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TantraSex, Secrecy, Politics, and Power in the Study of Religion$
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Hugh Urban

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780520230620

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520230620.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CALIFORNIA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.california.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of California Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CALSO for personal use.date: 01 August 2021



Diagnosing the “Disease” of Tantra

(p.1) Introduction

Hugh B. Urban

University of California Press

In academic discourse, Tantra usually refers to a specific brand of religious practice common to the Buddhist, Hindu, and Jain traditions since at least the seventh century. It is identified as a particularly radical and dangerous practice that involves activities normally prohibited in mainstream society, such as sexual intercourse with lower-class partners and consumption of meat and wine. Although identified as the extreme example of all the polytheism and licentiousness believed to have corrupted Hinduism, Tantra has been praised as “a cult of ecstasy, focused on a vision of cosmic sexuality,” and as a much needed celebration of the body, sexuality, and material existence. This book traces the complex genealogy of the category of Tantra in the history of religions and argues that Tantra is a far messier product of the mirroring and misrepresentation at work between both East and West. It is a dialectical category—similar to what Walter Benjamin has called a dialectical image—born out of the mirroring and mimesis that goes on between Western and Indian minds.

Keywords:   Tantra, Hinduism, polytheism, sexuality, East, West, dialectical image

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