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Institute of Asian and Oriental Studies URPP Asia and Europe (2006–2017)

Translating the Non-Evident: “Altered States of Consciousness” in Vidyapitha Tantras and in Western Transcreations of “Tantrism”

Responsible for the postdoc project: Dr. Olga Serbaeva
Funded by: URPP Asia and Europe
Project duration: March 2007 – June 2010
Research Field: Concepts and Taxonomies

The first folio from the manuscript of Jayadrathayâmala, Shatka 4, NAK 1/1468, NGMPP B122/4, paper, Newari script. The first chapter lists the mudrâs, here meaning a complex of particular positions of body and mental concentration, supposed to result in modified states of consciousness


Recent publications (appeared from 1980s) in Europe and America link various tantric traditions and the experiences of special states of consciousness (ASC) such as voluntary possession, encounter with non-human beings and a whole range of particular psychological capacities varying from predicting future to the ability of changing material world. The aim of the present research is to discover historical grounds for such link. The western transcreations of tantric texts (analyzed in chapter 1) are to be contrasted with the material found in Vidyapitha texts themselves (chapter 2) and particularly in the Jayadrathayamala, the text which indeed proposes various techniques supposed to result in modified states of perception. I shall demonstrate that it was rather internal European development of the concepts around "altered states of consciousness" than the textual study of the early shaiva tantras that permitted the named link. The final part of my research (chapter 3) shall establish relations between two historical sequences of related concepts called to define "Tantra" on the one hand and "altered states of consciousness" on the other. It shall also contribute to some methodological questions such as problems of translation and transcreation, and will propose new strategies of making the tantric concepts comprehensible for the western public.

Research Summary (PDF, 156 KB)