- The Twilight Language
twilight language(Sanskrit:"sandha-bhasa", Tibetan:"gongpe-ke") is a polysemiclanguage and communication system associated with tantrictraditions in Buddhism and Hinduism. It includes visual communication, verbal communicationand nonverbal communication. Tantric texts are often written in a form of 'twilight language' that is incomprehensible to the uninitiated reader. As part of an esoterictradition of initiation, the texts are not to be employed by those without an experienced guide and the use of 'twilight language' ensures that the uninitiated do not easily gain access to the knowledge contained in these works. According to Judith Simmer-Brown:
As has often been said, tantric texts are written in "twilight language" ("sandha-bhasa", "gongpe-ke"), which, as the "
Hevajra-tantra" states, is a "secret language, that great convention of the " yoginis", which the " shravakas" and others cannot unriddle". This means that the texts of Buddhist tantra cannot be understood without the specific oral commentary by authorized Vajrayanateachers [cite book|last=Simmer-Brown|first=Judith|title=Dakini's Warm Breath:The Feminine Principle in Tibetan Buddhism|publisher=Shambhala Publications Inc.|location=Boston and London|date=2002|pages=p.169|isbn=1-57062-920-X]
"The Twilight Language: Explorations in Buddhist Meditation and Symbolism" is a
1986book by Roderick Bucknell and Martin Stuart-Fox. The authors explore the existence of a "Twilight language" (Sanskrit "IAST|saṃdhyā-bhāṣā") employed in the exegesis of sacred texts and communication systems within dharmic traditions. This 'twilight language' is employed to simultaneously evoke a spectrum of sub rosameanings and concealment of esoterictruths through intentionally opaque language, metaphor, gesture, codes and signs.
To provide a
cypherof the codeof "IAST|saṃdhyā-bhāṣā", the authors drew upon: semiotics, symbolism, iconography, Asian religions, Asian Philosophy, Indian religions, Indian philosophy, Buddhist symbolism, temple architecture, cosmology, mathematical notations, Zen Buddhism, Japanese Art, meditation, personal sadhana, tantra, macrocosm-microcosm parallelism, dialogue with many teachers including Anagarika Govindaand senior members of the Krishnamurticommunity. (1986: p.vii-xiii)
Classifications and numerology
Numbers, numerology and the spirituality of numerals is key to
the twilight languageand endemic to Vajrayanaas it is throughout Indian religions. Numbers that are particularly frequent in classification are three, five and nine. As Bucknell, "et al." (1986: p.110) state:
The fivefold classification presented in the "
tantras" is remarkably comprehensive, embracing objects of every conceivable type; it includes the infamous set of 'five Ms' (fish, meat, wine, "mudrā", sexual intercourse) and even a set of five 'body fluids' faeces, urine, blood, semen, flesh. [On the 'five Ms', see Benjamin Walker, "The Hindu World", vol. I (New York: Praeger, 1968), p.221; on the five 'body-fluids' see Elder, 'Problems of Language in Buddhist Tantra', pp.241 - 2.] In addition it includes sets of doctrinal principles, such as the five "skandhas" (factors of existence), the four "kāyas" (Buddha-bodies) and the triad "prajña", "upāya", "bodhicitta" (wisdom, means, enlightenment-mind). For example, "prajña", "upāya", and "bodhicitta" are identified with the triads female/male/union, Amitābha/Akṣobhya/Vairocana, and so on, and are thus implicitly assigned to the water, fire, and space groups respectively. [See Wayman, 'Female Energy and Symbolism', pp. 89-90; also Snellgrove, "The Hevajra Tantra" vol. I, p.27.]
Although 'twilight language' is primarily a feature of
esoterictraditions such as the Vajrayana, Bucknell, "et al." (1986: p.vii) cite the Thai bhikku Buddhadasaas having explored "the importance of symbolic language in the Pali canon...in a number of lectures and publications." [Bucknell, Roderick & Stuart-Fox, Martin (1986). "The Twilight Language: Explorations in Buddhist Meditation and Symbolism". Curzon Press: London. ISBN 0-312-82540-4] . Twilight language is a more highly codified form of the symboliclanguage that is prevalent in much religiousand spiritualliterature.
As Bucknell, "et al." (1986: p.vii) concisely state in implying a dichotomy between Indian Vajrayana and Himalayan Vajrayana:
In the Vajrayana tradition, now preserved mainly in Tibetan sects, it has long been recognized that certain important teachings are expressed in a form of secret symbolic language known as IAST|saṃdhyā-bhāṣā, 'Twilight Language'. "
Mudrās" and " mantras", IAST| maṇḍalas and " cakras", those mysterious devices and diagrams that were so much in vogue in the pseudo-Buddhist hippieculture of the 1960s, were all examples of Twilight Language [...] [Bucknell, Roderick & Stuart-Fox, Martin (1986). "The Twilight Language: Explorations in Buddhist Meditation and Symbolism". Curzon Press: London. ISBN 0-312-82540-4.]
In Tantric Practice
As well as providing a means of protecting the secrecy of
esotericteachings, 'twilight language' is also, in itself, a means of instruction. According to Layne Little:
Tantrism plays with language much like it plays with the social conventions and the ethical structures which it subverts. It employs an enigmatic language which is said to project the yogin into the "paradoxical situation" which is "indispensable to his training." [cite web|url=http://tamil.berkeley.edu/Research/Articles/Twilight.html|title=Writing at Twilight:"O' Shariputra, the sandhaa-bhashya of the Tathaagatas is very difficult." |last=Little|first=Layne|accessdate=2008-07-08]
Language of the birds
*Bucknell, Roderick & Stuart-Fox, Martin (1986). "The Twilight Language: Explorations in Buddhist Meditation and Symbolism". Curzon Press: London. ISBN 0-312-82540-4
*Nordstrom, L. (1989). "Philosophy East and West". Pp: 104-106. (A detractory review of Bucknell et al's "The Twilight Language".)
*Bucknell, Roderick & Stuart-Fox, Martin, "Response to Lou Nordstrom's Review of "The Twilight Language: Explorations in Buddhist Meditation and Symbolism", Philosophy East and West (1989).
* [http://tamil.berkeley.edu/Research/Articles/Twilight.html Writing at Twilight: "O' Shariputra, the sandhaa-bhashya of the Tathaagatas is very difficult." by Layne Little]
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