India has many religious traditions in which both female and male practitioners seek to become goddesses or are oriented towards exemplary female models which represent the ideal devotee in relation to the divine. As a follow-up to Ardhanarishvara and other conundrums of gender I thought it’d be interesting to take a look at the Gauḍīya Vaisnava tradition – in which both male and female devotees seek to identify themselves with the gopis – the “cowherd maidens” who participate in Kṛṣṇa’s sacred drama – and how this identification is approached in theology and practice – and its limits. For this first post, I’m going to briefly discuss some of the key elements in Gauḍīya Vaisnava theology and practice which relate to the ideal of becoming a gopi. In future posts, I will examine some issues which circumscribe the “limits” of this practice – such as the so-called “heresy” of Rūpa Kavijāra in the eighteenth century, and heterodox movements influenced by Gauḍīya Vaisnavism – such as the Sakhibhavas and Sahajiyās. Continue reading »
Gordon MacLellan, writer, storyteller, environmental artist and occasional contributor to enfolding.org has just published a new book of poems: “Old stones and ancient bones, poems from the hollow hills”. Inspired by visits to prehistoric sites, old quarries and other wanderings, these poems move from the Orkneys to Derbyshire, inviting the reader to enter a world of chambered tombs; kelpie-haunted streams and faerie rings.
Old stones and ancient bones, poems from the hollow hills is available from Lulu or Amazon uk, priced £8.
More about Gordon’s work and the book at Creeping Toad
The worship of oneself must be done with elements that are pleasing to the senses.
Let my idle chatter be the muttering of prayer, my every manual movement the execution of ritual gesture, my walking a ceremonial circumambulation, my eating and other acts the rite of sacrifice, my lying down, prostration in worship, my every pleasure enjoyed with dedication of myself, let whatever activity of mine be some form of worship of you.
In the previous post in this series I gave a brief discussion on what could be thought of as a ‘tantric’ perspective on the senses. Now I will move onto describing the “short form” of this practice, which takes the form of a short puja sequence. Continue reading »
Madhu Khanna should need no introduction from me. She was one of the first contemporary scholars to produce a comprehensive examination of Srikula with her Ph.D dissertation – The Concept and Liturgy of the Śricakra Based on Śivānanda’s Trilogy (Oxford University, 1986) – and her publications include: Yantra: The Tantric Symbol of Cosmic Unity (1994), Rta, The Cosmic Order (2004), and Asian Perspectives on the World’s Religions After September 11 edited with Arvind Sharma, (2013). She is currently the director of the Tantra Foundation. Continue reading »
“The understanding of Śaivism can only aspire to objectivity if it includes a sincere effort to see how things are in the subjective perception of its practitioners. One has to be able to enter into the spirit of their world, to be with them intimately, to see what they are saying and why they are saying it, to go beneath the surface of their texts. There has to be empathy.”
In the opening post to this series examining Saundaryalahari I noted that, as a text, Saundaryalahari “works” in a variety of ways: it can be read simultaneously as a literary work (Kavya); as a ritual manual (prayoga), as a work of devotion (bhakti) and as a text which hides/encodes tantric “secrets”.
When Saundaryalahari is sung, recited, listened to, contemplated upon, these multiple registers coalesce, offering a vision/encounter with the goddess (Tripurasundari Devi). As hymn or prayer, Saundaryalahari opens, points the way to – a direct encounter with Devi – an encounter which requires and produces transformation in all whom it touches. To speak, to hear, to contemplate Saundaryalahari is to enter into a direct relation with Devi – to attend Her and be attended to by Her. Continue reading »
In this final part of The Fantastic World of Lobsang Rampa I will discuss the Rampa books’ portrayal of Tibet; briefly explore the UFO-related themes in his writings, and round up with some general conclusions. Continue reading »
In this second part of The Fantastic World of Lobsang Rampa I will discuss Rampa both as a “mystifier of Tibet and as a “Demystifier” of the Occult. I will also examine the tension between tradition and modernity, and take a brief look at Rampa’s treatment of homosexuality. Continue reading »
A version of this article first appeared in the first edition of Abraxas journal in 2009.
1956 saw the first British publication of a book called The Third Eye – described in glowing terms by the Times Literary Supplement as “becoming a near work of art” whilst The Observer called it “an extraordinary and exciting book.” Continue reading »
A few people have asked me of late if I could provide a bibliography of key tantric texts and studies – no easy task, given the seemingly exponential growth of new translations and studies. Fortunately, I’ve just found a very comprehensive bibliography of contemporary tantric works over at Oxford Bibliographies. Compiled by Glen A Hayes, this is a really useful starting-point for anyone looking for key texts and themes. Whilst there are a few omissions, and the resources listed are definitely slanted towards users with access to academic journal repositories, it’s still a great resource.