The Divine Madman

In order to get a brief summary of the texts, one may look no further than the titles of the two stories. Both titles aptly sum up the important events that occur in the stories. The first story is entitled How Drupka Kunley bound the Demons of Bhutan and directed the Aged of that Land to the Path of Liberation. This story chronicles Drupka Kunley’s adventures as he defeats various demons of Bhutan. An enlightened Lama, Kunley is visited in a dream by a goddess who tells him to travel to Bhutan to fulfill a prophecy that “foretold the conversion” (121) of the people living there. On his way to Bhutan, Kunley is faced with a variety of demons, all of which he defeats with his penis (also called his Flaming Thunderbolt of Wisdom). In addition to converting all of the demons to the way of the Buddha, Kunley also assists many elderly people out of Samsara. Using many unconventional techniques such as obscene prayers, Kunley helps many of Bhutan’s aged reach enlightenment. In this way, Kunley fulfills the prophecy initially stated in the beginning of the story – he binds many demons and sets many of the elderly on the path to liberation.

The second story is called How Drupka Kunley instructed his Consorts in the Southern Valley. In this story, Kunley teaches the people of the Southern Valley about sexual practices, worship, and other tenants by which one should live. Kunley mostly uses his sexual advances as ways to instruct the people about his various truths. This is exemplified by many of the situations Kunley finds himself in, specifically in the sex that Kunley has with many maidens. Kunely eventually instructs all the people of the Southern Valley about ethics, sex, and worship.

While reading these texts, it is important to remember the title of the work where these stories come from: The Divine Madman. Through this title, one can see that there is acknowledgement of Kunley’s madness despite his divinity. These stories might have been told in order to highlight that the divine manifest themselves in a variety of ways; although one may seem insane, they could harbor some spiritual qualities. Additionally, these stories may have instructed people about various teaching of the Buddha in a clear, easy to understand fashion. By using the most basic human drive – sex – the stories can be relatable to everyone, thus making them easier to understand.

I did have a few questions while reading the stories. Obviously, sexuality is a huge part of both texts and the images used to describe male and female sex organs differed greatly. Kunley’s penis is constantly described as a mighty and powerful object that can fell demons, whereas the few descriptions of female vaginas describe them as gaping and weak. I wonder if these kind of descriptions contributed to the idea that women are beneath men. Additionally, Kunley describes women as constantly wanting sex and they always lust after a man. I thought this seemed pretty contradictory, since Kunley himself states that he “never tires of girls” (140). Throughout the stories, it seemed as if women’s lust for sex was a negative thing, whereas Kunley’s carnal desires were used as instructive tools. Where did this idea come from? Are stories such as these powerful enough to dilute the thinking of a whole community?

Hindu Mandalas

In the article “Hindu Mandalas,” the author outlines the various purposes and versions of mandalas, or geometric designs, in Hindu culture. Drawing from a variety of Hindu texts, the author describes the different types of mandalas and their purpose in Hindu worship, as they involve the whole cosmos in ritualistic acts. Despite the comprehensiveness of the article, the author does state that the study of these mandalas is still limited; there is a definitive history that has yet to be rewritten. Though the information is very tightly compacted into two pages, the author adroitly summarizes the significance of the Hindu mandala in a clear and coherent fashion.

The author begins the article briefly explaining the history of the Hindu mandala, noting that the mandalas were first described in the Tantric texts. Although the first appearance of the mandalas was in the Tantric texts, the complexity of the description leads the author to concede that an unrecorded mandala tradition can be assumed. The author then goes on to describe the reasons for mandalas, stating that the many geometric designs have cosmological implications, as stated in a variety of Hindu texts, such as the Taitti-rīya Samhitā, and in the Baudhāyana Śulvaśāstra. Although the most famous design is the falcon-shaped altar, other designs include triangles, wheels, and other forms. Other designs outlined in different texts also relate to Hindu cosmology. The author then describes the ritualistic importance of square designs. The square designs, which appear in the Pāñcarātra ritual and the Laksmī Tantra text and are frequently coupled with lotuses, allow for reflection, meditation, and worship. In this design, there are multiple forms, which cause various worshipping practices. For example, the third form of this mandala, the Navanābha Mandala, has a square divided into nine squares, each one representing a different manifestation of Laksmī.

The author then goes on to describe another ritual that is strikingly similar to the Pāñcarātra ritual, in that both traditions involve the erection of pavilions, and the use of various mandalas. This section of the article goes on to reference the different types of the mandalas used in this ritual. The final part of the article describes how the mandala is used for private worship, and how they come to represent cosmic power.

I really appreciated how the author broke up the article into coherent paragraphs, starting with a brief explanation about the history of the mandalas, before describing the various rituals where the mandalas were used. However, I would have loved to see a little more backstory on the creation of the mandalas. Although the author mentions at the end of the article that the history is not complete on the making of mandalas, I would have preferred to read a little more about how the Tantric texts describe the mandala’s purpose. Additionally, the author only highlighted two rituals that involve the use of mandalas. This left me wondering if there were other rituals just not mentioned or these were the two biggest ones that utilized Hindu mandalas.

I would also like to see a comparison between Hindu and Buddhist mandalas. Can they represent more or less the same thing? While reading the article, I was also wondering about how the role of the mandala has changed throughout the course of history. Has their purpose in Hindu rituals remained similar, or has it changed drastically from their inception in the Tantric texts? Thinking back on my experiences, I realize that I have seen versions of mandalas as tattoos and wall hangings because they look “pretty.”  So, I was also wondering how Hindus feel about a symbol of their religion being used for commercial use. Is it right for us to use other religious symbols as decoration without knowing the full meaning behind the symbol? Is it flattery or is it disrespectful? All in all, the article was very clear in describing the complexities of the Hindu mandalas.

An example of a Hindu mandala. This one is being made out of different colored sand

An example of a Hindu mandala. This one is being made out of different colored sand.