Interpreting Tantra As Subjective Neuroscience | Anand Venkatraman | Kashmir Shaivism |Abhinavagupta

Any mention of the word “Tantra” in polite society is likely to elicit a mixture of fear, disgust and ridicule. However, this is because we’ve lost the ability to appreciate what these traditions really represent – extraordinary insights into the working of the nervous system, as seen from a first-person perspective. The Tantras are thus are among the purest expressions of the biocentric, subjectivist outlook that undergirds all of Indic thought. A resurgence of scientific interest in Tantra could potentially bring about revolutionary changes in medicine and technology, while also challenging the fundamentals of the modern understanding of Indic culture.

The talk covers these aspects: –

1. An overall overview of overlaps between Tantra and neuroscience, with a little intro to everything – nadis, chakras, consciousness, mudras, mantras and what neurological processes they may relate to.
2. The concept of the “Inner touch” in the work of Abhinavagupta – how that relates to a novel area of neuroscience called “interoception”, the means by which the brain senses the inner condition of the body.
3. The stages of speech in the Vedas and Tantra, how that corresponds to modern speech stages.
4. The Kashmiri Shaivite idea of memory, and how that compares to the modern understanding of memory.
5. Prakasha – Vimarsha and modern ideas of consciousness.

Anand Venkatraman’s paper on Tantra and neuroscience, covering many of the same topics as in this Srijan talk, has been published in the prestigious Neurology India journal. It is now available online internationally on the Pubmed database:

About the Speaker: –

Anand Venkatraman is a neurologist based in Boston. A native of Chennai, he is an MBBS graduate of AIIMS New Delhi, and currently pursuing specialized training at the hospitals of Harvard Medical School.

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