and culture, and in this sense they reflect the absolute. As a consequence, language becomes physical in time and space, and even when language transcends itself, it remains embodied. In sum, tantric gestures can be deciphered to unravel the deeper layers inherent to the sign system, and this is possible only when we are open to critically engaging folk theories. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Society for Tantric Studies Proceedings (2019))
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Article
Running the Numbers for the Path of Mantra: Distinguishing the Thirteenth Bhūmi in Fifteenth-Century Tibet
Religions 2021, 12(3), 175; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12030175 - 09 Mar 2021
Viewed by 333
Abstract
This article explores a Buddhist text in which numbers set the very stakes for liberation. In 1404, Ngor chen Kun dga’ bzang po (1382–1456), who was to become one of the most esteemed tantric commentators of the Tibetan Sakya tradition, composed his first [...] Read more.
This article explores a Buddhist text in which numbers set the very stakes for liberation. In 1404, Ngor chen Kun dga’ bzang po (1382–1456), who was to become one of the most esteemed tantric commentators of the Tibetan Sakya tradition, composed his first polemical text, Dispelling Evil Misunderstandings of the Explanation of the Ground of Zung ‘jug Vajradhara. In this early work, Ngor chen grapples with the relationship between the path of perfections and of secret mantra as conduits to liberation. I illuminate the ways in which ritual, exegesis, and pedagogy converge in Ngor chen’s text to reveal larger implications for distinguishing the eleventh and thirteenth grounds (bhūmi) of Buddhahood in fifteenth-century Tibet. In concluding, I highlight the art of differentiation as a fundamental Tibetan scholastic enterprise and briefly engage Ngor chen’s acts of distinguishing sūtra and tantra in conversation with those of key Tibetan predecessors and contemporaries. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Society for Tantric Studies Proceedings (2019))
Article
The Puzzle of Playful Matters in Non-Dual Śaivism and Sāṃkhya: Reviving Prakṛti in the Sāṃkhya Kārikā through Goethean Organics
Religions 2020, 11(5), 221; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11050221 - 30 Apr 2020
Viewed by 654
Abstract
Abhinavagupta is widely viewed to be a cautious, perceptive, and sympathetic reader (even of his opponents), with some researchers even celebrating him as a pre-modern intellectual historian. But scholars all too often underestimate how and why Abhinava misreads many of his rivals. Abhinava’s [...] Read more.
Abhinavagupta is widely viewed to be a cautious, perceptive, and sympathetic reader (even of his opponents), with some researchers even celebrating him as a pre-modern intellectual historian. But scholars all too often underestimate how and why Abhinava misreads many of his rivals. Abhinava’s treatment of the Sāṃkhya Kārikā (SK) illustrates this. Abhinava and Sāṃkhya alike hold to the doctrine that effects share identity with or reside within their cause (satkāryavāda). But according to Abhinava, Īśvarakṛṣṇa (and other Sāṃkhya thinkers) fails to explain how a cause (sat) can give rise to its effects (kārya, including the manifestations of effects) without ceasing to be itself, since the underlying material cause (mūlaprakṛti), e.g., a square, changes its identity from one manifestation (vyaktaprakṛti) to the next, e.g., a triangle. In place of this, Abhinava argues that only the Pratyabhijñā approach can account for satkārya and abhivyakti (manifestation). Causes and effects, Abhinava tells us, are but expressions of how divine super-consciousness (Śiva) appears to itself through the playful manifestation of a seemingly material other (Śakti). However, a closer reading of the canonical Sāṃkhya text, the Sāṃkhya Kārikā, reveals that this system originally advocated a metaphysics of living nature, not inanimate matter. From this basic yet important correction, Sāṃkhya could explain the very same playful interface between cause and manifest effect described by Abhinava, since the manifest procreativity (vyaktaprakṛti) of organic nature exhibits constancy in the midst of its self-transformations. I draw this out through a critique of the modern scientific assumptions that underlie much Sāṃkhya research, and in its place I develop an organicist reading that is informed by Goethe’s phenomenological science of life. This approach helps to resuscitate core Sāṃkhya metaphysical categories in terms of their directed and intelligent aliveness (not just their materiality). Moreover, it offers clues to why Pratyabhijñā misinterpreted the SK: (1) it gave allegiance to classical Sāṃkhya commentaries (many of which misconstrued Īśvarakṛṣṇa’s views), and (2) its organizing philosophical narrative precluded metaphysical dualism and the self-sufficient power of nature to conceal itself. