Visualization and Meaning in Tantras
Chapter 2. Image and Visualization in Classical Hinduism
IMAGE AND VISUALIZATION IN CLASSICAL HINDUISM
The power of visualization, or imagining something as living and breathing, is essential to worshipping images in the Hindu traditions. In the absence of this imaginative process, images are merely stones. After tracing the early history of worshipping images in India, I will advance the argument in this chapter that the power of imagination has always remained at the center of worshipping images. Existing scholarship has paid excessive attention to the historicity of images, while shortchanging the creative imaginative role of humans in constructing reality. Image worship is a good example for exploring the early history of imagination, where human ingenuity vividly manifests the divine in its own image, and acceptance of this image as alive becomes an initial ground for comprehending the transcendent. This belief works when there is no dichotomy between the manifest and the unmanifest. The attribution of presence in material form to the transcendent especially depends on the underlying principle that there is no dichotomy between the transcendent and the immanent: the manifest reality is an expression of the absolute.
The tradition being explored in this chapter, and the particular ritual of visualizing images, depends on and expresses these concepts. After addressing the early instances of beliefs about images, I will explore a range of terms used to denote the image in classical India that align with the thesis of the absolute manifesting in multiple immanent and mundane...
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