Religious Studies | Studies in South and East Asian Religions: Tantric Buddhism
B300 | 27816 | R. Nance


The above course carries Culture Studies credit
The above course carries COLL A & H distribution credit
Among varieties of religious practice, few have so captured--and so
confused--the popular and scholarly imagination as that of tantra.
For many Americans today, the word "tantra" likely conjures up a
welter of associations: clouds of incense, sexual acrobatics,
forbidden pleasures, black magic, fraudulent gurus, and New Age
silliness (to name only a few). While not completely unfounded,
these associations often bear little--if any--resemblance to tantric
practice as Buddhists have traditionally understood it.  In this
class, we will explore aspects of this traditional understanding as
they have taken shape in Indian and Tibetan Buddhist traditions.
Questions to be addressed include: What, in general, is tantra? What
techniques and ideas have been associated with tantric traditions?
Where, when, and how do these techniques and ideas originate? Have
they changed over time--and, if so, how? Who, historically, has
practiced tantra, and for what purposes? To what extent can tantric
traditions be distinguished from non-tantric forms of Buddhist
practice? What kinds of texts do tantric Buddhists produce? And how
do Buddhists negotiate apparent clashes between claims made in
tantric texts and claims that appear in other Buddhist texts?