Inwardness and Visual Contemplation in Tantric traditions
In medieval Hinduism some renouncers and householders seeking a more intense religious experience adopted mystical or spiritual practices that involved the visualization of a deity or group of deities with a view to identification with the imagined image. This lecture will examine visual contemplation with reference to specific texts, showing how this pre-philosophical understanding of inwardness is shared by Śaiva and Pāñcarātra traditions. We see from these reading firstly how imagination can be guide to understanding them and secondly that these texts present us with ritual thinking and point to a layer of culture below a clearly articulated philosophical discourse. Yet this cultural layer is still a symbolic world, more complex than daily transaction, which entails a symbolism of the eradication of individuality and a process that we might call entextualisation.