David Chapman has opened a new series of articles entitled “Reinventing Buddhist Tantra.” If you’re not familiar with David’s work so far, especially the series on Consensus Buddhism, please look at the “Consensus: Outline” – for the whole Consensus series, look here. The new series on Buddhist tantra is exciting in that it jumpstarts a curious discussion on possibilities for a 21st century tantric Western Buddhism. Please join the discussion by posting in the articles’ comments section.
While most of discussion will most likely be informed by Tibetan Vajrayana references, especially Tibetan strategies in presenting tantric teachings through history, the general intention is to consider whether there are new opportunities for an authentic yet naturalized tantra in the West. There’s a lot of dogmatism and resistance to be met, and distancing from conservative institutional forms of Buddhist esoterism will be unavoidable.
While David’s opinions are his own, they disclose a pattern shared by many, and his honest laying of cards is commendable. A bold discussion among peers is what we need at this point. A disambiguation is necessary before we can move on, and it can only be arrived at through engaged, informed, candid conversation.
On a personal note, the question of naturalized tantra – or naturalized esoteric Buddhism in general – has been at the heart of my study and practice for the past 20+ years, especially since I began teaching. There’s the obvious cultural disparity, whether Indian, Tibetan, or Japanese, and then there’s the gap in means and meanings from agricultural medieval society to a digital post-industrial society with entirely different notions of self and world. What seems as a huge obstacle, suggests that we should start from scratch, trusting our best intuitions.