Synopses & Reviews
The Ecstasy of Enlightenment is an inside look at the spiritual world of Tantra -- one of the most sophisticated, alluring, and controversial forms of Buddhism. Cleary unlocks the mysteries of the Carya-Giti, a collection of teachings by more than twenty famous Siddhas, or Tantric adepts, who lived during the illustrious Pala dynasty of old Bengal. These teachings emanate from one of the most dynamic sources of international Buddhism, at the height of its religious development, and as such, they are completely nonsectarian. The original Bengali texts, and, accordingly, the modern English translations, have been written for popular audiences.
Tantrism is often represented as somehow disconnected from mainstream Buddhist traditions, sometimes even considered non-Buddhistic, often called "decadent" or worse. Cleary's commentary is exceptional in the clarity with which he documents the spiritual connection of Tantric Buddhism with Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism. Partic-ularly noteworthy is his demonstration of the parallels between original Tantric Buddhism in Bengal and the original Zen Buddhism of China. The treatment of sensuality in the Tantric context, often a subject of distortion and controversy, is noteworthy for its exceptional subtlety and dignity. Symbolic, psychological, and physical aspects of the Tantric teachings are illuminated on a continuum coinciding with the spiritual development of Buddhism.
Cleary's introduction also includes little-known information about the history of world Buddhism and the spiritual continuity of the succession of the main phases of its development. He gives a panoramic view of the network of Buddhism linking Bengal, Indonesia, India, Afghanistan, Tibet, China, and Japan, and illustrates the concrete historical transcendence of pan-Buddhism over political and cultural borders. This global vision is particularly important today for the effective integration of traditional values into modern consciousness.