Visualization and Meaning in Tantras
Preface and Acknowledgements
With images in religious discourse, the topic of imagination in philosophy, and cognitive images in psychology, the visual aspect of consciousness has surfaced with full force from its long-banished oblivion. The central assumption of this monograph is that imagination is a creative process that constitutes reality, and its ritualized application in the practice of visualization is crucial for understanding this relationship. What is central to the practice is discovering the meaning of an obscure image. With meaning, these images become their own language, and are the field of hermeneutics. The time-consuming and rigorous practice of viewing images thus finds its relevance in understanding human cognitive mechanisms for maintaining a balance between fiction and fact, imagination and reality. This work is an effort to give the primarily Tantric practice the attention that it deserves. It is also timely as our obsession with words and the denial of images is slowly fading in the mainstream culture. This work is a product of a lengthy engagement, as most of the chapters in it have been presented in different conferences, modified in the form of different essays, and finally assembled together to offer a coherent meaning. The images explored here are cultural, grounded in the Tantric culture of Indian subcontinent. The reason for doing so is because these images have been historically accompanied with words and the marriage of language and images is vividly found in classical Tantric depictions, whether in the form of maṇḍalas, sculptures, or the manuals prescribing the...
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