Tantric Tradition as Performative Utterance: The Case of Candi Sukuh

Fig 1. Candi Sukuh as seen from third (top) terrace of temple complex. Source: Jogja Petualang, 2013.

Fig 1. Candi Sukuh as seen from third (top) terrace of temple complex. Source: Jogja Petualang, 2013.

Known most popularly as a cultish trend of eccentric sexual rites and erotic traditions, Tantrism is perhaps one of the most misapprehended forms of spirituality in Western consciousness. This fundamental rift in understanding can be primarily attributed to the methodologies of colonial anthropology that have simultaneously decontextualized and categorized objects of Tantric cultural production as archaic relics of primitive consciousness. But in 1985, Southeast Asian art historian and Cornell University professor Stanley J. O’Connor wrote about a small, peculiar, and little-known Tantric temple in Indonesia with a seemingly alien blacksmith relief in an account that reframed the anthropological discourse surrounding Tantric tradition to contextualize its meaning in linguistic terms. By describing the relief as a gesture analogous to performative utterance—a class of speech act with ritual implication—O’Connor constructed a dialectical paradigm that understood the Tantric artwork to be a site of activation for a sublime, spiritual experience, rather than merely an archival artifact of a forgotten past.

Three-thousand feet above sea level, on the west-facing side of Mount Lawu in Central Java, there is a modest patch of flat terrain veiled in the milky clouds that embrace the massive stratovolcano. On this grassy site six-hundred years ago, Hindu settlers from around the vast island of Java fleeing the impending influx of Muslim settlers[1] laid a small temple complex called Candi Sukuh (Fig 1). Three-hundred years later, the infamous British colonial Lieutenant-Governor and self-proclaimed ethnographer Sir Thomas Raffles stumbled across the site in vandalized ruin: figurative statues were decapitated, reliefs damaged, and sculptures thrown violently on the ground (Fig 2). Yet local villagers in the inhabiting town of Berjo continued to lay their daily offerings of vivid flowers wrapped in banana leaves and perfumed with varieties of sandalwood incense (Fig 3).[2]

Fig 2. Three decapitated figurative statues located on the third (top) terrace of the Candi Sukuh temple complex. Source: Mariko J. Azis, 2016.

Fig 2. Three decapitated figurative statues located on the third (top) terrace of the Candi Sukuh temple complex. Source: Mariko J. Azis, 2016.

The temple is as much shrouded with mountainous haze as it is in mystery: as is the case with many of the Javanese Hindu candi (temples) of the region, much of the accompanying scripture and written record of the sites were written in palm leaf that failed to survive the precarious monsoon seasons.[3] Despite this, what was evident to Raffles at the time of his introduction to the site was that the temple was unlike any other in the region, if not on the entire island: the highly sexualized and violent subjects of its reliefs were stylistically rendered in a grotesque, demonic manner that remains in stark contrast to the intricate decorative techniques of its regionally neighboring candi (including the marathon complex of Candi Prambanan, constructed in the 9th century).[4] Strewn with images of vaginal yoni and phallic lingga iconography, the defacement of Candi Sukuh’s profane, unsuppressed imagery was likely justified by Islamic colonizers’ obligation to modest propriety.[5]

Fig 3. Reliefs on an altar located on the third (top) terrace of the temple complex depicting the mythological story of a mortal named Uma who was liberated from sin by the goddess Sudamala by means of a kriya (purification ritual), as told in the Hindu epic called the Mahabharata. Shown in the altar is an assortment of Hindu offerings arranged from colorful flowers collected in handmade banana-leaf dishes. Source: Mariko J. Azis, 2016.

Fig 3. Reliefs on an altar located on the third (top) terrace of the temple complex depicting the mythological story of a mortal named Uma who was liberated from sin by the goddess Sudamala by means of a kriya (purification ritual), as told in the Hindu epic called the Mahabharata. Shown in the altar is an assortment of Hindu offerings arranged from colorful flowers collected in handmade banana-leaf dishes. Source: Mariko J. Azis, 2016.

