Abstract and Keywords
Meditation has been integral to Hindu and Buddhist tantric traditions, in particular involving visualization or visual contemplation, practiced as part of ritual and also in its own right in order to achieve the goals of liberation from the cycle of reincarnation and also to achieve pleasure or power in this and other worlds. Visual contemplation is particularly focused on the body envisioned as being pervaded by a vertical axis at a subtle level, along which are located different levels of experience associated with different levels of the hierarchical cosmos. Power is awakened through meditation that rises up through these levels up to the very highest realization. This visual contemplation is thought to be of the subtle body as the support of the soul that leaves the physical body at death. There is also meditation without visualization that emphasizes the flow of pure awareness. This essay examines these practices in the major Hindu tantric traditions focused on the deity Śiva with some reference to the traditions of the Goddess, Viṣṇu, and Buddhism. These traditions influence the later Yoga tradition and have been transformed in the modern West.
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