Tantra Studies (14)

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    This volume on Tantra philosophy, having imbibed the art of reconstructive hermeneutical exegesis (tatparya-visodhana) synergizes. Abhinavagupta’s tantragamiya philosophical thought process with literature, culture, history, metaphysics, Tantric praxis as well as aesthetics. It unveils the original internal thought process of Svatantracidadvaitavada, i.e. integral dynamic idealistic absolutism in its entirety.

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    Abhinavagupta ka Tantragamiya Darsana by: Navjivan Rastogi 1,900.00 1,710.00

    This  volume on Tantra philosophy, by a highly esteemed author, is an unparalleled work in the realm of philosophical reflection. Having imbibed the art of reconstructive hermeneutical exegesis (tatparya-visodhana), the learned author has synergized Abhinavagupta’s tantragamiya philosophical thought process with literature, culture, history, metaphysics, Tantric praxis as well as aesthetics. With unbiased academic integrity and objective conceptual authenticity he has unveiled the original internal thought process of Svatantracidadvaitavada, i.e. integral dynamic idealistic absolutism in its entirety. In this millennial decade of the immortal Acarya Abhinavagupta, this work, by virtue of its analytical and investigative insights, will serve as an intellectual homage and will stand out amidst the published literature, whether in Hindi or English, on the subject.

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    It deals with the development and fundamental aspects of Buddhist Tantrism and its impact on paintings and the sculptural art of India. It discusses concepts and schools of Tantrism citing Buddhist Tantric works.

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    Buddhist Tantra and Buddhist Art by: T.N. Mishra 700.00 630.00

    In (perhaps) secret defiance of the rigid prescriptive codes of the Buddhist monastic order cropped up a new, esoteric cultic phenomenon. Which, later known as Buddhist tantra, not just compromised Shakyamuni’s ethical legacy, but came to be administered by a whole host of mudras, mandalas, kriyas, caryas and mysteriously ritualistic elements, even hedonistic practices. Dr. Mishra’s book attempts afresh to investigate when, why and how emerged this secrecy-ridden cult: now a spiritual tradition in its own right. The author, who has had long, personal interactions with some of the living tantriks, here enters the dark alleys of Buddhist tantra to look for its nucleus, its evolution, its culmination, and the causes of its disintegration. Focussing, further, on the shifting philosophical tenets of Buddhism: from Hinayana to Mahayana, Vajrayana, Kalacakrayana and, finally, Sahajayana, Dr. Mishra spells out quintessentially the world-view of Buddhist Tantra and its path to nirvana or sukhavati: the abode of bliss, together with a wide range of tàntric concepts that remain guhya (secret) to the uninitiated. Also showing how Buddhist art, almost from the beginning, has been compellingly influenced by tantric practices, the book exemplifies the manifestations of this influence in the iconographic representations of the Buddhist deities, illustrated manuscripts, thangkas, and even in the use of colours by the Buddhist artists.

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    The book offers an account of Tantra’s evolution, cultic variations, culture, philosophy, mysticism, etc. and shows how tantrism has deeply influenced major Indian religions and the art tradition.

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    Impact of Tantra on Religion and Art by: T.N. Mishra 550.00 495.00

    With its roots (perhaps) in the prehistoric times, Tantra is a unique, highly complex spiritual tradition of India. Which is hard to define and still harder to be grasped by the non-initiated — largely because of its occult and mysteriously ritualistic elements, often accompanied by equally mysterious mantras, yantras, kriyas and even sexual practices. As a religious philosophy, this esoteric cult of Shakti: the female principle, seeks to discover the source of cosmic power within the human body through intensely specialized yogic activity. And, like yoga, it transcends religious boundaries. Introducing this non-Vedic, esoteric cult in an altogether fresh perspective, the book looks at tantra: both as a philosophy and as a spiritual tradition in its own right, and how tantrism has, in the past, been an irresistible influence not only on major Indian religions (Brahmanical Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism), but on arts as well. Dr. Mishra authenticates his findings with evidence from numerous Vaishnava, Shaiva, Shakta, Buddhist, and Jaina texts on religion, philosophy, art and iconography. The author, who has had long, personal interactions with some of the living tantrikas, also tries to dispel certain distortions woven around Tantric religion to contextually offer an unbiased account of its evolution, cultic variations, culture, philosophy, mysticism, and cardinal concepts and tenets. Together with relevant visual material, Dr. Mishra’s work will, thus, evoke as much interest in discerning readers as in the scholars of Indian religions, traditional philosophy, arts and art history.

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    It analyses, for the first time, each of Sri Lalita’s thousand names, through themes like the Goddess’s anthropomorphic forms, abodes and ritualistic worship. It underscores the importance of Lalita-Sahasranama in philosophy, tantra, yoga, sahasranama literature, etc.

