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Vajrayāna Art and Iconography

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Abstract:

Iconographic imagery in the Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Tantric (i.e., Vajrayāna) tradition is replete with polymorphic symbolic forms. Tantric texts themselves are multivalent, addressing astronomy, astrology, cosmology, history, embryology, physiology, pharmacology, alchemy, botany, philosophy, and sexuality. The Srī Kaālacakra, a medieval Indo-Tibetan manuscript of great import, de-scribes ritual visualization sequences in whichpractitioners visualize elaborate manidialadesigns and deified yab-yum (father-mother) consort couples. The Kālacakra system is the preeminent conduit for the globalization of Tibetan Buddhism, and contemporary enactments of its initiation ceremony incorporate a variety of aesthetic genres, including sand manidiala construction and ritual dance.

Keywords: Madhyamika; Tantra; Vajrayāna; homology; manidiala; melothesia; yab-yum

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/0591-2385.00281

Affiliations: Boston University, School of Theology

Publication date: June 1, 2000

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