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Society for Tantric Studies Proceedings (2019))
Article
Devotion, a Lamp That Illuminates the Ground: Non-Referential Devotional Affect in Great Completeness
Religions 2020, 11(3), 148; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11030148 - 23 Mar 2020
Viewed by 1062
Abstract
I explore how devotion (mos gus) is re-interpreted as non-dual and non-conceptual through Mahāyoga tantric creation (skyed) and completion (rdzogs) stage practices as an expression of the ground (bzhi) for Longchenpa (klong chen rab ‘byams, 1308–1364) and Jigme Lingpa (‘jigs med gling pa, [...] Read more.
I explore how devotion (mos gus) is re-interpreted as non-dual and non-conceptual through Mahāyoga tantric creation (skyed) and completion (rdzogs) stage practices as an expression of the ground (bzhi) for Longchenpa (klong chen rab ‘byams, 1308–1364) and Jigme Lingpa (‘jigs med gling pa, 1730–1785). Devotion, a felt-sense, allows for there to be something akin to a residue from these mental constructs that allows for a practitioner to carry over her experience into a later phase of meditation. Firstly, devotion, as an affect is necessarily non-dual because tantra entails pure perception (dag snang). Secondly, I demonstrate that for Longchenpa, tantra is a method that relies on non-conceptual frameworks. Finally, I address how devotion pivots ordinary mind (sems) towards recognizing this ground. Through this progression, there is a profound synchronicity between full-on openness to devotion and the infinitely spacious reality. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Society for Tantric Studies Proceedings (2019))
Article
Amṛtasiddhi A Posteriori: An Exploratory Study on the Possible Impact of the Amṛtasiddhi on the Subsequent Sanskritic Vajrayāna Tradition
Religions 2020, 11(3), 140; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11030140 - 19 Mar 2020
Viewed by 791
Abstract
Recent research into source materials for haṭhayoga (Birch, Mallinson, Szántó) has revealed that the physical techniques and esoteric anatomy traditionally associated with Śaiva practitioners likely found a genesis within Vajrayāna Buddhist communities. The physiology and practices for longevity described in the 11th-or-12th-century Amṛtasiddhi [...] Read more.
Recent research into source materials for haṭhayoga (Birch, Mallinson, Szántó) has revealed that the physical techniques and esoteric anatomy traditionally associated with Śaiva practitioners likely found a genesis within Vajrayāna Buddhist communities. The physiology and practices for longevity described in the 11th-or-12th-century Amṛtasiddhi are easily traced in the development of subsequent physical yoga, but prior to the discovery of the text’s Buddhist origin, analogues to a haṭhayoga esoteric anatomy found in Vajrayāna sources have been regarded as coincidental. This paper considers both the possibility that the Amṛtasiddhi, or a tradition related to it, had a lasting impact on practices detailed in subsequent tantric Buddhist texts and that this haṭhayoga source text can aid in interpreting unclear passages in these texts. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Society for Tantric Studies Proceedings (2019))
Article
The Visualization of the Secret: Atiśa’s Contribution to the Internalization of Tantric Sexual Practices
Religions 2020, 11(3), 136; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11030136 - 18 Mar 2020
Viewed by 1059
Abstract
This essay will explore the challenges presented by transgressive rituals, particularly the secret and wisdom-consort consecrations found in the Mahāyoga and Yoginī tantras. In particular, it examines how Atiśa Dīpaṅkara Śrījñāna aided in the dissemination of these traditions to Tibet during the eleventh [...] Read more.
