Special Issue "Cognitive Science and the Study of Yoga and Tantra"

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

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 April 2016)

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Glen A. Hayes

Department of Religion, Bloomfield College, 467 Franklin St, Bloomfield, NJ 07003, USA
Website | E-Mail
Phone: 973-748-9000 ext 236
Interests: history of religion; cognitive science; neuroscience; gender and sexuality; Tantra; Yoga
Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Sthaneshwar Timalsina

Religious Studies, College of Arts and Letters, San Diego State University 5500 Campanile Drive, San Diego, CA 92182, USA
Website | E-Mail
Phone: 619-594-6650
Interests: Vedic and Tantric traditions; Yogacara philosophy; literary theory; ritual studies

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Focus: The pan-Asian traditions of Yoga and Tantra have developed their own forms of psychology, consciousness theories, textual and sociological lineages, and extensive ritual systems—all of which provide fascinating examples for the study of various cognitive processes. Imagination, conceptual integration, metaphor and metonymy, pattern recognition, memory studies, and self-consciousness are frequent subjects in the classical study of Yoga and Tantra. However, studying these complex traditions using recent methods and insights from Cognitive Science will not only advance the study of Yoga and Tantra; it will provide cognitive scientists with new examples and tools to advance their own emerging theories and methods.

Purpose: Religious traditions, particularly Yoga and Tantra, have much to offer to scholars seeking to better understand human nature. However, until quite recently, Yoga and Tantra have largely been studied from the perspectives of traditional disciplines, such as the history of religions, sociology, anthropology, and linguistics. The cognitive dimensions and processes of Yoga and Tantra have not been sufficiently examined using the many disciplines allied with Cognitive Science. The purpose of this volume is to engage this coming together of studies of Yoga and Tantra with the range of Cognitive Sciences, providing fresh insights into these rich expressions of human creativity and experience.

Relation to existing literature: This proposed issue is unlike any existing volume, although it grows out of recent research and publications of the co-editors and other colleagues (see References). It is unlike mainstream approaches to the study of Yoga and Tantra, and will provide a venue for cognitive scientists and scholars of Yoga and Tantra to share their research, methods, and insights. Hopefully, this will lead to entirely new fields of cognitive science and the study of religion.

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

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

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. 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.



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Keywords

  • Yoga
  • Tantra
  • Cognitive Science
  • Neuroscience
  • History of Religion
  • Embodiment
  • Gender
  • Sexuality
  • Hinduism
  • Buddhism
  • Asia
  • Asian religion
  • perception
  • cognition
  • consciousness
  • memory
  • conceptual blending
  • metaphor
  • imagination

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Editorial

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Open AccessEditorial Introduction to “Cognitive Science and the Study of Yoga and Tantra”
Religions 2017, 8(9), 181; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel8090181
Received: 28 August 2017 / Revised: 31 August 2017 / Accepted: 31 August 2017 / Published: 6 September 2017
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Abstract
The range of disciplines known as the Cognitive Science of Religions (CSR), which has emerged in recent decades, embraces many areas and specializations within the Academy, including cognitive science, linguistics, neuroscience, and religious studies.[...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Cognitive Science and the Study of Yoga and Tantra)

