Potential Avenues for Research on Tantric Forms of Vaiṣṇavism in Bengal (Vaiṣṇava Sahajiyā)

Location: OCHS Library
Speaker: Dr Robert Czyżykowski
Date: May 3, 2023
Time: 3.00pm – 4.00pm

Research on premodern Tantric groups related to the Caitanya (or Gauḍīya) Vaiṣṇava tradition of Bengal is rather rare and difficult for many reasons, such as limited data and the esoteric language of the texts. In this paper, I propose to critically look at the textual sources with occasional reference to field reports indicating potential areas for fruitful academic exploration in this domain, highlight mutual influence among various Sahajiyā works and their origins. The presentation will be based on the author’s exploration of largely unpublished Middle Bengali sources. I will focus in particular on the Niguḍārthaprakāśāvalī (‘A ray on hidden meanings’), which survives in only three manuscripts, two of which are available in public collections (Bangiya Sahitya Parishad, Kolkata, and the Sukumar Sen collection in the National Library in Kolkata). The text stands as a rare example of explicit commentarial effort in the premodern Sahajiyā corpus, one in which earlier texts are recognized as foundational for the tradition – or at least for the Sahajiyā line established by influential Sahajiyā author and guru, Mukundadeva or Mukunda Gosvami). The Niguḍārthaprakāśāvalī is also unique in offering details about the sexual rituals of the Sahajiyā tradition.

Robert Czyżykowski obtained a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Jagiellonian University (2011) and is currently an assistant professor in the Institute for the Study of Religions at Jagiellonian University, Krakow Poland. His work focusses on Hinduism, vernacular Bengali Tantric tradition, and religious experience.