Tantric Studies: Fruits of a Franco-German Project on Early Tantra.

Author:Flood, Gavin
Position::Book review
 
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Tantric Studies: Fruits of a Franco-German Project on Early Tantra. Edited by DOMINIC GOODALL and HARUNAGA ISAACSON. Collection Indologie, no. 131, Early Tantra Series, no. 4. Pondichery: INSTITUT FRANCAIS DE PONDICHERY, Paris: ECOLE FRANCAISE D'EXTREME-ORIENT, Hamburg: ASIEN-AFRIKA-INSTITUT, UNIVERSITAT HAMBURG, 2015. Pp. xxix + 305, figs.

This book, as the title reflects, is the outcome of a Franco-German project on early Tantra funded for over three years by the Agence Nationale de la Recherche and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. The preface tells us how the volume came about as the result of three workshops in Kathmandu, Pondicherry, and Hamburg whose primary focus was the reading of texts that have already appeared or will appear in this series but that also contained presentations of papers. It is some of these articles that comprise the book under review, inspired by an important article of Alexis Sanderson, "History through Textual Criticism in the Study of Saivism, the Pancaratra and the Buddhist Yoginitantras." Eight "articles" make up the book along with some very fine color illustrations and an index.

The introductory article by Dominic Goodall and Harunaga Isaacson, "On the Shared 'Ritual Syntax' of the Early Tantric Traditions," is the longest by far (pp. 1-76). discussing shared ritual features of early tantric traditions. This is an important article in providing an overview of tantric ritual features such as mantra and the shared ritual technology reflected in the early texts. The use of non-Vedic mantras is a feature of the early works whose importance is reflected in the very name of tantric Saivism, the mantramarga, the 'path of mantras', that the authors point out is also found in Buddhist sources. The authors describe the formation of mantras, how they begin with the dipika OM and end with what is called a jati, such as SVAHA or HUM. The article explains different kinds of mantra, paying particular attention to the heart-mantra that is presented in some detail as both one of the limbs or anga mantras as well as the essence of the deity.

Not only mantras but also the rituals in which they are used are the sources of power and liberation. The Vedic fire ritual (homa) is particularly important, as fire rites are attested over a wide geographical area within the parameters of a Hindu worldview in Tibet, East Asia, and Java and Bali. Such rites have been the topic of scholarly attention for some time, but as the...

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