Tantra ('woven together' in Sanskrit) is the Hindu-based religion which links ecstatic sexual practice with meditation and direct spiritual experience. It originated 1200 years ago, when the great erotic temples (such as those at Orissa, Srisailam and Khajuraho) were built. In the West it is now best known for the inspiration of tantric yoga, and its associated ritualistic forms of sex. But is Tantra just about esoteric sexual practice or does it amount to something more? This lively and original book contibutes to a more complete understanding of Tantra's mysteries by discussing the idea of the body in Hindu tantric thought and practice in India. Without minimising its sexual dimensions, the author argues that within Tantra the body is more than just a sexual entity. It is a vehicle for the spirituality that is fundamental to people's lives. The tantric body cannot be understood outside the traditions and texts that give it form. Through practice (ritual, yoga and 'reading') the body is formed into a pattern determined by tradition, and the practitioner thereby moulds his or her life into the shape of the tradition. While there is a great range of tantric bodies - from ascetics living in cremation grounds, to low caste people possessed by tantric deities, to sophisticated high caste brahmans expounding the ascetic philosophy of Tantra - all share certain common assumptions and processes. Flood argues that while there is a divergence at different social levels and in different levels of tantric metaphysical claims, these levels are united by a process which the author calls 'entextualisation of the body'. The body becomes the text through the tradition being inscribed on it. This general claim is tested against specific ritual and doctrinal examples, and the tantric traditions are linked to wider social and political forces. 'The Tantric Body' makes an important and fascinating contribution to the study of south Asian religion, and will have strong appeal to students of south Asian societies and cultures as well as to those of comparative philosophy.
Tantric Body, The
The Secret Tradition of Hindu Religion