A century after Raffles, O’Connor revisited the site and performed detailed research on a particularly curious relief tucked in its own terraced setting on the south side of the complex. Cast in iron and well-preserved, this relief depicted two men forging a weapon in a smithy, flanking a demonic dancing Ganesha goddess figure (Fig 4). Initially shelved as an anomalous object with no textual explication for its presence at the temple, O’Connor’s research reconceived the relief’s presence completely: he revealed the work as an embodiment of the Tantric principle of spiritual liberation by means of material transformation. “By seizing upon the processes through which metallic substances are transformed,” O’Connor writes, “[the artist] has provided an equivalence in natural energies and rhythms for those spiritual transformations believed to govern the career of the soul after death.”[6] Portraying the smithy relief within the Tantric context of transitional cremation ceremonies—fraught with energetic ritual that is simultaneously creative and destructive—O’Connor elucidated the very pertinent relationship between the seemingly deviating subjects of sexual imagery and blacksmithing tradition in Java.

Fig 4. Iron relief on the south end of the second (middle) terrace of the temple complex—the subject of Stanley J. O’Connor’s “Metallurgy and Immortality and Candi Sukuh” (1985). Source: Mariko J. Azis, 2016.

Fig 4. Iron relief on the south end of the second (middle) terrace of the temple complex—the subject of Stanley J. O’Connor’s “Metallurgy and Immortality and Candi Sukuh” (1985). Source: Mariko J. Azis, 2016.

“If we read the Sukuh relief as a performative utterance, then what it performs, through a presentation of craft mysteries, is the transfiguration, transformation, or transportation of spirit,” he continues.[7] What O’Connor refers to here as performative utterance is a class of operative speech-acts expounded by the philosopher J.L. Austin, in which the very act of utterance ritually fulfils the result that it intends. Austin writes that “to utter the sentence (in, of course, the appropriate circumstances) is not to describe my doing of what I should be said in so uttering to be doing or to state that I am doing it: it is to do it.”[8] A familiar example of such speech-acts in Western philology might be a wedding vow, in which the utterance “I do take thee...” in its own performance realizes the intended result of vowing oneself to a partner in marriage.

O’Connor’s identification of Candi Sukuh’s enigmatic blacksmith relief as a performative utterance is arguably the most accurate linguistic account of the artistic merit and experience of the piece. Circumventing the post-colonial anthropological convention of dismissing the artists’ and practitioners’ tendencies as founded simply on pure myth and superstitious representation,[9] O’Connor paints an image of an artistic hand self-aware in its capacity to simultaneously demonstrate, embody, and commemorate the act of the piece’s creation. Rather than explicating the relief as a constative pictorial representation of mythological belief, O’Connor comprehends the object’s inherent propensity to exist as a fulfillment of its own ritual purpose. In fact, upon a broadened analysis of the philosophia perennis of Tantric tradition, the attribute of performative utterance may even be said to be characteristic of all Tantric craft and cultural production.

While not an autonomous religious faction nor even an articulated collection of texts, Tantrism can be best understood as a genre of literature and practice existent in all South Asian religions, ranging from animistic folk religions, Jainism, Buddhism, and Hinduism.[10] Tantrism more accurately embodies the philological quality that pervades theistic texts rather than the texts or practices in themselves. As can be expected of such a syncretic class of scripture, Tantric literature tends to evade comprehension in terms satisfactory to categorical definition: to the extent that a text could exemplify qualities of Tantrism, Tantric texts are not always homogenous in their material, nor do they necessarily include definitive “markers” of Tantra as a cataloged genre. Thus, to elucidate a more comprehensive demonstration of Tantrism, this research is guided not by the delineation and description of the exponentially diverging sects birthed from Tantric literature, but rather on the expression of Tantra as a Gnostic ideology founded in the mastery of the physical realm as a site for unification with the divine.

