Illness and Immortality examines a medieval Sanskrit text, the Netra Tantra, which is devoted to health and healing through a yogic practice dedicated to the chanting of mantras, the building of mandalas, and meditation. Patricia Sauthoff examines the role of such ritual elements in rites to alleviate illness and death. She includes analysis of the various forms of the deity Amrtesa or Mrtyuñjaya (Conqueror of Death), the nature of mantra, and the relationship between the tantric practitioner and the patient. This work explores what is meant by immortality within the medieval context and how one goes about attaining it. It asks how ritual alleviates illness, what role the deity plays in health and healing, and finally who has access to the rites described within the text. Central to this study is the conception of a body vulnerable to demons and reliant on deities for continued existence, and how the three yogic bodies (sthula, suksma, and para) play a role in physical and spiritual well-being. Featuring new translations of large sections of the Netra Tantra, the book offers readers various points of entry into the text so that tantric practitioners and scholars alike can access the influential and important concepts and practices found within this long-revered but under-studied work.
Patricia Sauthoff is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Alberta and the ERC-funded AyurYog project. She received her PhD from SOAS, University of London, in South Asian Languages and Cultures. Her research focuses on health and immortality in the tantric and rasasastric traditions. She is particularly interested in the role women played in medieval ritual and health practices.
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