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 Twilight Language

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mike lewis

Posts : 190
Join date : 2012-03-22

Twilight Language Empty
PostSubject: Twilight Language   Twilight Language EmptyFri 14 Sep 2012, 3:54 am

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Twilight Language: A Tantric concept (Sandhya Bhasha in Sanskrit) wherein a word or expression may literally mean one thing but to an initiate it will mean something else, perhaps even the opposite of the literal meaning. This can be seen in very figurative writing (as a Western example, see the Zohar) or very brief comments that need expansion (also seen in the Sepher Yetzirah).

Twilight language is a rendering of the Sanskrit term sāṃdhyābhāṣā (written also sāndhyābhāṣā, sāṃdhyabhāṣā, sāndhyabhāṣā; Tibetan: dgongs-pa'i ske) — or of their modern Indic equivalents (especially in Bengali, Oriya, Assamese, Maithili, Hindi, Nepali, Braj and Khariboli).

The twilight language is a polysemic language and communication system associated with tantric traditions in Vajrayana Buddhism and Hinduism. It includes visual communication, verbal communication and nonverbal communication. Tantric texts are often written in a form of the twilight language that is incomprehensible to the uninitiated reader. As part of an esoteric tradition of initiation, the texts are not to be employed by those without an experienced guide and the use of the twilight language ensures that the uninitiated do not easily gain access to the knowledge contained in these works. According to Judith Simmer-Brown:

As has often been said, tantric texts are written in "twilight language" (sandha-bhasa, gongpe-ke), which, as the Hevajra-tantra states, is a "secret language, that great convention of the yoginis, which the shravakas and others cannot unriddle". This means that the texts of Buddhist tantra cannot be understood without the specific oral commentary by authorized Vajrayana teachers

Nayak (2006: p.72) holds the great fertile locality of Sonepur and its literature is championed by such as the Charyapada, Matsyendranath, Daripada and the Nath:

"The growth of literature at Sonepur can be traced to Charyapada, to Matsyendranath and Daripada of the Natha cult. They wrote esoteric poetry in language known as Sandhya bhasa. The local idioms they used are still in currency in this area."

The Twilight Language: Explorations in Buddhist Meditation and Symbolism is a 1986 book by Roderick Bucknell and Martin Stuart-Fox. The authors explore the existence of a Twilight language employed in the exegesis of sacred texts and communication systems within dharmic traditions. This twilight language is employed to simultaneously evoke a spectrum of sub rosa meanings and concealment of esoteric truths through intentionally opaque language, metaphor, gesture, codes and signs.

To provide a cypher of the code of saṃdhyā-bhāṣā, the authors drew upon: semiotics, symbolism, iconography, Asian religions, Asian Philosophy, Indian religions, Indian philosophy, Buddhist symbolism, temple architecture, cosmology, mathematical notations, Zen Buddhism, Japanese Art, meditation, personal sadhana, tantra, macrocosm-microcosm parallelism, dialogue with many teachers including Anagarika Govinda and senior members of the Krishnamurti community.

Numbers, numerology and the spirituality of numerals is key to the twilight language and endemic to Vajrayana, as it is throughout Indian religions. Numbers that are particularly frequent in classification are three, five and nine. As Bucknell and Stuart-Fox (1986: p.110) state:

The fivefold classification presented in the tantras is remarkably comprehensive, embracing objects of every conceivable type; it includes the infamous set of 'five Ms' (fish, meat, wine, mudrā, sexual intercourse) and even a set of five 'body fluids' faeces, urine, blood, semen, flesh.[3] In addition it includes sets of doctrinal principles, such as the five skandhas (factors of existence), the four kāyas (Buddha-bodies) and the triad prajña, upāya, bodhicitta (wisdom, means, enlightenment-mind). For example, prajña, upāya, and bodhicitta are identified with the triads female/male/union, Amitābha/Akṣobhya/Vairocana, and so on, and are thus implicitly assigned to the water, fire, and space groups respectively.

