Visualization and Meaning in Tantras
Chapter 4. Materializing Space and Time in Tantric Images
MATERIALIZING SPACE AND TIME IN TANTRIC IMAGES
mūrttivaicitryato deśakramam ābhāsayaty asau |
kriyāvaicitryanirbhāsāt kālakramam apīśvaraḥ ||ĪP 2.1.5
The Lord reveals the sequence of space with diversity in materialization. This [Lord] also [reveals] the sequence of time with the manifestation of diversity in action.
Images in general bring to life abstract concepts. Processes such as compression, magnification, or integration of multiple concepts into one are ubiquitous in image making. Tantric culture utilizes these cognitive mechanisms in order to materialize various concepts embedded within the plethora of divine images. Tantric meditative practices, such as the visualization of images, relate the material culture to textual exegesis. This process explicitly links concepts to specific images, as vividly demonstrated in the deities who personify anger (Krodha-Bhairava), arousal (Unmatta-Bhairava), bliss (Ānanda-Bhairava), or desire (Kāmeśvarī). The central argument of this chapter is that the process in which abstract concepts are materialized can be explained through viewing divine forms in the two categories of space and time. This grouping into two sections arises from the Tantric cosmology that explains reality in six ‘paths’ (adhvan), with three grouped under the category of time and the rest under space. The grouping of three within time includes letters, words, and sentences, and the remaining three attributed to space are the limiting factors (kalā), principles (tattva), and the cosmic planes (bhuvana). This configuration is based on linguistic philosophy...
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