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Book: Religion and Sight

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

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.35753


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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