One of the most popular and multiform pieces of literature in Tantric scripture that meticulously models the relationship between the body and universal divinity is the Kalacakratantra (derivative of kala [time] and cakra [cycle]).[11] Within this text, the most repetitive mantra (“magical speech” or incantation) illustrates this relationship with simplicity: “Yatha bayhe tatha dehe (As it is outside, so it is within the body),”[12] but the cosmological vehicles through which this relationship is mediated are interrelated in an eternal cycle laden with complexity and fragility. Central to the Kalacakratantra (and derivative of the ancient Buddhist ontology of cosmological organization[13]) is a triadic coordination of the universe—one that persists on multiple spatiotemporal levels of cosmological conceptualization. In the cyclical existence demonstrated in the Kalacakratantra, two types of cosmos—the inanimate and the animate—co-dependently cycle in perpetual flux, characterized by their origination, duration, and destruction. The formation of these cosmos relies on all sentient beings’ combined karma—a multifaceted concept that could most accurately be abridged to the notion of actions classified as wholesome or unwholesome, dependent on their extent of collective service. The karma generated by sentient beings produces a boundless supply of karma-vata (karmic winds) that spawn the multiplicities of cosmic world-systems via their triadic typology: the holding wind (samdharana) provides structural support for the atomic world, the churning wind (manthana) churns atoms into solid elements, and the shaping wind (samsthana) maintains the eternal shifting and bending of the elements.[14]

Candi Sukuh is a site whose devotion appears to have been focused on the celebration of the second of these winds, manthana: the karmic wind responsible for the Samuderamanthana, one of the major episodes of Hindu mythology, described famously in the epic Mahabharata text. According to the Mahabharata, the Samuderamanthana—translated literally to “churning of the milky ocean,” was performed by the gods in order to produce amrita (the water of life).[15] As written in the original Mahabharata text:

...the gods came to the shore of the Ocean with Ananta[16] and addressed the Ocean, saying, 'O Ocean; we have come to churn thy waters for obtaining nectar.' And the Ocean replied, 'Be it so, as I shall not go without a share of it. I am able to bear the prodigious agitation of my waters set up by the mountain.' The gods then went to the king of tortoises and said to him, 'O Tortoise-king, thou wilt have to hold the mountain on thy back!' The Tortoise-king agreed, and Indra[17] contrived to place the mountain on the former's back.[18]


Accordingly, Candi Sukuh’s main temple distinctively illustrates this epic creation myth in its iconographic depictions of the three embodied forces: the Tortoise figure, the mountain (which is also echoed by the temple’s situation on Mount Lawu), and the divine architects. The temple structure maintains a triadic organization derivative of the three-world ontology of Hindu creation mythology: three circular tortoise pedestals (denoting the underworld) herald the pyramidal mountain structure (denoting the middle world), which supports a phallic lingga structure at its zenith (denoting the heavenly world). The cosmological structure is further echoed in the three-tiered terraces that steep towards the top level on which the main temple is situated. On the lowest terrace at which the temple entrance is located, pilgrims to the site would behold reliefs depicting the profanity of life when mala (moral “dirt”) persists in the practitioner’s mind and soul; at the second terrace, a “semi-sacred” space invites pilgrims to engage in kriya (purification rituals, the likes of which remain ambiguous); and at the highest terrace, the main temple and reliefs denote the most sacred space of the temple complex in which pilgrims are invited to attain perfection, unifying their earthly existence with heavenly nirvana.[19]

The latter notion of unification between the mortal world and the divine introduces a fundamental thread of all Tantric practice and literature: the emphasis on the practitioner’s own body as the site of transcendental worship. Described as the achievement of “self-apotheosis,”[20] the Tantra practitioner’s performance of ritual acts through the physicality of their own body intends to establish the individual’s identity with the identity of the deity upon whom the practitioner meditates. Perhaps the most straightforward as well as the most translatable Tantric tradition that illustrates this unification is the practice of yoga. Although contemporary global sensibilities of yoga conceive the practice as a fitness trend, yogic philosophy in actuality devotes the smallest portion of its literature to the physical practice of asana (posture), characterized instead by illustrating spiritual liberation through meditation of the holistic body and mind.[21] Simply put, what pervades the practice of yoga (which translates literally to “union”) much more than asana is the notion that a practitioner can master their body in order to unify its corporeality with its divine spirit, referred to hereafter as the True Self.[22]

