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date: 03 December 2022

Tibetan Visionary Buddhismlocked

Tibetan Visionary Buddhismlocked

  • Chris HatchellChris HatchellAssociate Professor of Religion, Coe College


Tibetan religious traditions contain a variety of practices and discourses that involve the eyes: epistemologies that investigate the act of seeing, ritual uses of visual arts, literary references to light, and meditative practices of looking and visualization. Tibetan traditions also use practices of “vision,” where luminous scenes appear spontaneously to the eyes. Insofar as Tibetan Buddhists have extensively theorized these visionary experiences and identified them as important methods of attaining Buddhist goals, they can be thought of as constituting a kind of “visionary” Buddhism.

Visionary practices in Tibetan religion can be placed on two interconnected registers: those having practical or this-worldly benefits, and those that are viewed as leading to liberation. In the first category, vision is commonly found in practices related to prognostication, mediumship, and textual revelation. The second category is more characteristic of tantric yogic practices related to Kālacakra and the post-tantric movement known as the Great Perfection. In these cases, practitioners use sensory deprivation to induce complex visions. Such visions are described variously as being expressions of emptiness, expressions of one’s own mind, or the “lighting up” of an omnipresent awareness. Recognizing the nature of these visions is seen as part of the path to enlightenment.


  • Buddhism

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