Tantra in Practice

Tantra in Practice

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As David White explains in the Introduction to Tantra in Practice, Tantra is an Asian body of beliefs and practices that seeks to channel the divine energy that grounds the universe, in creative and liberating ways. The subsequent chapters reflect the wide geographical and temporal scope of Tantra by examining thirty-six texts from China, India, Japan, Nepal, and Tibet, ranging from the seventh century to the present day, and representing the full range of Tantric experience-Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, and even Islamic. Each text has been chosen and translated, often for the first time, by an international expert in the field who also provides detailed background material. Students of Asian religions and general readers alike will find the book rich and informative.

The book includes plays, transcribed interviews, poetry, parodies, inscriptions, instructional texts, scriptures, philosophical conjectures, dreams, and astronomical speculations, each text illustrating one of the diverse traditions and practices of Tantra. Thus, the nineteenth-century Indian Buddhist Garland of Gems, a series of songs, warns against the illusion of appearance by referring to bees, yogurt, and the fire of Malaya Mountain; while fourteenth-century Chinese Buddhist manuscripts detail how to prosper through the Seven Stars of the Northern Dipper by burning incense, making offerings to scriptures, and chanting incantations. In a transcribed conversation, a modern Hindu priest in Bengal cawdidly explains how he serves the black goddess Kali and feeds temple skulls lentils, wine, or rice. A seventeenth-century Nepalese Hindu praise-poem hammered into the golden doors to the temple of the Goddess Taleju lists a king's faults and begs her forgiveness and grace. An introduction accompanies each text, identifying its period and genre, discussing the history and influence of the work, and identifying points of particular interest or difficulty. The first book to bring together texts from the entire range of Tantric phenomena, Tantra in Practice continues the Princeton Reading in Religions series. The breadth of work included, geographic areas spanned, and expert scholarship highlighting each piece serve to expand our understanding of what it means to practice Tantra.

 

About the Author

David Gordon White is Associate Professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. A specialist in the religions of South Asia, he is the author of Myths of the Dog-Man and the Alchemical Body: Siddha Traditions in Medieval India.

 

Preface

Tantra in Practice is the eighth volume of Princeton Readings in Religions and the first substantial anthology of Tantric works ever to appear in English. The thirty-nine contributors, drawn from around the world, are leading scholars of Tantra. Each contributor has provided a translation of a key work, in most cases translated here for the first time. Each chapter in the volume begins with an introduction in which the translator discusses the history and influence of the work, identifying points of particular difficulty or interest. David White has provided a general introduction to the volume that serves as an ideal guide to the riches contained between the covers of this book. He has organized the volume thematically, providing fascinating juxtapositions of works from different regions, periods, and traditions. Two additional tables of contents are provided, organizing the works by tradition and by country of origin. The range of works represented here is remarkable, spanning the continent of Asia and the traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Islam over more than a millennium. With the publication this volume, the long disparaged and neglected Tantric traditions of Asia receive the attention they so rightly deserve. This is a groundbreaking work.

 

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