Here, we begin to see parallels with the cosmological conceptualizations present in the Kalacakratantra; for example, the triadic typology of the aforementioned generative karmic winds can be understood analogously in terms of the comparable cosmology of the human body in yogic tradition, in which prana (life-force energy) is embodied by breath. Five vayu (subtle winds) affect prana in various areas of the body—the tradition of yoga asana entails the yogi’s practice in exercising control over the internal movement of these vayu (and thus control over their prana) through postural meditation.[23] Consequently, the body can be understood as a mesocosm of the divine cosmos: to the extent that the deific world governs the fluid existence of the universe, a cosmological world exists within the physicality of practitioners’ themselves, thus heralding the epitomic mantra of the Kalacakratantra: “As it is outside, so it is within the body.”[24] Just as the deities achieve a balanced coordination between the heavenly and the earthly cosmos through mastery of the three karma-vata, the Tantric yoga practitioner achieves a coordination between the physicality of their human body and the divinity of their True Self through mastery of their prana during postural meditation. This practice of mastery accordingly brings the practitioner to a state of absolute unity with the divine, as is illustrated in the earliest extant reference to Tantric yoga, scribed in the Tantric text Nisvasa:


The Goddess said: “How does union [yoga] with the Independent Deity [Nirālamba Śiva][25] come about?” ... The Lord said: “That which may be seen by the eye, that which is within the realm of speech, those things which the mind thinks and which the imagination imagines, are made aspects of ‘I’ [i.e., appropriated by ego], as is whatever has a specific form; [therefore] one should search for the place in one’s own body where there is no such form.[26]


Evidently, in the model so described in the Nisvasa, the cognitive capacities that are mediated by the “ego” function as a much different modality from the state of unity with the True Self—yet both are necessarily coalesced within the human body. Thus, a particularly anti-Abrahamic religious assertion is made in Tantric thought: that every sentient being literally embodies divinity itself. The True Self can therefore also be generalized and understood as the Divine Self, or the Divine Spirit. In fact, “Namaste”—the Sanskrit mantra most pervasive in modern vocabulary, as popularized by the globalization of yoga asana practice—translates most accurately to “I recognize the Divine Spirit within you.”[27] From a phenomenological perspective, the experience of absolute detachment from the “ego” (and thus absolute unity with the True Self—a state referred to as Samadhi) can be understood as a metaphysical suspension of consciousness that is fundamentally unknowable.[28] Nevertheless, those who have attempted to “know” this psychological state in clinical terms often refer to the trance-like consciousness as a “dissociative condition”[29]; the terminology, however, may seem paradoxical to a learned yogi given that the practice of Samadhi exercises absolute unity with the True Self rather than dissociation from it.

Inherent in the notion that yoga is a practice towards achieving Samadhi is the inevitability that an act of transformation must occur within the practitioner’s body. In literal terms, this can be understood as the transitional state of an egocentric consciousness towards the True Self—a universal divine consciousness. Moreover, Tantric literature presupposes an equivalence between this transmutation of the yoga practitioner’s consciousness and the material conversion of elements, as in the alchemical practices that pervade Tantric tradition.

Hatha yoga does to the body of an adept, what alchemists do to base metals,” medical anthropologist Joseph S. Alter writes of this analogous relationship. “Although it is possible to think of this purely in symbolic terms, it is important to keep in mind the fundamentally materialist orientation of both yoga and alchemy. It does not make any more sense to say that base metals become like gold, than it does to say that the body of an adept becomes god-like.”[30] In recognizing both transformative processes to be epistemologically “real” as phenomenological experiences, we can finally begin to fathom the magnitude to which a sentient being’s mastery over elemental transmutation can be considered an exercise of divine power. Whether in the material conversion of copper into gold or in the spiritual conversion of the egocentric consciousness into the universal consciousness, a Tantra practitioner is committed to the constant endeavor of transforming physical energies into divine energies. Accordingly, in reference to the seemingly anomalous blacksmith relief at Candi Sukuh, O’Connor acknowledges that “operations of the smith and smelter parallel cosmic process and that, with their ability to alter the mode of being of metals, the smiths also possessed the key to the means of spiritual transcendence.”[31]