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    Lalita-Sahasranama — A Comprehensive Study of One Thousand Names of Lalita Maha-Tripurasundari by: L.M. Joshi 850.00

    In the Hindu sacred literature, Sahasra-namas: the texts embodying literally “the Thousand Names” of a deity, constitute a genre in their own right. And Lalita-Sahasranama (LS) is a veritable classic in the traditional writings of the kind — a classic widely acknowledged for its lucidity, clarity and poetic excellence. A medieval work of unknown authorship eulogising Shakti: the Mother Goddess, this Sahasranama is not just a masterly exposition of Shri Lalita’s cult, but also sets out the deity’s diverse epithets — like, for instance, Kundalini, Nirguna, Saguna, Parashakti or Brahman — which continue to evoke reverence as mantras with ‘mystic powers’. Also included among these names are the goddess’s other panegyric descriptions that have come to have profound, esoteric connotations in tantric practices — epitomizing, thus, the fundamental tenets of tantrashastra. Here is a brilliant critical edition of Lalita-Sahasranama meticulously analysing, for the first time, each of Shri Lalita’s thousand names — by a variety of themes, like the Goddess’s conceptual representations, anthropomorphic forms, disposition, abodes, kinships/consorts, ritualistic worship, and her supremacy in pantheonic hierarchy. Also explaining and interpreting anew these thousand names on the basis of time-honoured commentaries, Dr. Joshi under-scores the high importance of Lalita-Sahasranama in philosophy, tantra, yoga, sahasranama literature, and rituals of various descriptions. The book includes the original Sanskrit text of LS, its romanised transliteration and, additionally, an Appendix listing Sri Lalita’s thousand names in the A-Z sequence.

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    The 24,000 verses long Manthanabhairavatantra is the most important and extensive Tantra dedicated to the goddess Kubjika who is exclusively worshipped in the Kathmandu Valley. The section, Kumarikakhanda, offered here in 14 volumes, presents Kubjika’s unique historical importance in the extraordinary richness of the inner, spiritual dimensions of her cult.

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    Manthanabhairavatantram, Kumarikakhandah by: Mark S.G. Dyczkowski 15,500.00 13,950.00

    The Manthanabhairavatantra is about 24,000 verses long and is divided into three sections (khanda). The one edited and translated here is the Kumarikakhanda. Along with the Kubjikamata, the Manthanabhairavatantra is the most important and extensive Tantra dedicated to the worship of the goddess Kubjika. Although originally an Indian goddess, Kubjika is almost exclusively worshipped in the Kathmandu Valley, where her cult has been kept scrupulously secret by Newar initiates for centuries. Almost all the manuscripts of her Tantras and related literature have been found there.
    Kubjika is a powerful development of Malini, the principal goddess of the Trika Tantras and Kali of the Kashmiri Krama tradition. Her cult belongs to a chain of early Kaula systems that culminate with that of the goddess Tripura and so sheds considerable light on them. Kubjika’s unique historical importance is mirrored in the extraordinary richness of the inner, spiritual dimensions of her cult. These are explored in detail in the introduction to the edition and translation of the text with extensive references from mostly unpublished Kubjika Tantras and those of related schools.
    The work took close to two decades to produce. In this time numerous working editions of unpublished Tantras and related texts were prepared by the author with the help of a team of five trained assistants.

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    Saktapramoda is a liturgical paddhati-style compendium of sixteen independent ritual manuals. Of the sixteen texts in it, ten are dedicated to the group of ten Great Tantric Mahavidyas and, Kumari Tantra, which is another allied one devoted to the worship of a young maiden (Kumari). The rest are devoted to five deities: Ganesa, Vishnu, Shiva, Durga and Surya.

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    Saktapramodah of Deva Nandan Singh by: Madhu Khanna 1,650.00 1,485.00

    Shktapramoda of Deva Nandan Singh is a liturgical paddhati-style compendium of sixteen independent ritual manuals. The first ten works, comprising the major part of the text, are dedicated to the group of ten Tantric goddesses, referred to as the Ten Great Mahavidyas or “Ten Supreme Powers” — the goddesses Kali, Tara, Sodashi, Bhuvaneshvari, Chinnamasta, Matangi, Tripurabhairavi, Dhumavati, Bagalamukhi and Kamala. The next important text closely allied to the worship of the goddesses is the Kumari Tantra devoted to the worship of a young maiden (Kumari). The next group of works comprises the pentad of Tantras devoted to five deities: Ganesha, Vishnu, Shiva, Durga and Surya. These five deities are invoked in almost all forms of ritual worship prescribed by the Vedas, Puranas and to a degree by the Tantras.
    Each Tantra describes the dhyana of the deity, the yantra, mantras and the method of Tantric form of worship of the deity, along with praise hymns, protective formulas (kavaca) and litanies of divine names, be they a group of hundred names (shatanama) or a thousand names (sahasranama).
    The first edition of Shktapramoda was published by Raja Deva Nandan Singh, an aristocratic zamindar of Muzaffarpur, Bihar, in the nineteenth century. The present edition brings together a fully edited and revised text with an elaborate introduction (in English), and a comprehensive index along with lithographic images of Tantric deities.

