self-arising vs front-arising visualisation

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Phenomniverse
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self-arising vs front-arising visualisation

Post by 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?

tingdzin
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Re: self-arising vs front-arising visualisation

Post by 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.

Phenomniverse
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Re: self-arising vs front-arising visualisation

Post by 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;" 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.

tingdzin
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Re: self-arising vs front-arising visualisation

Post by 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.

Phenomniverse
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Re: self-arising vs front-arising visualisation

Post by 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.

Fortyeightvows
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Re: self-arising vs front-arising visualisation

Post by Fortyeightvows » Thu Aug 29, 2019 4:07 am

Take this thread for example, this thread is the only time that Rudolph Otto has ever been mentioned on dharmawheel.
I think that is a bit surprising, since anyone who has done religious studies in the west will have been exposed to his book in their first few semesters. Otto's book is really influential in religious studies and in Eliade's introduction to "Sacred and the Profane", he basiclly says that it is his commentary on Otto.

And I'm actually very interested in this topic, and as tingdzin says:
tingdzin wrote:
Fri Aug 08, 2014 4:56 am
This topic is potentially more profound than is generally realized
What the op is talking about is that there are two types of religious experiences. One of them is the mystical, that is being one with the holy(otto) or the sacred (eliade). The other is the experience with a holy 'other', what Otto calls "mysterium tremendum"
Phenomniverse wrote:
Tue Aug 19, 2014 2:03 am
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.
I can think of one example of a numinous experience in tibetan buddhism, and it's one that I'm sure many users have had- when they are close to a very high lama.
I'm sure that if a person who has had this experience, were to look at the ways Otto describes it, they would agree that he describes it very well.
Last edited by Fortyeightvows on Thu Aug 29, 2019 4:16 am, edited 1 time in total.

Fortyeightvows
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Re: self-arising vs front-arising visualisation

Post by Fortyeightvows » Thu Aug 29, 2019 4:15 am

As a side note- I would like for there to be more discussion of the classic religious studies on dharmawheel. I searched the site for most of the big names, and this was the only thread that mentioned Otto. Almost all the threads mentioning Eliade were made by me, 2 of the 4 mentions of Durkheim were from me. Bronisław Malinowski & Evans Pritchard have never been mentioned.

Maybe I can generate some interest, I know we have some users who studied religion as a major in college who will be familiar.

Fortyeightvows
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Re: self-arising vs front-arising visualisation

Post by Fortyeightvows » Fri Aug 30, 2019 5:59 am

Some excerpts from the idea of the holy
THE reader is invited to direct his mind to a moment of deeply-felt religious experience, as little as possible qualified
by other forms of consciousness.... Next, in the probing and analysis of such states of the soul as that of solemn worship, it will be well if regard be paid to what is unique in them rather than to what they have in common with other similar states. To be rapt in worship is one thing; to be morally uplifted by the contemplation of a good deed is another ; and it is not to their common features, but to those elements of emotional content peculiar to the first that we would have attention directed as precisely as possible.
The numinous is thus felt as objective and outside the self. We have now to inquire more closely into its nature and the modes of its manifestation.
we shall find we are dealing with something for which there is only one appropriate expression, mysterium tremendum.

The feeling of it may at times come sweeping like a gentle tide, pervading the mind with a tranquil mood of deepest worship. It may pass over into a more set and lasting attitude of the soul, continuing, as it were, thrillingly vibrant and resonant, until at last it dies away and the soul resumes its profane , non-religious mood of everyday experience. It may burst in sudden eruption up from the depths of the soul with spasms and convulsions, or lead to the strangest excitements, to intoxicated frenzy, to transport, and to ecstasy. It has its wild and demonic forms and can sink to an almost grisly horror and shuddering. It has its crude, barbaric antecedents and early manifestations, and again it may be developed into something beautiful and pure and glorious.

It may become the hushed, trembling, and speech less humility of the creature in the presence of whom or what ?
In the presence of that which is a Mystery inexpressible and above all creatures.

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