Considering the supreme value placed in transmogrification processes against the backdrop of the established tenet that the physical body exists as the critical nexus for spiritual worship, it thus easily follows that the act of sexual procreation—in all its generative, metamorphic energy—could be considered within the highest realms of divine activity. Moreover, the female body is deemed a particularly holy site in this paradigm. “The greatest transformation of all, that of human seed into pure spiritual energy, takes place in the most sacred of all sacred vessels: the womb, the holy vessel which is also the fount, well, and spring of all creation,” describes writer and Tantra expert Indra Sinha.[32] “To see woman’s body as a vessel of transformation is, of course, also the alchemical view.” Turning to the Matrkabhedatantra—the quintessential Tantric text on rasayana (alchemical secrets and rituals)—we find that the language used to describe productive methods of transmogrification does indeed conform the material transformations of alchemy to the female body’s procreative capacity. For example, the Sanskrit term for the generalized female reproductive system is kunt[33]—the same term that is sometimes used to refer to the pots and ovens in which varieties of food and alchemical materials were cooked over burning coals. While the Matrkabhedatantra is primarily concerned with the instructional methodologies of alchemical ritual—devoted to methods of creating mercury ash, jewels, silver, and gold—the term kunt is found throughout the text, used interchangeably in the description of precious metal transmogrification as well as in the scarcer sections that briefly address the significance of fertilization and birth.[34] An understanding of this equivalence also justifies the etymology of the document’s titular “Matrkabheda” being named for the Sanskrit matri (“mother”),[35] effectively signifying “mother energies”—a derivation that might otherwise seem arbitrary or merely symbolic at best. The parallel relationship between Tantric treatment of alchemy and female reproductive capacities is vital to the practitioner’s journey towards Samadhi; thus, a strong overtone of feminine power and energy suffuses the language in much of the Tantric literature surrounding creation—whether in reference to cosmological, reproductive, or alchemical transformative processes.[36]

In considering the contextual implications of the distinct pictorial iconography pictured at Candi Sukuh—from the narrative reliefs depicting the churning of the milky ocean in the Samuderamanthana, to the iron relief that simultaneously embodies and portrays the alchemical processes of blacksmithing, to the unabashed imagery of sexual and procreative vigor—it is clear that there is a purposeful thread that fuses the seemingly disparate subjects into a single mode of spiritual piety. What appeared to Raffles and other colonial anthropologists to be an arbitrary or mistaken assortment of artifacts was actually a consecrated construction devoted to the energetic power of transformation—within the cosmological creation myth, the elemental transmutations in alchemy, and the procreative physicality of the sexual body.

Today, most Tantric cultural production is understood in the hegemony of Western anthropological discourse as indexical artifacts of representational significance (or worse, as exoticized displays of barbaric, excessively promiscuous societies). However, an empathetic consideration of the role of these remnants in their contemporaneous ethos elucidates Tantric artworks not as representations, but rather as material embodiments of the unification between the physical and divine realms, in a very literal sense. For this reason, O’Connor’s analogy of the blacksmith relief at Candi Sukuh as a gesture of performative utterance effectively shifts the diagnostic rhetoric of anthropological academia towards a conversation about cultural context and experience.

