Piercing to the pith of the body: The evolution of body mandala and tantric corporeality in Tibet

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1 Scopus citations


Buddhist tantric practitioners embrace the liminal status of the human body to manifest divine identity. In piercing to the pith of human embodiment, the tantric practitioner reconfigures the shape and contours of his/her reality. This article investigates the evolution of one particular technique for piercing to the pith of the body on Tibetan soil, a ritual practice known as body mandala [lus dkyil Skt. deha-man. d. ala]. In particular, it uncovers a significant shift of emphasis in the application of the Guhyasamāja body mandala practice initiated by champions of the emerging Gandenpa [Dga’ ldan pa] or Gelukpa [Dge lugs pa] tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, Tsongkhapa (1357-1419) and Mkhas grub rje (1385-1438). This article reveals some of the radical implications of ritual exegesis, ranging from the socioreligious aspects of securing prestige for a tradition to the ultimate soteriological goals of modifying the boundaries between life and death and ordinary and enlightened embodiment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number189
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 18 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Bardo
  • Body mandala
  • Guhyasamāja Tantra
  • Mkhas grub rje
  • Sādhana
  • Tantra
  • Tantric ritual

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Religious studies


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