Research

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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle A Cognitive Approach to Tantric Language
Religions 2016, 7(12), 139; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel7120139
Received: 29 April 2016 / Revised: 20 September 2016 / Accepted: 22 October 2016 / Published: 30 November 2016
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Abstract
By applying the contemporary theories of schema, metonymy, metaphor, and conceptual blending, I argue in this paper that salient cognitive categories facilitate a deeper analysis of Tantric language. Tantras use a wide range of symbolic language expressed in terms of mantric speech and [...] Read more.
By applying the contemporary theories of schema, metonymy, metaphor, and conceptual blending, I argue in this paper that salient cognitive categories facilitate a deeper analysis of Tantric language. Tantras use a wide range of symbolic language expressed in terms of mantric speech and visual maṇḍalas, and Tantric texts relate the process of deciphering meaning with the surge of mystical experience. In this essay, I will focus on some distinctive varieties of Tantric language with a conviction that select cognitive tools facilitate coherent reading of these expressions. Mystical language broadly utilizes images and metaphors. Deciphering Tantric language should therefore also provide a framework for reading other varieties of mystical expressions across cultures. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Cognitive Science and the Study of Yoga and Tantra)
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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle The Potential of the Bi-Directional Gaze: A Call for Neuroscientific Research on the Simultaneous Activation of the Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Nervous Systems through Tantric Practice
Religions 2016, 7(11), 132; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel7110132
Received: 25 April 2016 / Revised: 11 September 2016 / Accepted: 12 October 2016 / Published: 14 November 2016
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Abstract
This paper is a call for the development of a neuroscientific research protocol for the study of the impact of Tantric practice on the autonomic nervous system. Tantric texts like Abhinavagupta’s Tantrāloka map out a complex meditative ritual system in which inward-gazing, apophatic, [...] Read more.
This paper is a call for the development of a neuroscientific research protocol for the study of the impact of Tantric practice on the autonomic nervous system. Tantric texts like Abhinavagupta’s Tantrāloka map out a complex meditative ritual system in which inward-gazing, apophatic, sense-denying contemplative practices are combined with outward-gazing, kataphatic sense-activating ritual practices. Abhinavagupta announces a culminating “bi-directional” state (pratimīlana-samādhi) as the highest natural state (sahaja-samādhi) in which the practitioner becomes a perfected yogi (siddhayogi). This state of maximized cognitive capacities, in which one’s inward gaze and outward world-engagement are held in balance, appears to be one in which the anabolic metabolic processes of the parasympathetic nervous system and the catabolic metabolic processes of the sympathetic nervous systems are simultaneously activated and integrated. Akin to secularized mindfulness and compassion training protocols like Emory’s CBCT, I propose the development of secularized “Tantric protocols” for the development of secular and tradition-specific methods for further exploring the potential of the human neurological system. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Cognitive Science and the Study of Yoga and Tantra)
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle Buddhist Ritual from Syntax to Cognition: Insight Meditation and Homa
Religions 2016, 7(8), 104; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel7080104
Received: 12 April 2016 / Revised: 27 July 2016 / Accepted: 9 August 2016 / Published: 16 August 2016
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Abstract
The concept of “ritual syntax” is developed by relating it to cognitive studies of ritual, providing a fuller theoretical basis. Developing theoretical grounding requires differentiating between the members of five pairs of concepts: production is not the same as analysis, syntax is not [...] Read more.
The concept of “ritual syntax” is developed by relating it to cognitive studies of ritual, providing a fuller theoretical basis. Developing theoretical grounding requires differentiating between the members of five pairs of concepts: production is not the same as analysis, syntax is not the same as semantics, ritual is not the same as the mental, cognition is not the same as the mental, and syntax is not the same as language. These distinctions help avoid overly strong interpretations of the analogy between ritual and language. A discussion of “ritual” suggests that it is best conceptualized in terms of multiple scalar characteristics with degrees of ritualization. Two Buddhist practices, insight meditation and homa, are introduced as instances for the cognitive study of ritual. Syntax involves not simply ordering of elements, but also hierarchical organization of those elements. While syntax allows sentential elements to move within a sentence, ritual tends toward invariance. Invariance seems to contradict the claim that ritual is syntactically organized. However, rituals are often modeled on ordinary activities, producing a kind of “semantic” motivation for invariance. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Cognitive Science and the Study of Yoga and Tantra)
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Open AccessFeature PaperArticle Contemplative Science and Secular Ethics
Religions 2016, 7(8), 98; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel7080098
Received: 21 April 2016 / Revised: 23 June 2016 / Accepted: 26 July 2016 / Published: 8 August 2016
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Abstract
This article argues that the emerging project of contemplative science will be best served if it is informed by two perspectives. First, attention should be paid not only to non-analytical and/or mindfulness-based practices, but to a fuller range of contemplative practices, including analytical [...] Read more.
This article argues that the emerging project of contemplative science will be best served if it is informed by two perspectives. First, attention should be paid not only to non-analytical and/or mindfulness-based practices, but to a fuller range of contemplative practices, including analytical styles of meditation. Second, the issue of ethics must be addressed as a framework within which to understand contemplative practice: both theoretically in order to understand better the practices themselves and the traditions they come from, and practically in order to understand the ways in which contemplative practices are deployed in contemporary societies. The Tibetan Buddhist Lojong (blo sbyong) tradition and secularized practices derived from it, which are now an area of study in contemplative science, are examined as a kind of case study in order to make these two points and illustrate their importance and relevance for the future of this emerging field. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Cognitive Science and the Study of Yoga and Tantra)
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle Connecting Consciousness to Physical Causality: Abhinavagupta’s Phenomenology of Subjectivity and Tononi’s Integrated Information Theory
Religions 2016, 7(7), 87; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel7070087
Received: 28 May 2016 / Revised: 21 June 2016 / Accepted: 23 June 2016 / Published: 1 July 2016
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Abstract
This article demonstrates remarkably similar methods for linking mind and body to address the “hard problem” in the work of 11th-century Indian philosopher Abhinavagupta with a currently prominent neuroscienctific theory, Tononi’s Integrated Information Theory 3.0. Both Abhinavagupta and Tononi and Christof Koch hinge [...] Read more.
This article demonstrates remarkably similar methods for linking mind and body to address the “hard problem” in the work of 11th-century Indian philosopher Abhinavagupta with a currently prominent neuroscienctific theory, Tononi’s Integrated Information Theory 3.0. Both Abhinavagupta and Tononi and Christof Koch hinge their theories on the identity of phenomenal subjective experience with causality. Giulio Tononi’s Integrated Information Theory is remarkable precisely in its method for dealing with the mind-body problem; namely, Tononi’s mathematically oriented systems neurology proposes something we typically do not find in neuroscientific literature—that we start from a phenomenology of experience. Abhinavagupta’s sophisticated and, for his milieu, novel way of linking subjectivity and objectivity in the concepts of knowledge (jñāna) and action (kriyā) also offers a way of understanding how subjectivity can be linked to causality. This particular configuration is mostly absent in Western Cartesian models for understanding consciousness and in Indian philosophical speculations on consciousness. However, this, in any case, is precisely the move that Tononi makes when he proposes that information is both “causal and intrinsic.” Abhinavagupta’s similar linkage of subjectivity with causality can help us to think about Tononi’s neuroscientific mathematical model. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Cognitive Science and the Study of Yoga and Tantra)
Open AccessFeature PaperArticle Transforming Adverse Cognition on the Path of Bhakti: Rule-Based Devotion, “My-Ness,” and the Existential Condition of Bondage
Religions 2016, 7(5), 49; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel7050049
Received: 30 December 2015 / Revised: 23 April 2016 / Accepted: 28 April 2016 / Published: 6 May 2016
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Abstract
Early Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava theologians developed a unique path of Hindu devotion during the 16th century through which an aspirant cultivates a rapturous form of selfless love (premā) for Kṛṣṇa, who is recognized as the supreme and personal deity. In the course [...] Read more.
Early Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava theologians developed a unique path of Hindu devotion during the 16th century through which an aspirant cultivates a rapturous form of selfless love (premā) for Kṛṣṇa, who is recognized as the supreme and personal deity. In the course and consequence of cultivating this selfless love, the recommended practices of devotion are claimed to free one from the basic existential condition of bondage that is of concern for a wide range of South Asian religious and philosophical traditions. One of the principle cognitive tendencies characterizing this condition is to have thoughts and feelings of possessiveness over objects of the world, or what is referred to as the state of “my-ness” (mamatā), e.g., my home, my children, or my wealth. Using the therapeutic model of schema therapy as a heuristic analogue, this article explores the relationship between recommended practices of rule-based devotion (vaidhi-bhakti) and the modulation of thoughts and feelings of possessiveness towards mundane objects. I argue that such practices function as learning strategies that can systematically rework and modulate how one relates to and responds to these objects in theologically desirable ways. I conclude by suggesting that connectionist theories of cognition and learning may offer a promising explanatory framework for understanding the dynamics of this kind of relationship. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Cognitive Science and the Study of Yoga and Tantra)