Indeed, contemporary notions of the class of performative utterances acknowledge the stylistic, cultural, and ritualistic variables of the speech act as fundamental to semantic meaning. Expanding on the speech act’s aforesaid parameters, J.O. Urmson—Austin’s primary editor for his most seminal texts on the subject—clarifies that “performative utterances are that subset of wholly conventional acts which is constituted by non-linguistic conventions but where these non-linguistic conventions require one to act in accordance with specified linguistic conventions.”[37] Urmson’s 1977 addenda to Austin’s initial 1955 conception of the performative utterance underscore non-linguistic cultural conventions as the essential foundation to the speech act’s ritual meaning. He correctly asserts that the gesture of the utterance itself does not retain its tautological logic if it is performed in a context that is inappropriate to the linguistic convention. For example, inasmuch as the ritual act of marriage in a culture foreign to one’s own would require knowledge of the lingustic conventions of that culture, it is entirely dependent on that community’s civic conventions—legal, social, and religious—that the accompanying speech acts could actually fulfill the ritual truth of the act. Urmson succinctly demonstrates this distinction in the example of marriage with the point that the completion of the ritual act for a foreigner in say, Turkey, would not be founded in a question of lingustics (or, “How do I get married in Turkish?”) but rather in a question of cultural convention (that is, “How do I get married in Turkey?”).[38] The performative utterance thus can be understood as an act that becomes a conventional in its cultural context when the ritual truth of its content can be verified by its non-linguistic significance.

Considering this signification in a purist sense, the semantic value of the performative utterance could be understood as a non-linguistic gesture altogether. “The true performative should not be classed as a speech-act at all,” Urmson writes. “It involves speech, just as the act of homage involves bodily contortion... [yet] it is a non-linguistic convention that determines that the utterance of those words, with the meaning that they have, constitutes that conventional act.”[39] If we thus expand our consideration of performative utterances to any gesture that fulfills the self-satisfying logic of asserting its ritual truth (as designated by its non-linguistic conventions), then we might consider all rites of Tantric ritual to be gestures of such logic. Considering our primary example, if Candi Sukuh exists as a literal embodiment of the transformative nature of the cosmological universe, the reality of the site itself asserts its ritual truth by being a gesture of that transformation, rather than about it. Inasmuch as the temple’s pictorial symbols and reliefs do provide representational description of its content (that is, the narrative of the Samuderamanthana chapter of the Mahabharata accompanied by the equivalently transformative iconography of sexual and alchemical energy), if we actually understand the act of the temple’s creation and contextualized function, it transcends its representational character. In fact, as the circumscribed principles of creation in Tantric philosophy would indicate, all material creation in the name of Tantra transcends representation: operating along the fundamental intention to create the yogic union between the material and the divine, the material creation becomes the divine.

What this adapted methodology of deciphering Tantric culture through the lens of performatives affords our current practices of historical analysis is a drastically more empathetic, holistic, and anti-colonial approach to interpreting the enigmatic tradition. This methodology also correctly identifies such objects to be contextualized as objects of the sublime experience of art rather than merely indexical artifacts, as O’Connor acknowledges them to be. In relating the perspective of the Tantric practitioner beholding the Candi Sukuh blacksmith relief, he writes that “in the synthetic and combinatory manner in which consciousness actively cooperates in experiencing a work of art and bringing out its implicit meanings, the viewer would draw on his whole range of knowledge and experience.”[40] Consequently, this methodology also allows the receptivity necessary for modern anthropological accounts to translate the contextualized phenomenological experience of Tantric ritual objects into comparatively expressive language—a language that is predominantly reserved for artworks that subsist as progeny of the decidedly Eurocentric canon of art history. O’Connor exemplifies this receptivity through the illustrative character of his writing on the blacksmith relief, in which he beautifully illuminates the sublime encounter with the artwork:


The relief would be wreathed in memory, a pressure of feeling, something more gossamer than a set of propositions. Ignited in the mind were images of the smelter sweating over the rising gorge of fire; the splintered roasting ore glowing in the reeking smoke; a pod of orange-white bloom bulging in the hearth; the blood-red threads of slag tapped off in steady trickles; the phased rhythm of the bellows with its pulse of spurting art; the granite hammer-stone ringing on chilled steel; the searing hiss of white-hot iron plunged in water.[41]


Candi Sukuh still remains an inscrutable work of art to historians and anthropologists in both its form and function—its structural appearance signifies a conscious deviation from both the architectural and stylistic standards of its contemporaries, and there appears to be no centralized deity nor particular ritual to which the temple is dedicated. Yet the spiritual essence of the site is unmistakable. Furthermore, the site is particularly unique as a landmark of the island’s fluid and pluralistic spiritual history: its conception falls in the brief period between the fall of the Hindu Majapahit Empire to the Islamic Demak Sultanate, during which it is said that indigenous populations were mobilized to revive the glory of the pre-Hindu, animistic, even Tantric Java.[42] If this is true, Candi Sukuh may therefore remain as one of the most essentially Javanese temples in existence[43]—an assertion that could have considerable implications for understanding the fundamental ontology of Javanese culture.

