The Netratantra: Its Vision and Themes (HT23)

Location: Campion Hall, Brewer St, Oxford, OX1 1QS
Speaker: Professor Gavin Flood FBA
Date: February 28, 2023
Time: 10.15am – 11.00am

The Netratantra, the ‘Tantra of the Eye’, is an important tantric text in Kashmir and Nepal, dating from around the early ninth century, and widely disseminated during the eleventh and probably tenth centuries. The text takes its name from Śiva as Netranātha or ‘Lord of the Eye’. However, the text is a ‘universal’ (sarvasāmānya-) tantra, which overrides the distinctions between various tantric traditions. The central deity of the Netratantra is Amṛteśvara, whose consort is Lakṣmī/Śrī called Amṛtalakṣmī in ritual manuals based on the text. After an initial chapter in which Amṛteśvara, referred to as Bhairava, responds to the questions of the Goddess by extolling the virtues and powers of Śiva’s eye, the text presents a number of visualisations of a number of deities, catholic in its range, not only from the systems of the Mantramārga but from Vaiṣṇava traditions as well. Furthermore, a strong Śākta influence is evident in the text with its many references to female deities and practices characteristic of the Kulamārga, e.g. chapter 7 on the subtle visualising meditation and chapter 20 on yoginīs.

Professor Gavin Flood FBA (Oxford), Dr Bjarne Wernicke-Olesen (Oxford) and Dr Rajan Khatiwoda (Heidelberg) are currently working on a fully annotated translation of the Netratantra with an introduction in two volumes in the Routledge Studies in Tantric Traditions series. The project to study the text will especially focus on the theme of models of the person or self that the text entails. Based on close philological reading, we hope to account for different understandings of the person implicit in the text.

Gavin Flood is a Professor of Hindu Studies and Comparative Religion in the Theology and Religion Faculty and academic director of the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies. Gavin read Religious Studies and Social Anthropology at Lancaster University and taught at the universities of Wales (Lampeter) and Stirling before coming to Oxford. He was elected to membership of the British Academy in 2014. His research interests are in medieval Hindu texts (especially from the traditions of Śiva), comparative religion, and phenomenology. He is general series editor of the Oxford History of Hinduism and currently developing closer textual work on the Netratantra.