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    This is a cultural-anthropological study exploring those hedonistic aspects of the pan-Indian heritage which affirm that the pleasurable, especially the sexually pleasurable, is natural as a means to achieve the highest mystical experience.

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    Tantra by: Prem Saran 240.00 216.00

    This is a brilliant cultural-anthropological study exploring those hedonistic aspects of the pan-Indian heritage which, represented by centuries of the non-Vedic, Tantric tradition, affirm that the pleasurable, especially the sexually pleasurable, is natural as a means to achieve the highest mystical experience. Himself a Tantric initiate, Prem Saran offers a compelling, sympathetic analysis of Tantrism, its place in the Bengali and Assamese cultures, and its pervasiveness in pan-Indian thought and ritual generally. Prem Saran’s is also a cultural critique of modern Indian values and life-ways. In addition, it is an exercise in methodology, employing certain anthropological tools and concepts like “Cultural Debate,” “Cultural Criticism,” “Hindu Renaissance” and “Pizza-effect” — the last three having been developed by the late Professor Agehananda Bharati whom the author acknowledges as a “constant source of encouragement” during the last decade.

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    Here Prof. Donaldson presents a rich and variegated picture of the sakta/tantra art of Orissa, highlighting the evolving iconography of individual images. He focuses on different forms and depictions of the Goddess as Sakti, painstakingly analysing the architecture of a number of temples and their images.

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    Tantra and Sakta Art of Orissa (3 Vols. Set) by: Thomas Eugene Donaldson 12,000.00 10,800.00

    The emergence of Tantrism and Shaktism in the sixth-seventh centuries in ancient India symbolised a belief in fertility worship, worship of the female principle with the Devi/Goddess supreme as the Energy/Power — the substance of everything, pervading everything. In Orissa in particular, the shakta/tantra cults played a major role in the religion and culture of the region and this is testified by its many temples and sculptural wonders therein. In this work, Prof. Donaldson presents a rich and variegated picture of the shakta/tantra art of Orissa, highlighting the evolving iconography of individual images. Based on largely first-hand study of the temples and their iconography and also referring to various textual sources, he deals with, in detail, the shakta mythology of the region along with its depiction in iconography. He focuses on different forms and depictions of the Goddess — the Matrikas, Camunda, Naga/Nagi, Manasha/Jaratkuriu, Tara, the Mahavidyas, the Yoginis and Dakinis and images of Purusha/Prakriti, Agni/Soma and Linga/Yoni, Painstakingly analysing the architecture of a number of temples and their images. The work abounds in photographs (more than seven hundred) revealing the variety of forms of the Goddess and their widespread distribution and provides many maps, diagrams and iconographical charts as well. A thorough research giving attention to minute details even while studying a wide range of iconographical traditions and forms, this work will prove an indispensable source book for young as well as established scholars.

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    There may be many publications dealing with Ganesa, but only a few take original Sanskrit texts into consideration. Since the Tantric aspects of the deity have been studied too little, this book details fourteen forms of Ganesa as described in the Vidyarnavatantra.

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    Tantric Forms of Ganesa by: Gudrun Buhnemann 480.00 432.00

    Although the number of publications dealing with Ganesha is not insignificant, few take original Sanskrit texts into consideration. The Tantric aspects of the deity have certainly been studied too little. This book contributes to our knowledge of this less familiar side of Ganesha. It describes his forms according to the Vidyarnavatantra, a large compilation on mantrashastra attributed to Vidyaranya Yati and compiled around the seventeenth century. This text gives the iconographic peculiarities, mantras, and yantras of fourteen forms of Ganesha as well as instructions for the ritual application of the mantras.

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    It is the study of the yogic developments in the Mahanadi Valley which evolved erotic mysticism and examines the evolution of Tantric Cults. With numerous illustrations, it emphasises on the art and architectural expressions of tantric belief. Furthermore the concept of sex to super-consciousness has been described in detail.

