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Lectures by Aleksandra Wenta

Tantric Epistemology or How to Conceptualize Esoteric Śākta Traditions

The Śākta Traditions seminars
29 Feb 2016

Among the traditions of so-called Kashmir Śaivism, the Kālīkrama system dedicated to the goddess Kālasaṃkarṣaṇī is certainly the most ambiguous in theoretical analysis. This ambiguity is the result of two intertwining structural patterns apparently contradictory to the inexperienced eye, namely ritualistic context underlying the dynamics of the cognitive process. Having at its core the strange blend of rational exercise (sattarka) and Tantric practice, the Kālīkrama system is regarded as the esoteric body of knowledge designed for specially initiated adepts. The worship of this deified consciousness directed towards the attainment of Pure Knowledge (śuddha-vidyā) has been labelled as the form of “sacred intellectualization”, “strictly esoteric and antinomian in its practice”. One of the most powerful symbols employed by the Kālīkrama’s exegetes in the assessment of its esoteric context is the proliferation of the Sun. My presentation will try to show how Abhinavagupta’s impressive adaptation of the Kālīkrama’s solar esotericism into his hermeneutical exegesis known as the Trika–Kaula that rationalized and semanticized many of the Tantric practices, aimed at demonstrating the praxis of the liberating knowledge that delineated the foundation of tantric epistemology.

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