Vivek N. Tanna Wins the Best Undergraduate Paper in Buddhist Studies for 2019–20, Tying with Michael A. Karr
"Buddhist Tantra: Self and World"
Visualization rituals in Tantric Buddhism have profound and sometimes paradoxical implications for one’s perception of self. This approach to the self, in turn, cannot be appreciated without understanding the Buddhist view of the world and its celestial powers, and our relationship with these.
This paper attempts to grapple with the Tantric Buddhist understanding of the self. This begins with an overview of Tantric visualization rituals, including the role of the mandala as a map of and conduit between the self and macrocosm. Visualization allows one to harness, rather than reject, the power of the material world, while elevating the body to the seat of divine activity. From there is considered nature of path and goal in Tantra, and ways that the line between them is blurred for spiritual benefit. The goal itself is the realization that the self is and always has been empty of inherent existence. The disappearance of the self, along with the realization of the truth that already was, raises questions about the nature of spiritual achievement, and the identity of the spiritual guide. Ultimately, we must understand the identity of the spiritually accomplished in order to understand how to become them.