But as long as the hegemonic methodology of constative analysis dominates contemporary approaches to anthropological study, very real barriers remain in synthesizing a comprehensible image of what that Javanese-ness could be. For an island (and archipelago) so rich in its plurality yet so unmistakably fragmented in its national identity in more recent colonial history, these barriers are not irrelevant—they perpetuate a national attitude that this Javanese-ness is a distant memory, too vague and incomprehensible to identify with. Nonetheless, even a tourist could intuit the quality of the island’s spirituality in the lasting veneration that all natives still have towards such sites. Today, the Javanese maintain the essentially Tantric impulse that these lasting objects still materially manifest a certain intangible spirit—though elusive and cloaked in cloudy mystery, they continue to respect these objects as embodiments of the divine.

[1] Often misunderstood as an “Islamic invasion,” there is compelling evidence that the immigration of Islamic peoples to the island of Java was amicable, and that the indigenous peoples of the island converted willingly to the religion (which eventually resulted in the fall of the Majapahit Empire). See Fic, Victor M. From Majapahit and Sukuh to Megawati Sukarnoputri: Continuity and Change in Pluralism of Religion, Culture and Politics of Indonesia from the XV to the XXI Century. New Delhi: Abhinav Publications, 2003.

[2] Tiffin, Sarah. “Raffles and the Barometer of Civilisation: Images and Descriptions of Ruined Candis in The History of Java.” Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 18, no. 03 (July 2008): 348.

[3] Forman, Bedrich, 1919-1985. Borobudur, the Buddhist Legend in Stone. London: Octopus, 1980, 23.

[4] Tiffin, 344.

[5] Tiffin, 352.

[6] O’Connor, Stanley J. “Metallurgy and Immortality at Caṇḍi Sukuh, Central Java.” Indonesia 39 (April 1985): 53.

[7] O’Connor, 65.

[8] Austin, John Langshaw, and James Opie Urmson. How to Do Things with Words: [the William James Lectures Delivered at Harvard University in 1955]. 2. ed., [repr.]. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard Univ. Press, 2009, 6.

[9] Tiffin, 352.

[10] Jones, Lindsay, Mircea Eliade, and Charles J. Adams, eds. Encyclopedia of Religion. 2nd ed. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2005, 4019.

[11] Wallace, Vesna A. The Inner Kālacakratantra: A Buddhist Tantric View of the Individual. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001, 22.

[12] Wallace, 65.

[13] Jones, Eliade, and Adams, 1214.

[14] While the sovereign utility of these three types of karma-vata may function chronologically, they seem to be understood on a timescale likened more to non-linear, multidirectional “space-time” than to Euclidian one-directional chronology, as they act in constant simultaneity. See Wallace, 59.

[15] “Sukuh Temple.” Berjo, Ngargoyoso District, Karanganyar Regency, Central Java: Candi Sukuh, 15th century A.D. Information card.

[16] One of the many names of the Lord Vishnu, one of the most significant deities in Hinduism. According to yogic scripture, Ananta eavesdropped on the teachings between the Goddess Parvati and the Lord Shiva (recorded in the Nisvasa, which is quoted later in this paper); when discovered, Shiva sentenced Ananta to the human realm to divulge the teachings of yoga. Patanjali, the author of the allegedly original yoga sutras, is said to be the human incarnate of Ananta. See Maehle, Gregor, and Monica Gauci. Ashtanga Yoga--the Intermediate Series: Mythology, Anatomy, and Practice. Novato, CA: New World Library, 2009.

