Prem Saran offers the reader an intimate portrait of his life as an initiated tantrika and a self-proclaimed mystic in this idiosyncratic autobiographical and ethnographic account of Tantric traditions in Nepal. Saran weaves stories from his early childhood growing up in a Nayar Brahmin community in Kerala, his education or “intellectual engagement” (p. 36) in India and the United States, his “elite” government position within the Indian Administrative Service, and his own Tantric initiation in 1981 together with the rich life histories of eight male Tantric informants from diverse communities and ethnic groups in Bhaktapur, Patan, and Kathmandu.

Saran's central argument is that, at its core, Tantra is a “counter-cultural system” in Indic civilization, standing in opposition to the normative hierarchical privileging of the brahmanical (priestly) caste. However, his documentation of Hindu and Buddhist Tantric traditions relies almost exclusively on firsthand interviews and personal reflections on a wide range of...

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