An exploration of the sources of Tantra.
Among the many spiritual traditions born and developed in India, Tantra has been the most difficult to define. Almost everything about it—its major characteristics, its sources, its relationships to other religions, even its practices—are debated among scholars. In addition, Tantrism is not confined to any particular religion, but is a set of beliefs and practices that appears in a variety of religions, including Hinduism and Buddhism. This book explores one of the most controversial aspects of Tantra, its sources or roots, specifically in regard to Hinduism. The essays focus on the history and development of Tantra, the art history and archaeology of Tantra, the Vedas and Tantra, and texts and Tantra. Using various disciplinary and methodological approaches, from history to art history and religious studies to textual studies, scholars provide both broad overviews of the beginnings of Tantra and detailed analyses of specific texts, authors, art works, and rituals.
“This is as coherent a picture of the roots of Tantra as we are likely to get. The material presented is so vitally important to the study, not only of Tantrism, but to Hinduism and arguably to the history of religions, that this work will become a handbook for serious scholars and a blueprint for other studies of esoteric religious phenomena.” — Phyllis Herman, California State University, Northridge
“This book will improve the West’s (and the East’s) understanding of Tantra. Scholars and students will benefit from this state-of-the-field anthology.” — Stuart Sovatsky, author of Words from the Soul: Time, East/West Spirituality, and Psychotherapeutic Narrative
Contributors include Douglas Renfrew Brooks, Robert L. Brown, Thomas B. Coburn, Teun Goudriaan, Lina Gupta, Katherine Anne Harper, Dennis Hudson, M. C. Joshi, David N. Lorenzen, Thomas McEvilley, Paul E. Muller-Ortega, André Padoux, and Richard K. Payne.
Katherine Anne Harper is Associate Professor of Art History at Loyola Marymount University and the author of The Iconography of the Saptamatrikas: Seven Hindu Goddesses of Spiritual Transformation. Robert L. Brown is Professor of Art History at the University of California, Los Angeles and the Curator of Southeast Asian Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He is the author of The Dvaravati Wheels of the Law and the Indianization of South East Asia, and editor of Ganesh: Studies of an Asian God, also published by SUNY Press, and Art from Thailand.