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    Tantric Hedonism of Mahanadi Valley (Uddiyana Pitha) by: Jitamitra Prasad Singh Deo 1,000.00 900.00

    This is a brilliant cultural-anthropological study exploring those hedonistic aspects of the pan-Indian heritage which, represented by centuries of the non-Vedic, Tantric tradition, affirm that the pleasurable, especially the sexually pleasurable, is natural as a means to achieve the highest mystical experience. Himself a Tantric initiate, Prem Saran offers a compelling, sympathetic analysis of Tantrism, its place in the Bengali and Assamese cultures, and its pervasiveness in pan-Indian thought and ritual generally. Prem Saran’s is also a cultural critique of modern Indian values and life-ways. In addition, it is an exercise in methodology, employing certain anthropological tools and concepts like “Cultural Debate”, “Cultural Criticism”, “Hindu Renaissance” and “Pizza-effect” — the last three having been developed by the late Professor Agehananda Bharati whom the author acknowledges as a “constant source of encouragement” during the last decade. Though tantra is juxtaposed to Vedic traditions as a heterodox, life-affirming tradition, which is both ancient and basic to Hindu interpretations of being, its hedonistic contents have been purposely neglected or suppressed, partly because of the continuing hold of Victorian morality (imbibed from the British missionaries and colonial rulers), and partly because the erotic route to mystical achievement has always been a secret, minority path. Tantra: Hedonism in Indian Culture will, therefore, fill an existing lacuna in the cultural-anthropology of South Asia. The book carries a Foreword by the distinguished anthropologist, Professor Mattison Mines of the University of California, Santa Barbara, USA.

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    This volume combines the study of primary sources on Shakta Tantra with the investigation of living interpretations of these sources by contemporary Nepalese practitioners. It is twenty-year analysis on a specific Tantric tradition – Shri Vidya – a specific deity – Tripurasundari – a specific text Nityashodashikarnava – and a specific set of initiates within a specific locale – the Kathmandu Valley.

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    The Goddess Within and Beyond the Three Cities by: Jeffrey S. Lidke 2,200.00 1,980.00

    In this groundbreaking study on Sarvamnaya Shakta Tantra in Nepal, Jeffrey S. Lidke combines the study of primary sources with the investigation of living interpretations of these sources by contemporary Nepalese practitioners. Lidke focuses his twenty-year analysis on a specific Tantric tradition – Shri Vidya – a specific deity – Tripurasundari – a specific text Nityashodashikarnava – and a specific set of initiates within a specific locale – the Kathmandu Valley.
    This emphasis on specificity enables the author to contextualize his study within the unique Nepalese historical and sociocultural context, and thereby to represent Sarvamnaya Shakta Tantra not as a static, universal “ism” present in a single form throughout the subcontinent, but as a dynamic place-specific tradition reflecting the nuanced ways that peoples and institutions shape their religious traditions according to the power negotiations that arise in Tantric worlds in which individuals imagine they can be like the gods they worship.
    The central symbol that drives these negotiations in Nepal is the mandala, a pan-Tantric instrument of worship by which Tantric practitioners – be they kings, commoners, artisans or warriors – navigate, imagine and identify with the territories in which they live and strive to obtain their mundane and spiritual aims.
    The mandala’s ubiquitous presence is found not just overtly in city designs, temple architecture and a seemingly infinite array of artistic representations (including sculpture, painting, music and dance) but also covertly in the secret rituals and meditation practices of initiates at all levels of Nepalese society, ranging from lower caste girls to the former kings of Nepal.

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    The volume studies comprehensively the theory and practice of Tibetan Buddhism: its historical, religious and cultural evolution, its various deities and their symbolism, its basic philosophy and sadhana and the intricacies of the religious experience it involves. It has numerous illustrations and references to original works.

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    Tibetan Tantric Vision by: Krishna Ghosh Della Santina 1,500.00 1,350.00

    Tibetan Buddhism has held a place of its own in the Buddhist tradition, having preserved and evolved the religious culture of the Vajrayana, the final phase of Buddhism in India. Within that, the Tibetan Tantric belief has a unique significance and it has made a memorable contribution to the literature on Tibetan Buddhism. This authoritative work deals with the theory and practice of Tibetan Buddhism in a comprehensive manner. It presents a study of Tibetan Tantricism beginning with an account of the historical, religious and cultural evolution of Tibetan Buddhism and delving into the intricacies of practice of the religion. Dr. Krishna Ghosh discusses the many deities of the tradition as representing a wide range of religious experience — from the primitive to the sublime. She lays bare the complex vision of Tibetan Tantric Buddhist philosophy and sadhana, clearing it of the obscurantism associated with the belief system for long. The work abounds in illustrations — line drawings and photographs — and has numerous references to original works by Tibetan and other scholars. The book is written in an easy-accessible style to allow a broad range of readers to familiarise themselves with Tibetan Tantric Buddhism. Its penetrating insights into the subject would make it an invaluable work for scholars and practitioners of the tradition.

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