As Bucknell and Stuart-Fox (1986: p.vii) state that:

In the Vajrayana tradition, now preserved mainly in Tibetan sects, it has long been recognized that certain important teachings are expressed in a form of secret symbolic language known as saṃdhyā-bhāṣā, 'Twilight Language'. Mudrās and mantras, maṇḍalas and cakras, those mysterious devices and diagrams that were so much in vogue in the Buddhist culture of the 1960s, were all examples of Twilight Language [...]

A visual language is a system of communication using visual elements. Speech as a means of communication cannot strictly be separated from the whole of human communicative activity which includes the visual and the term 'language' in relation to vision is an extension of its use to describe the perception, comprehension and production of visible signs.

An image which tramatizes and communicates an idea presupposes the use of a visual language. Just as people can 'verbalize' their thinking, they can 'visualize' it. A diagram, a map, and a painting are all examples of uses of visual language. Its structural units include line, shape, color, form, motion, texture, pattern, direction, orientation, scale, angle, space and proportion.

The elements in an image represent concepts in a spatial context, rather than the linear form used for words. Speech and visual communication are parallel and often interdependent means by which humans exchange information.

Visual units in the form of lines and marks are constructed into meaningful shapes and structures or signs.

What we have in our minds in a waking state and what we imagine in dreams is very much of the same nature. Dream images might be with or without spoken words, other sounds or colours. In the waking state there is usually, in the foreground, the buzz of immediate perception, feeling, mood and as well as fleeting memory images. In a mental state between dreaming and being fully awake is a state known as 'day dreaming' or a meditative state, during which "the things we see in the sky when the clouds are drifting, the centaurs and stags, antelopes and wolves" are projected from the imagination. Rudolf Arnheim has attempted to answer the question: what does a mental image look like? In Greek philosophy, the School of Leucippus and Democritus believed that a replica of an object enters the eye and remains in the soul as a memory as a complete image. Berkeley explained that parts, for example a leg rather than the complete body, appear in the mind. Arnheim considers the psychologist, Edward B. Titchener's account to be the breakthrough in understanding something of how the vague incomplete quality of the image is 'impressionistic' and carries meaning as well as form.

Throughout history and especially in ancient cultures visual language has been used to encode meaning " The Bronze Age Badger Stone on Ilkly Moor is covered in circles, lines, hollow cups, winged figures, a spread hand, an ancient swastika, an embryo, a shooting star? … It's a story-telling rock, a message from a world before (written) words." Richard Gregory suggests that, "Perhaps the ability to respond to absent imaginary situations," as our early ancestors did with paintings on rock, "represents an essential step towards the development of abstract thought."

Thought processes are diffused and interconnected and are cognitive at a sensory level. The mind thinks at its deepest level in sense material, and the two hemispheres of the brain deal with different kinds of thought.[14]

The brain is divided into two hemispheres and a thick bundle of nerve fibres enable these two halves to communicate with each other. In most people the ability to organize and produce speech is predominantly located in the left side. Appreciating spatial perceptions depends more on the right hemisphere, although there is a left hemisphere contribution.

In an attempt to understand how designers solve problems, L. Bruce Archer proposed "that the way designers (and everybody else, for that matter) form images in their mind's eye, manipulating and evaluating ideas before, during and after externalising them, constitutes a cognitive system comparable with but different from, the verbal language system. Indeed we believe that human beings have an innate capacity for cognitive modelling, and its expression through sketching, drawing, construction, acting out and so on, that is fundamental to human thought."


The development of the visual aspect of language communication has been referred to as graphicacy, as a parallel discipline to literacy and numeracy. Michael Twyman has pointed out that the ability to handle ideas visually, which includes both the understanding and conception of them, should not be confused with the specific talents of an artist. The artist is one very special kind of visual manipulator whose motives are varied and often complex. The ability to think and communicate in visual terms is part of, and of equal importance in the learning process, with that of literacy and numeracy.

