Journal of Dharma Studies: Philosophy, Theology, Ethics, and Culture
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Buddhist Studies | Religion | Religious Thought, Theology and Philosophy of Religion
Iconography has been used to represent the experience of awakening in the Buddhist traditions for millennia. The Mahāyāna Buddhist traditions are especially renowned for their rich pantheons of buddhas and bodhisattvas who illuminate and inspire practitioners. In addition, the Vajrayāna branch of Mahāyāna Buddhism presents a host of meditational deities (yidam) who serve as catalysts of awakening. These awakened beings are regarded as objects of refuge for practitioners, both female and male, who visualize themselves in detail as embodiments of specific enlightened figures, female or male, with all their enlightened qualities. These meditational deities, which are mentally constructed and insubstantial by nature, are distinguished from worldly deities (deva) who also inhabit the Buddhist pantheon and may be supplicated for attaining worldly boons. This article explores the philosophical foundations of Varjrayāna Buddhist practices, the ontological status of these archetypes of awakening, and the epistemological process of visualizing oneself an enlightened being as a skillful means to achieve awakened realization.
Digital USD Citation
Tsomo, Karma Lekshe, "Imagining Enlightenment: Icons and Ideology in Vajrayāna Buddhist Practice" (2018). Theology and Religious Studies: Faculty Scholarship. 9.