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Open AccessFeature PaperEssay Strange Bedfellows: Meditations on the Indispensable Virtues of Confusion, Mindfulness and Humor in the Neuroscientific and Cognitive Study of Esoteric and Contemplative Traditions1
Religions 2016, 7(9), 113; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel7090113
Received: 18 March 2016 / Revised: 17 August 2016 / Accepted: 17 August 2016 / Published: 6 September 2016
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Abstract
Several recent publications in the study of esoteric traditions have drawn together insights from scholars of religions and philosophy, contemplative communities, metaphor and conceptual blend theories, cognitive sciences, neurosciences, and physical anthropology. These interdisciplinary explorations revolve around contemplative practices (meditation, mindfulness, ritual traditions, [...] Read more.
Several recent publications in the study of esoteric traditions have drawn together insights from scholars of religions and philosophy, contemplative communities, metaphor and conceptual blend theories, cognitive sciences, neurosciences, and physical anthropology. These interdisciplinary explorations revolve around contemplative practices (meditation, mindfulness, ritual traditions, etc.). This includes both ethnographic and textual expressions of these traditions. This paper is a response to the questions and insights of some recent articles, books, and two 2015 conference papers, with the specific purpose of contributing to what Glen Hayes (2014) called “the need to develop and ‘new vocabulary’ for this interdisciplinary study” of contemplative and esoteric traditions (Hayes’ call was specifically in reference to Hindu Tantra). To do this, I have referred to some other scientific approaches to which the scholars of esoteric and contemplative communities have not made much mention, and then to offer a form of reflection and meditation on what this new vocabulary and these research projects call us to do: their concepts, logic, and meaning. To this end, I have given some careful attention to the concepts of confusion, mindfulness, humor, and dispassionate vulnerability to help us better understand what we are doing, and where we should go from here. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Cognitive Science and the Study of Yoga and Tantra)
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