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  1. Book Review: Śāktapramodaḥ of Deva Nandan Singh, edited by Madhu Khanna

    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 »

  2. Reading the Saundarya Lahari – IX

    “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.”
    Alexis Sanderson

    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 »

  3. One from the vaults: The Fantastic World of Lobsang Rampa – III

    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 »

  4. One from the vaults: The Fantastic World of Lobsang Rampa – II

    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 »

  5. One from the vaults: The Fantastic World of Lobsang Rampa – I

    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 »

  6. Towards a Tantric bibliography

    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.

  7. Heart practice: On the Adoration of the Senses – I

    “Just as one who sees something out of the ordinary experiences a feeling of amazement, so the feeling of amazement in enjoying contact with the various manifestations of knowable reality is continually produced in this great yogin with the whole wheel of the senses increasingly revealed, motionless, disclosed, by virtue of penetrating into its most intimate nature, the compact union of ever-renewed consciousness and wonder, extreme, extraordinary.”
    Ksemaraja, commentary on Śivasutra, 1.12, quoted from Torella, 2012

    “All wisdoms have celebrated the instant, the wise man leaves aside memory; he has few projects, makes himself at home in the present, inhabits its differential.”
    Michel Serres, The Five Senses

    I’ve been taking this foray into “heart practice” slowly, beginning with a central theme in tantra practice – that of the goddess dwelling in the heart. I’m now going to progress things slightly, with a look at a practice I tend to refer to as the “adoration of the senses”. But first, some thoughts on the senses themselves. Continue reading »

  8. Announcement: Online Tantra courses from Mark Dyczkowski

    Anuttara Trika Kula – a web site set up recently to promote the work of renown tantric scholar Mark Dyczkowski, has recently announced a forthcoming series of online courses by Dr. Dyczkowski. These will be composed of audio and video content, together with support materials and online discussion forums. A free introductory course – consisting of two audio lectures and two video segments – exploring the historical development of the tantras and historically locating the works of Abhinavagupta is available now. Register at www.anuttaratrikakula.org/locating-trika/

  9. Reading the Saundarya Lahari – VII

    When She, the Supreme Power, [becoming] out of her own desire, embodying all that exists perceives herself as flashing forth, the chakra then appears.
    Yoginihrdaya, 9

    For this post, I’m going to briefly discuss verses 14-16 of Anandalahari. Continue reading »

  10. Book Review: Sir John Woodroffe, Tantra and Bengal: ‘An Indian Soul in a European Body?’

    Sir John Woodroffe (1865-1936) is sometimes called the “father” of modern tantric studies. As Hugh Urban comments in his 2003 book, Tantra: Sex, Secrecy Politics and Power in the Study of Religion Woodroffe “surely stands out as one of the most remarkable and enigmatic figures in the entire history of British India. While maintaining his public profile as a judge and scholar of British Indian law, Woodroffe was also a private student of the tantras, who published a huge body of texts and translations and thus pioneered the modern academic study of Tantra in the West.” Continue reading »