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Posts tagged ‘reflections’

  1. Jottings: on comparative demonologies

    At my May 2017 lecture at Treadwells Bookshop examining Tantra & Trance Possession, I gave a very brief outline of “afflictive possession” in both Ayurvedic & Tantric texts – and what is sometimes referred to as bhūtavidyā (‘the science of spirits’) including some remarks on how this subject is treated in the Netra Tantra – an eighth-century Kashmiri text, possibly composed in court circles, which has much to say on the subject of possession, exorcism, and related topics. Continue reading »

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  2. On Beauty: the human, the divine – II

    In the first post in this series I introduced the concept of alaṅkāra – ‘ornamentation’ – an extremely wide-ranging social category which remains tremendously important in Indian culture to this day. Ornamentation is intensely communicative and relational – it is as much about looking good in order to be seen in a particular way as it is about feeling good about oneself. Continue reading »

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  3. Bringing the gods to mind: on visualisation – I

    Seeing is one thing,
    looking is another.
    If both come together,
    that is god.

    If you look for an elephant,
    he comes as an elephant.
    If you look for a tree,
    he’s a tree.
    If you look for a mountain,
    he’ll be a mountain.
    God is what you have in your mind.
    Annamayya

    Reflecting on the theme of beauty back in May reminded me that I wanted to start a series of posts on the subject of visualisation – particularly with respect to tantra sadhana which – together with gesture and utterance – is one of its central practices. Continue reading »

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  4. Recollections of an occasional pagan activist

    Scene: meeting of Leeds Anti-Fascist-Action, some time in 1986:

    “Okay, I’ve been asked to come and facilitate a magical action. I know some of you are very skeptical about this, which is okay by me. Feel free not to participate. You might think it’s all a bit silly. You could just think of it like some of the Agit-Prop stuff Danbert and co. did in the town centre a couple of years back. A lark, nothing more.

    So … you won’t mind then when I ask you to meditate on the swastika….” Continue reading »

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  5. On Beauty: the human, the divine – I

    What comes to mind when an Indian text tells us, for example, that the goddess Tripura is beautiful? To be sure, from the perspective of practice at least, we cannot help but associate such statements with our own culturally-based conceptions of what constitutes beauty. But it helps, I feel, to know something of the social milieu from which these works sprang forth – its ethos, its ideals and aspirations, its cultural mores. What follows is the first in a series of posts in which I will try and explore Indian concepts of beauty, and how they relate to tantra practice and in particular, to the Saundaryalahari. This opening post is very much a general introduction, outlining some of the key concepts. Continue reading »

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  6. On Numinous Sound: some opening thoughts on Mantra

    The King of Mantras, O dear One! is at all times engendered by the union of Śiva and Śakti, and by that of the Yoginīs, the Vīras, and the Vīrendas. Thus constituted, delighting in the utmost bliss, the Goddess, whose nature is vibration [spanda], of innate beauty, once known, is to be freely worshipped.
    Yoginīhṛdaya 2, 17-18 (transl. André Padoux & Roger-Orphé Jeanty)

    At the end of the last post in the Saundaryalahari series, I promised that I would say something on the subject of mantras. This is a vast subject, and even with over a quarter-century of study & practice at my back, it is still a topic which I would approach only slowly. Before diving into the historical & philosophical complexities of mantra, I thought I’d begin then, with some reflections on my own early encounters with mantra-practice. Continue reading »

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  7. Reading the Saundarya Lahari – XVIII

    The one who repeats the fifteen-syllable mantra of Tripurā attains all desires, all enjoyments, conquers all the worlds, causes all words to emerge; achieving identity with Rudra, one breaks through the veil of Viṣṇu and obtains the supreme Brahman.
    Tripurātāpinī Upaniṣad

    So to verses 32-33 of Anandalahari. These stanzas are held by all commentators to express the secret fifteen/sixteen-syllable mantra of Tripurā-Sundarī. Continue reading »

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  8. Reading the Saundarya Lahari – XVII

    I seek refuge with Tripurasundarī,
    The Spouse of the Three-eyed One,
    Who dwells in the Kadamba forest,
    And who is ever wandering;
    The Large-eyed One who holds a golden vīnā,
    Wearing a necklace of priceless gems,
    Whose face is glowing with wine,
    And who of Her mercy grants prosperity to Her devotees.
    Tripurasundarīstotra, Hymns to the Goddess, Arthur Avalon

    Now for some brief comments on verses 30-31 of Anandalahari. Continue reading »

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  9. Reading the Saundarya Lahari – XVI

    Just as Devī,
    Your most beloved, endless pool of bliss,
    Is inseperable from you,
    So may your devotion alone
    Be inseperable from me.
    Utpaladeva, Shivastotravali 1.9

    Now for some brief notes on verses 28-29 of Anandalahari. Continue reading »

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  10. Heart Practice: approaching the tantric body-in-practice – II

    “Enveloping, embracing, and caressing me both inside and out, moving in ripples along my skin, flowing between my fingers, swirling around my arms and thighs, rolling in endless eddies along the roof of my mouth, slipping ceaselessly through throat and trachea to fill the lungs, to feed my blood, my heart, my self. I cannot act, cannot speak, cannot think a single thought without the participation of this fluid element. I am immersed in its depths as surely as fish are immersed in the sea.”
    David Abrams, on air, The Spell of the Sensuous

    “The tantric practitioner lives within the maṇḍala, lives within the yantra, lives within the vision of divinity such that the symbolic world of the text becomes the lived world of the body. Representation in text, icon and rite coalesce in the experience of the lived body.”
    Gavin Flood The Tantric Body

    To continue from the previous post in this series I now want to focus on approaching particular tantric body-practices. Continue reading »

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