Predicting the Unpredictable: Time and the Construction of Identity in Tantric Meditation
In this research project, tentatively entitled Predicting the Unpredictable: Time and the Construction of Identity in Tantric Meditation, Flavio applies an interdisciplinary approach to meditation by studying a broad range of meditation techniques found in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism through a robust theory of human cognition. One of the first book-length research projects to address Indo-Tibetan tantric religion from a cognitive perspective, the study pushes academic boundaries. Blending rigorous philological analysis of a broad range of tantric practices performed in the Ancient School (Nyingma, rnying ma) with cutting-edge research from the cognitive sciences (specifically embodied cognition), this project represents an important milestone in the systematic categorization of meditation practices that can be applied in other cultural contexts. The research for this book has been generally funded by an Azrieli International Postdoctoral Fellowship.
Bridging the Divide: Ernesto de Martino and the Unification of Continental Thought
In a series of articles, one of which has been published in the Religions (“A Parapsychologist, an Anthropologist, and a Vitalist Walk into a Laboratory”), Flavio suggests that the greatest power of de Martino’s thought might lie in his insistence that intellectuals can only transcend crisis if they are willing to generate a “unity of thought” that overcomes our culture’s tendency to think in “separate entities (“compartimenti stagni”). As the coronavirus pandemic has painfully reminded us, we are increasingly confronted with complex crises that are just as biological as they are cultural, just as scientific as they are social, just as virological as they are political. In this light, de Martino’s eclectic research interests, his continuous composition of speculative theories in light of empirical phenomena, and his fearless integration of contrasting disciplinary perspectives are more relevant than ever. Specifically, he is currently drawing up a series of articles that explore the Italian thinker’s attempts to not only draw on various disciplinary perspectives (such as psychology or philosophy), but also to bridge scholars that have frequently been regarded to be in conflict with one another (such as Sigmund Freud and Carl Gustav Jung, or Ernst Cassirer and Martin Heidegger).
Playful Visions: Kaśmiri Śaivism and the Development of the Seminal Heart Great Perfection
In this research project, which he completes as a Mandel Scholion Postdoctoral fellow, Flavio reveals new layers of the complex historical origins of the famous Tibetan Buddhist tradition known as the Seminal Heart Great Perfection (rdzogs chen, Dzogchen). It is well known that the first traces of this teaching appear in Tibet after the collapse of the Tibetan empire during the Era of Fragmentation (9-11th centuries) and the Renaissance (11th-12th century), and that it continues to be practiced today both in Tibet and around the world. In their efforts to make sense of Dzogchen’s idiosyncratic contemplative system, scholars have pointed to an exceptionally wide range of possible sources for the tradition, such as Indian Tantric Buddhism, Ch’an Buddhism from China, the Tathāgatagarbha Sūtras, Sāṃkhya philosophy, Daoism, Sufism, or indigenous shamanic practices and beliefs in Tibet. One of the most longstanding theories is that the Buddhist system of the Great Perfection emerged out of the Hindu tradition known as Kaśmiri Śaivism. However, despite this persistent intuition, scholarship has never dedicated a comprehensive study to this relationship and the association between Dzogchen and Śaivism has remained little more than an unexplored footnote. One of the key reasons for this lacuna, of course, is that the two traditions form part of two entirely different religious traditions with radically divergent philosophical and doctrinal presuppositions (e.g. the question of the self or “no-self”). In this study, Flavio sheds unprecedented light on the associations between Kaśmiri Śaivism and Buddhist Dzogchen by offering a careful analysis of tantric materials from these two traditions, consisting of only scarcely translated Tibetan and Sanskrit texts.