Imaginative Realization in the Vijñānabhairava Tantra


  • Óscar Figueroa National Autonomous University of Mexico


Among the religious traditions that developed in ancient India, the Tantric tradition offers one of the most vigorous efforts at vindicating the powers of the imagination. A key term in this context is bhāvanā, literally the “act of bringing something into being”, used to indicate a disciplined cultivation of the mind’s natural capacity to form images. This brief article addresses the meaning of bhāvanā in the Vijñānabhairava Tantra (VBh), a short scripture written in the spirit of the Śaiva Tantric Trika tradition around the first half of the 9th century CE. In this text, as the article shows, bhāvanā is understood not only as a human faculty but now also as a divine power with important ontological and soteriological implications. In this way, the centrality of the imagination common to many Tantric texts reaches a remarkable zenith in the VBh, anticipating the view of later influential thinkers such as Abhinavagupta and Kṣemarāja (10th-11th centuries).


Imagination and Religion, Contemplation, Hinduism, Tantra, Vijñānabhairava Tantra


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