Graphicacy is concerned with the capacities people require in order to interpret and generate information in the form of graphics.

Our society is becoming increasingly reliant on graphics to communicate information. Until recently, words and numbers were the main vehicles for communication – compared with graphics, they have long been relatively easy to produce and distribute. However, advances in information and communications technology and visualization techniques now mean that graphics are far more readily available and widely used than ever before. The 21st century is an age in which graphic communication is becoming essential for informed citizens, much as those in previous centuries needed to be literate and numerate. Today's citizens must be able to comprehend the information graphics produced by others and this requires that they interpret such information appropriately. However, it is also becoming important that people can present information effectively to others by means of graphics they have generated themselves.

Interpretation of graphics is loosely analogous to the process of reading text, while generation of graphics is the counterpart of writing text. However, these analogies should not be taken too far because text and graphics are based on very different symbol systems. For example, whereas text is structured according to formal organisational rules that apply irrespective of the content, this is not the case for graphics. With text structure, the units of information (words) are expected to be organised according to broad conventions (such as being sequenced in orderly rows starting from top left and progressing down the page). However graphics are not subject to a similarly stringent set of structural conventions. Instead, it is the content itself that largely determines the nature of the graphic entities and the way they are arranged. For example, the form and spatial arrangement of the items that comprise the actual subject matter being represented in the graphic are used as the basis for the graphic entities and structure that are displayed in the graphic. This is not the case with written text where the words and their arrangement bear no resemblance to the represented subject matter. Because of these and other fundamental differences between text and graphics, it is appropriate that the processes involved in comprehension and production of graphics are clearly distinguished from those involved in comprehension and production of text.


The concept of graphicacy acknowledges the characteristic features of graphic information that distinguish it from other forms of representation such as verbal and numerical information. Separating graphicacy from literacy and numeracy helps us to understand the distinctive and complementary types of contributions that graphics, words, and numbers can each make in human communication.

The interpretative components of graphicacy skills are particularly important in the increasing range of situations where graphics carry the primary responsibility for communication. Early recognition of the importance of graphicacy came from disciplines such as geography, science and mathematics in which graphics play a key role. Educators in these and similar disciplines have become increasingly concerned with the capacities of students to comprehend information presented by way of graphics.

There is a growing realisation that conventional wisdom about pictures being "worth a thousand words" is a gross overgeneralisation when it comes to informational graphics. Rather, the interpretation of certain types of graphics can sometimes be a very demanding process indeed. In addition, it is becoming clear that graphicacy skills are largely learned rather than innate and that a viewer's capacity to interpret particular types of graphics has a great deal to do with their background knowledge. There are two main types of background knowledge that are important in comprehending graphics:

Knowledge about the specific graphic system used to depict the subject

Knowledge about the subject matter that is depicted in the graphic.

Severe deficiencies in either of these aspects of background knowledge can mean that a viewer finds a graphic utterly incomprehensible. Alternatively, the depiction may be only partial understood or it may be misunderstood.

Ideasthesia (alternative spelling ideaesthesia) is defined as a phenomenon in which activations of concepts (inducers) evoke perception-like experiences (concurrents). The name comes from Greek, “idea”+”aisthesis”, meaning sensing concepts or sensing ideas. The main reason for introducing the notion of ideaesthesia was the empirical evidence indicating that the related term synesthesia (i.e. union of senses) suggests incorrect explanation of a set of phenomena traditionally covered by this heading. “Syn”+”aesthesis” denoting “co-perceiving”, implies the association of two sensory elements with little connection to the cognitive level. However, most phenomena that have inadvertently been linked to synesthesia, in fact are induced by the semantic representations i.e., the meaning, of the stimulus rather than by its sensory properties, as would be implied by the term synesthesia. The following table shows the difference in the properties of inducers and concurrents implied by the terms synesthesia and ideasthesia:
Inducer Concurrent
Synesthesia Sensory Sensory
Ideasthesia Semantic Sensory

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