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Songs of the Mystic Path An Anthology of Buddhist Tantric Songs: A Study of the Carygti by Per Kvaerne Review by:

Mircea Eliade History of Religions, Vol. 22, No. 4, Devotional Religion in India (May, 1983), pp. 392-393 Published by: The University of Chicago Press Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1062406 . Accessed: 08/05/2013 15:07
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SONGS OF THE MYSTIC PATH An Anthology of Buddhist Tantric Songs: A Study of the CaryigTti.By PER KVAERNE. Oslo-Bergen-Tromso: Universitetsforlaget, 1977. Pp. x+275. The manuscript of CarydgTti ("Songs [giti] of the mystic path [caryd]") was discovered in 1907 by Hariprasad SastrTin the library of the king of Nepal and published, together with other texts, in a volume that very quickly became famous: Hajar bacharer pura.na Bangald bha.say bauddh gan o doha (Buddhist songs and couplets in one thousand year old Bengali language) (Calcutta, 1916; 2d ed., 1951; rev. ed., 1959). Two of the works edited by Sastri, namely, the Dohakosa of Saraha and that of Kanha, were translated and discussed by Shahidullah in his book Les Chants mystiques de Kanha et de Saraha (Paris, 1928). Shahidullah improved and completed his translation in a monograph published in 1940, entitled Buddhist Mystic Songs (Dacca, 1940; rev. and enlarged ed., 1966). Over the past fifty years, these texts have been examined and partially retranslated by Prabodh Candra Bagchi, Sukumar Sen, Shashibhusan Dasgupta, Dharmvir Bharati, Rahul Samkrtyayan, and others. After a critical presentation of these previous studies (pp. 916), Per Kvaerne analyzes the Sanskrit commentary of the CaryagTtiby Munidatta, as well as the Tibetan translation (pp. 17-29). As for the dates of the CaryagTti,Kvaerne accepts Snellgrove's view that "the bulk of the songs are from the 1th century, although some of them could of course be somewhat earlier" (p. 7). The largest portion of the book (pp. 67-268) is devoted to a new critical edition of the CaryagTti (including Munidatta's Sanskrit commentary and the Tibetan translation), as well as to a richly annotated translation of the fifty songs. Few Tantric texts have been so thoroughly edited and analyzed. The historian of religions will read with interest chapters 4-6, in which the author treats of the religious imagery of the CarydgTti(pp. 30-36), their imagery
? 1983 by the University of Chicago. All rights reserved.

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History of Religions


(37-60), and the concept of sahaja (61-64). Discussing the many interpretations given to the term sandhyabhdsaya ("Twilight Speech," "Intentional Speech," "Enigmatic Speech," "Secret Speech"), Kvaerne comes to the conclusion that the ambiguous and apparently self-contradictory expressions used in this and other Tantric texts have a religious and philosophical aim: "By expressing the highest truth in the lowest terms, by presenting Sophia in the form of a whore, that coincidentia oppositorum is achieved which alone can express the paradoxical nature of ultimate reality" (p. 60). We may add that, in the last analysis, the "dislocation of conventional language," effected by self-contradictory images-as well as by the repetition of mantras or through some yogic techniques-resembles the dialectic of any hierophany, that is, a coincidentia oppositorum of the sacred and the profane in a particular object or a specific act. But, in this case, the coincidentia oppositorum, wittingly looked for, is the result of an ascetic praxis or mystical experience. With regard to sahaja (literally, "being born [ja] together with [saha-]"), rendered by Shahidullah as "l'inne" and myself as "le non-conditionne," Kvaerne follows H. Guenther's translation of "coemergence" which he modifies to an adjective, "coemergent"(p. 62). As the author rightly remarks, the idea of "coemergence" annuls the reality neither of samsara nor of nirvana. In the experience of Great Bliss, human existence (samsdra) "is perceived as being simultaneous with and suffused by nirvana, the pure effulgence of the Clear Light" (p. 62). The paradoxical state of sahaja is experienced only by the initiated; the songs, therefore, "constitute an initiation once their essential structure becomes apparent: they reveal the nature of the ultimate state through the systematic ambiguity of their imagery" (p. 63; author's italics). Kvaerne points out that sahaja too can be personified. A passage in the famous Tantric compilation Sidhandmala (2:505)-"in all directions it has hands, feet, eyes, heads and faces, etc."-describes sahaja in the same terms as Purusa is presented in the Svetasvatara Upanisad (3.16) and the Bhagavad GTtd (13.13). "In fact, it can be assimilated to any Absolute of Indian thought" (p. 64). MIRCEA ELIADE University of Chicago

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