self-arising vs front-arising visualisation

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self-arising vs front-arising visualisation

Postby Phenomniverse » Mon Aug 04, 2014 3:34 am

I was wondering if anyone had any good references/sources for information that discusses the distinction between practicing visualisation of the deity in front of oneself or above ones head versus visualising oneself as the deity? Specifically I'm looking to find a connection between these two stages or approaches to visualisation and what in the study of religious experience have been called 'numinous' and 'mystical' experiences respectively. Any thoughts?
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Re: self-arising vs front-arising visualisation

Postby tingdzin » Fri Aug 08, 2014 4:56 am

This topic is potentially more profound than is generally realized, but I have not seen it discussed in detail in any academic sources. Tibetan sources generally say you should practice according to how your teacher instructs you, and they are generally not too wordy on what experiences might result from the various modes, beyond huge generalities like visualization in front being more aimed at producing siddhis, while self-visualization more for producing non-dual experiences. Again, though, this is not always claimed to be the case. I don't know what you intend by making the distinction between "numinous" and "mystical" experiences.
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Re: self-arising vs front-arising visualisation

Postby Phenomniverse » Tue Aug 12, 2014 5:44 am

The distinction between 'numinous' and 'mystical' experiences comes from the academic field of phenomenology in comparative religion. Numinous refers to experiences of a divinity apprehended as distinctly 'other' than oneself, usually characterised by trembling, awe and potentially fear. The term was coined by Rudolf Otto. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Numinous" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Mystical in this context refers to a sense of the divine or holy experienced as non-distinct or in unity with oneself. Notions of the universe as 'all one' are characteristic.
These two forms of religious experience are regarded as opposing trends within the academic field by virtue of the importance placed on 'otherness' versus 'oneness'. My feeling on the other hand, is that they form a continuity of experience, whereby the numinous is preliminary to the mystical. This type of progression is seen in the life of the Hindu saint Sri Ramakrishna, for example, of whom it is said he was forced to violently attack his well established numinous vision of Kali in order to experience the higher state of nirvikalpa samadhi. Also in the medieval mystical theology of Christianity which uses the progression of via purgativa, via illuminitiva and via unitiva where the numinous experience belongs to the path of illumination while the mystical experience is obviously unitive. I was hoping to find a reference to a source which discusses different forms of visualisation in Buddhist deity yoga as a progression of this sort to further support my contention.
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Re: self-arising vs front-arising visualisation

Postby tingdzin » Mon Aug 18, 2014 4:12 am

Well, I'd say, first of all, that in current Tibetan Buddhist practice, even if the deity is visualized in front, he/she is never purposefully apprehended as distinctly "other"; this would be in contradiction to the whole Mahayana Buddhist worldview. There would be no point in creating such a distinction only to overcome it later. Theoretically, in the so-called lower tantras, an approach like this might be possible, but this is not the way visualization is conceived of or practiced in the Tibetan traditions operative today. It might be also argued that a visualization in front could be used as a stepping stone towards a more complete realization of the deity, perhaps somewhat corresponding to the progression you suggest, but this all depends on the teacher's examining an individual disciple's capabilities and propensities, and adjusting the practices given to him accordingly.

Hope this helps a little.
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Re: self-arising vs front-arising visualisation

Postby Phenomniverse » Tue Aug 19, 2014 2:03 am

Thank you. I guess there's no strong evidence of the sort I was looking for in Tibetan Buddhism, although maybe Bon has some more characteristically numinous aspects to its lower 'shamanic' vehicles.
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