Religion and Sight - Louise Child

Religion and Sight - Louise Child

11. Seeing the Gods: Divine Embodiment through Visualisation in Tantric Buddhist Practice

Religion and Sight - Louise Child

Dawn Collins [+-]
Independent Scholar
Dr Dawn H. Collins lectures with a focus on Buddhism, Hinduism, Death Studies and Sacred Geography. Her doctoral thesis, entitled ‘Presence in Tibetan Landscapes: Spirited Agency and Ritual Healing in Rebgong,’ was underpinned by ethnographic fieldwork on the Tibetan Plateau. Her interest in ‘lived religions’ is inspired not only by her anthropological experience but by her training and work as a contemporary dancer. She has supervised MA students at the London Contemporary Dance School and worked on research projects ranging from a British Academy funded exploration of contemporary ritual expression in Bhutan to background research for a documentary film about life in the Welsh valleys. She is a member of the Complementary Therapists Association (CThA), the International Association for the Study of Traditional Asian Medicine (IASTAM), the British Association for the Study of Religions (BASR), a Research Fellow of the Foro di Studi Avanzati Gaetano Massa (FSA, Gaetano Massa Research Institute for Advanced Study of the Humanities), Rome, and belongs to an international Research Group on the Body, Health and Religion (BAHAR).


Sight in tantric Buddhism is, in effect, blind-sighted. This is because to visualise does not require the physical ability to see. In fact, during the death process, so vital for the direction of reincarnation, the practitioner’s deity yoga, involving single-pointed concentration on the tutelary deity and absorption of the deity is an internal process not reliant on (often failing) physical sight. A new tantric reality emerges: an embodied divinity. Such visualisations can create visions—both dreaming and waking—of deity worlds. This subtler reality is lived as ‘real’ by those practitioners who have accomplished such profound psychophysical transformation. It is also thought to give them the ability to transform the worlds of those around them. The chapter explores how this plays out in the case of one such tantric practitioner on the Tibetan Plateau, the Pelden Lawa of Rebgong.

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Collins, Dawn. 11. Seeing the Gods: Divine Embodiment through Visualisation in Tantric Buddhist Practice. Religion and Sight. Equinox eBooks Publishing, United Kingdom. p. 200-220 Jul 2020. ISBN 9781781797495. Date accessed: 21 Oct 2021 doi: 10.1558/equinox.35753. Jul 2020

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