Visualization and Meaning in Tantras
Chapter 6. Surplus of Imagination: Images with Multiple Arms
SURPLUS OF IMAGINATION: IMAGES WITH MULTIPLE ARMS
Imagination and Meaning
Meaning and imagination are interwoven. In the absence of imagination, there is no meaning to discrete perceptions. Meaning is essential for giving life to imagination. When an image ‘means’ something, our power of imagination has given referentiality to something opaque. Through images, one sees meaning. The objective of visualization lies not on barely seeing the presence of an image but in understanding what they mean when viewing the gestures and arms of a deity. This perception of meaning is something unique to the practice of visualization, as it brings the abstract synthetic process of sign and reference to the fore of the mind. Not only that the pictures begin animating or becoming alive, they are seen against the background of a broader philosophy, as every posture or gesture the image has meaning — the arms and weapons, the seats and the background, the colors and garments — all stand for, and thus express something. The practice of visualization does not come to fruition as long as images are not ‘directly encountered’ (sākṣātkāra), and the subjective transformation does not occur. The experience the subject has transforms his perception of himself and the surrounding world, and he recognizes reality interwoven with his perception and the external stimulants.
Deities with multiple arms are the best example of showing how the synthetic process works in giving rise to abstract meaning by borrowing aspects...
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