This essay will explore the challenges presented by transgressive rituals, particularly the secret and wisdom-consort consecrations found in the Mahāyoga and Yoginī tantras. In particular, it examines how Atiśa Dīpaṅkara Śrījñāna aided in the dissemination of these traditions to Tibet during the eleventh century, in part through encouraging the enactment of transgressive rituals via internal visualization. I will do so through the exploration of a largely unstudied work by Atiśa, his commentary on a meditation manual (sādhana) attributed to the mahāsiddha Lūipa, “The Realization of the Cakrasaṃvara”, Cakrasaṃvarābhisamaya. Through an examination of this work, I will argue that Atiśa played an important role in facilitating the acceptance of the Yoginītantras in Tibet, during a time when tantric traditions were subject to a considerable amount of scrutiny. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Society for Tantric Studies Proceedings (2019))
Article
Love me for the Sake of the World: “Goddess Songs” in Tantric Buddhist Maṇḍala Rituals
Religions 2020, 11(3), 124; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11030124 - 12 Mar 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1154
Abstract
The presence of Apabhraṃśa in tantric Buddhist texts has long been noted by scholars, overwhelmingly explained away as an example of “Twilight language” (saṃdhā-bhāṣā). However, when one looks closer at the vast number of Apabhraṃśa verses in this canon, one finds [...] Read more.
The presence of Apabhraṃśa in tantric Buddhist texts has long been noted by scholars, overwhelmingly explained away as an example of “Twilight language” (saṃdhā-bhāṣā). However, when one looks closer at the vast number of Apabhraṃśa verses in this canon, one finds recurring patterns, themes, and even tropes. This begs for deeper study, as well as establishing a taxonomy of these verses based on their place and use. This paper focuses on a specific subset of Apabhraṃśa verses: “goddess songs” in maṇḍala visualization rituals. These verses are sung by yoginīs at specific moments in esoteric Buddhist ritual syntax; while the sādhaka is absorbed in enstatic emptiness, four yoginīs call out to him with sexually charged appeals, begging him to return to the world and honor their commitments to all sentient beings. When juxtaposed with other Apabhraṃśa verses in tantric Buddhist texts, these songs express an immediacy and intimacy that stands out in both form and content from the surrounding text. This essay argues that Apabhraṃśa is a conscious stylistic choice for signaling intimate and esoteric passages in tantric literature, and so the vast number of Apabhraṃśa verses in this corpus should be reexamined in this light. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Society for Tantric Studies Proceedings (2019))
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Article
Uddālaka’s Yoga in the Mokṣopāya
Religions 2020, 11(3), 111; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel11030111 - 04 Mar 2020
Viewed by 804
Abstract
This paper suggests that the Uddālaka story, told in the Mokṣopāya (MU) (950 CE), in which the young sage Uddālaka undergoes a process of body and mind purification after an experience of the appearance of kuṇḍalinī in the body, prompted by the recitation [...] Read more.
This paper suggests that the Uddālaka story, told in the Mokṣopāya (MU) (950 CE), in which the young sage Uddālaka undergoes a process of body and mind purification after an experience of the appearance of kuṇḍalinī in the body, prompted by the recitation of the syllable OṂ, could be seen as a precursor to systems of praxis outlined in later Haṭha Yoga (HY) texts. The narrative of Uddālaka paints a picture of a complex and blended world of sectarian influence, spiritual knowledge and embodied praxis within which the MU was no doubt composed, and within which early HY also likely emerged as praxis for the sake of mokṣa. The depiction of Uddālaka’s yogic transformation is summarized here and analyzed to reveal a multilayered picture of influence that may shed light on the formative environment of early Hatha Yoga. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Society for Tantric Studies Proceedings (2019))
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