I am conversant with the practices and the role of the guru. I am not concerned here with a misunderstanding of the practice, but the reason behind the often extensive descriptions of what we are to 'see', for example in terms of the guru, throne, mandala, body mandala etc. and hardly any guidance on what else we should bring to mind.
Where concise sadhanas are concerned, often a very minimal description is included in the sadhana itself and therefore a background knowledge in the general features of generation stage practice is assumed, as well as the practitioners' having received the explanation from the lama. So, it's not that anything's left out of the practice, just out of the liturgy. Medium and longer sadhanas are often more descriptive, though they similarly presuppose the above-mentioned background knowledge and the lama's explanation.
The sticking point here is obviously one of vocabulary, and in your post you found it necessary to explain that your words did not mean what most dictionaries accord them. I think the other words you use such as 'bring to mind' or 'directing one's attention' and ' conceptualise' demonstrate that the word 'visualise' is a poor one for the practices. I think you are addressing ingorance of the practice rather than the paucity of vocabulary to describe it.
Not sure what you mean. I'm also unaware of a better word in English, since none rally seem to truly capture all the aspects of generation stage fully. Therefore, I think that if one receives the necessary explanation and teachings from the lama, and thus comes to know what the practice entails, then vocab is not a big deal.
I've sat with quite a few lamas - the extent to which nuances are conveyed is sometimes dependent on their ability to convey such things in English (or the accuracy of the person translating). Sadly, I don't speak Tibetan, which is why I raised the question of the original Sanskrit and whether the word 'visualisation' may not be the only translation.
Yeah, the language barrier can make things difficult. I don't speak much Tibetan either, so I'm extremely fortunate that my lamas speak English pretty well.
It may also be the case that colourful pictures are a good aid to memory. This obviously begins with the deity's body, clothing and ornaments, posture, mudra etc., mandala, retinue and so on.
To understand this stuff, it's really beneficial to receive the lung for the primary tantra that explains your tradition's approach to generation stage and then study it under a qualified lama's guidance. For instance, in the Nyingma tradition, our approach is based upon the Guhyagarbha tantra, so that is a major text many of us study. There are also commentaries on these types of tantras and on the general approach to generation stage in each tradition. They will make so much of this stuff clear.
I'm unsure what you mean by ''the mental consciousness can observe it's own mental events'' as this would seem to imply a duality.
I mean that as thoughts and emotions bubble up and do their thing in one's mind, one can observe them. There is indeed a duality here, as there is any time there's a "watcher" and a "watched," both implicit in ordinary mind. However, there are
instructions that take one past the point of just observing these mental events to a point at which watcher and watched both dissolve and nonduality is nakedly "experienced," for lack of a better word. You may have received these instructions; if not, I'll leave it to a qualified lama to explain.
I was reading a history book the other day, and it was clear that 'self-generation' is a relatively recent practice. Prior to that, the 'in front' generation and use of statues was not dissimilar to the Hindu 'darshan' I mentioned, where the contact with the deity is through an imputation of the deity within the statue or image, and the contact was eye-to-eye. I still have a suspicion that this had a part to play in the writing of the sadhanas we now use, but we may never know.
Here is a link to the book I mentioned: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0415 ... sib_rdr_dp
This link leads to a very pertinent exposition on the use of 'visual' and 'visualisation' in the context I was exploring:http://www.shinzen.org/shinsub3/artZenSemantics.htm
I believe HYT-style self-generation goes back to at least the 7th or 8th century but I'd have to double check. Was your book claiming it was more recent than that? Thanks for the quote, btw.