using the arrow buttons.
by clicking on the page.
the page around when zoomed in by dragging it.
the zoom using the slider when zoomed-in.
by clicking on the zoomed-in page.
by entering text in the search field, and select "This Issue" or "All Issues"
by clicking on thumbnails to select pages, and then press the print button.
displays sections with thumbnails and descriptions.
displays a slider of thumbnails. Click on a page to jump.
allows you to browse the full archive.
about your subscription?
Buddhadharma : Spring 2015
76 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly spring 2015 Tibetan Buddhists developed some of the most esoteric practices of elev- enth-century tantric Buddhism around visionary practices of dark retreat and sky-gazing. And they thought deeply and wrote evocatively about what they saw. Naked Seeing is about three of these texts and what they tell us about the historical and philosophical contexts of these visionary practices. Author Chris- topher Hatchell describes an ethos of vision that developed in Tibet during the eleventh-century renaissance and impor- tant philosophical implications of such an ethos—for example, for understand- ing emptiness. The Sarma (“new translation”) tradi- tions of eleventh-century Tibet embraced the newly introduced Kalachakra, or “Wheel of Time” tradition, with its sophisticated scholastic literature and visualization-driven rituals. Within the Nyingma and Bön, traditions of Great Perfection flourished. And within all three, visionary practices of dark-retreat and sky-gazing became important means to enlightenment. Such visionary practices, in contrast to typical tantric Buddhist visualizations of buddhas and deities, are techniques that lead to spon- taneously arising visual experiences, without deliberate effort or conceptual imagination. Through progressive prac- tice, the initial visions of floaters and lit- tle linked lambs become more stable and take on the form of thig-le, or “seminal nuclei,” at the center of which are seen complete mandalas of buddhas, deities, and protectors. Even more important, these vi- sions show emptiness in the form of appearances. Visionary Buddhism’s ex- periences of seeing appeared right before the practitioner’s eyes. Seeing and vision became critical themes for eleventh- century Tibetan Buddhists, and some unflinching practitioners tried to write about and comment on these experi- ences and the tantras that advocated and aggrandized them. In translating three of these texts, one from each of the Sarma, Nyingma, and Bön traditions, Naked Seeing shares a glimpse of what may be gleamed from visionary practice. But these texts are not practice manuals; they’re explanations and advocations for the visionary path to enlightenment. Naked Seeing shows the three tradi- tions in deep conversation about seeing, vision, and the experience of appear- ances, rather than stooping to simple covert reading and hasty plagiarizing of each other’s texts. The writings of these traditions also reveal preoccupations with structure and process: they portray self-arising and spontaneous visions as depending on premeditated practices and unfolding in preplanned sequences, culminating in fully envisioned manda- las and, ultimately, a direct experience of emptiness. Perhaps most intriguing about Naked Seeing is its depiction of Buddhist philo- sophical responses to vision and empti- ness. In visionary practices, emptiness does not have to be approached through internal insight but rather may be seen in the exterior world in the form of appearances, emerging while immersed in darkness or light. This stood in stark contrast to the view that emptiness is not an object of consciousness. Tibetans inherited this view from Indian Madhy- amika traditions, but it was much more open to interpretation in eleventh-cen- tury Tibet. Visionary traditions por- trayed emptiness as perceptible and continually present in front of our very eyes, unseen only due to our ignorance. The Kalachakra commentator Kala- chakrapada explained: “The form of emptiness is not nonexistent, because the yogi sees it in direct perception, via the eye sense-power; but it is not existent, as it does not arise from earth, water, fire, wind, and so forth.” In Kalachakra, the “form of emptiness” is a type of object that reveals rather than conceals its lack of inherent identity. One can perceive this as a visceral experience of empti- ness rather than as an absence. In the Great Perfection, the dynamic qualities of awareness result in a luminous display that discloses awareness’s own emptiness while it lights up into appearance. All told, these represent an ethos of vision that favors disclosure over deconstruc- tion and appearance over absence. Naked Seeing also stresses that these texts are not separate from the vision- ary practices they describe but rather are inextricable from them. Reading these texts influenced and added meaning to the experiences of seeing. Texts were, and still are, an entangled element of practice, a resource for describing and interpreting. The rich commentarial traditions of Tibetan Buddhism sought to make meaningful the often-allusive language of the tantras, as in the trans- lations in Naked Seeing. Even more important, these texts were a form in which these experiences of seeing could be discussed and exchanged between individuals and religious groups, like the Sarma and Nyingma. This vision of Tibetan Buddhists in conversation across traditional and sec- tarian divisions represents one of Naked Seeing’s most timely and significant con- tributions. The Buddhism of eleventh- century Tibet was not the sectarian Bud- dhism with which we are more familiar. Rather, the Tibetan renaissance was a time of shared enthusiasm for some of the most esoteric practices to come from India, an enthusiasm that was individual and not beholden to institutional or sec- tarian affiliation. naked seeing by christopher hatchell oxford, 2014 496 pages; $35 (paperback) revieWs