The Art of Tantra by Philip Rawson – Book Review


The Art of Tantra by Philip Rawson
Tantra is mysterious subject. Not many people know about it beyond the word Tantra. Interestingly, what we popularly know about Tantra today is from a westerner’s understanding of it. Most people in the east hardly know anything about it. They know that it is practiced by a small segment of people. Often in the burial grounds, at some tantric temples mostly belonging to the Goddesses. And it’s rituals primarily practiced at night. An average person would not want his children to go near the Tantrics. Unless stuck with an irresolvable problem, which leads them there. There is a whole art form associated with Tantra is definitely not a common knowledge.

This book The Art of Tantra looks at the various aspects of Tantra. Like its history, its association with sexual energy, its imagery in the form of geometric drawing commonly known as Mandalas, the concept of subtle body. The significance of graveyards and some rituals and ceremonies that Tantric’s perform. It tells you about the concept of self and the universe. And how the universe is depicted through various visual images and through how the imagination is used to visualize a universe centered on you.

It tells you how the Mantra and Tantra compliment each other. Since Tantra is basically about harnessing the feminine energy, the author talks about the various representations of the Goddesses and their various forms. He introduces the reader to 10 Mahavidyas. The ten forms of Devi as she is worshipped in her various avatars. Each having a dominant facet of her with her own iconography and her own story.

There is a chapter on Krishna and aesthetics. Now we normally do not associate Krishna with Tantra. But we have definitely heard of his Raas Leela. The author very clearly brings out the Tantric aspects of Krishna. He talks about Krishna and Radha as depicted in various miniature paintings and how that relates to the practice of Tantra. Author has often compared Hindu and Buddhist tantric sects highlighting the similarities and the differences in practices, in iconography and in approach. He also touched upon the lesser-known sect of Tantrics in Jainism.

While the book The Art of Tantra is not linear and easy to read, it does give you an insight into the cult of Tantra. It uncovers the subtle details and characteristics of this walk of asceticism. Especially for those who think it is only about sexual ecstasy. The numerous illustrations by way of pictures and diagrams help you understand the concepts easily. It is an educative reading that gives you a first level introduction to this complex and mysterious way of life. It is good enough to get you interested in the subject. And then, of course, there is a whole world of Tantric literature out there to be read and explored. And if you are adventurous enough to practice them.

Buy this book The Art of Tantra by Philip Rawson at Amazon India.

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