[17] The king of the gods.

[18] Adi Parva, Astika Parva Section XVIII

[19] “Sukuh Temple.”

[20] Jones, Eliade, and Adams, 4019.

[21] Boons, Allison. “Yoga Philosophy.” Desa Seni Yoga School, Bali, Indonesia, January 13, 2016.

[22] Patañjali. Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Boston, MA: Weiser Books, 2002.

[23] Boons.

[24] Wallace, 66.

[25] Synonymous with what has thus been referred to as the “True Self,” Nirālamba translates to “self-supported” or “independent” and Śiva refers to the omnipresent deity of regeneration and destruction. “Independent Deity” is a common English translation of the term, but its literality may imply that it has autonomous agency or that it exists as a separate entity from the practitioner, which is misleading; thus, I continue to refer to it as the “True Self.” Other anglicized terms that can be considered synonymous to this concept include “Universal Divine Consciousness,” “Universal Spirit,” “Oneness,” and others.

[26] Nayasutra, 4.11-13 from Wallis, Christopher D. (2015-07-15). Tantra Illuminated: The Philosophy, History, and Practice of a Timeless Tradition (Kindle Locations 3178-3180). Mattamayura Press. Kindle Edition.

[27] Boons.

[28] Boons.

[29] See Castillo, R. J. (2003). Trance, functional psychosis, and culture. Psychiatry, 66(1), 9-21.

[30] Alter, Joseph. “Modern Medical Yoga: Struggling with a History of Magic, Alchemy and Sex.” Asian Medicine 1, no. 1 (January 1, 2005): 119–46. doi:10.1163/157342105777996818.

[31] O’Connor, 54.

[32] Sinha, Indra, ed. The Great Book of Tantra: Translations and Images from the Classic Indian Texts with Commentary. Rochester, Vt: Destiny Books: Distributed to the trade in the United States by American International Distribution Corporation, 1993, 116.

[33] From this etymology, English language has adopted what is often referred to the “C-word.”

[34] It is also emphasized in the Matrkabhedatantra that perfection of the body for attainment of spiritual liberation necessitates the satisfaction of carnal desires; therefore, a predominant tangent in the text underscores the significance of pleasure in Tantric worship. Consumption of wine and engagement in sexual desires are detailed as sanctified gestures. See Magee, Mike, trans. The Matrkabheda Tantra. MetaPlume Corporation, 2011.

[35] Sinha, 117.

[36] Though a discussion perhaps excessive for the purposes of this paper, it may seem counterintuitive that the role of male energy in the Tantric literature (as embodied by the phallic lingga conjoined with the vaginal yoni) actually emphasizes the sanctity of a certain extent of male celibacy. While castration signifies the most extreme gesture of this spectrum of male chastity, the most common Tantric sacrament of sex places heavy emphasis on prolonging the sexual act without male ejaculation. The underlying principle of this abstinent practice is aligned with the notion that perpetuation of the sex act and semen retention is the definitive gesture of mastery over Kala—the dimension of time that sustains the cyclical nature of existence the physical world (i.e. as described in the Kalacakratantra). Theoretically, such mastery releases the practitioner into moksha, or spiritual liberation from the unending cycle of physical incarnation—which is why Tantric imagery of the lingga solidified in constantly erect form indicates such liberation. See “The Severed Phallus” from The Great Book of Tantra (Sinha, 66-75).

[37] Urmson, J. O. “Performative Utterances.” Midwest Studies in Philosophy 2, no. 1 (September 1977): 124-125.

[38] Urmson, 124.

[39] Urmson, 127.

[40] O’Connor, 56.

[41] Nayasutra, 4.11-13 from Wallis, Christopher D. (2015-07-15). Tantra Illuminated: The Philosophy, History, and Practice of a Timeless Tradition (Kindle Locations 3178-3180). Mattamayura Press. Kindle Edition.

[42] Fic, 24.

[43] Along with Candi Ceto, another 15th century temple built (presumably by the same peoples) very close to Sukuh, and with a similarly crude stylistic hand.