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Passionate Enlightenment:
Women in Tantric Buddhism
Miranda Shaw

Winner of the 1994 James Henry Breasted Prize, American Historical Association
Winner of the 1994 Tricycle Prize for Excellence in Buddhist Scholarship

Paperback | 1995 | $37.50 | £31.95 | ISBN: 9780691010908
312 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 18 line illustrations
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Reviews | Table of Contents

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The crowning cultural achievement of medieval India, Tantric Buddhism is known in the West primarily for the sexual practices of its adherents, who strive to transform erotic passion into spiritual ecstasy. Historians of religion have long held that the enlightenment thus attempted was for men only, and that women in the movement were at best marginal and subordinated and at worst degraded and exploited. Miranda Shaw argues to the contrary, presenting extensive new evidence of the outspoken and independent female founders of the Tantric movement and their creative role in shaping its distinctive vision of gender relations and sacred sexuality.


"This book is a welcome and wonderful addition to feminist scholarship on Buddhism, a rapidly growing endeavor. . . . Miranda Shaw's discussion of passion and intimacy as a path of practice is exemplary in its demonstration that such practices can only be undertaken by equals who share the same vision, the same aspiration for enlightenment, and the same training and meditative skills."--Rita Gross, Shambhala Sun

"A feminist critique of a male (and Western) view of the Tantric tradition [and also] a balanced reassessment of a tradition too long misunderstood."--James George, Parabola

Table of Contents:

List of Illustrations
Guide to Transliteration
Ch. 1 Seeking the Traces of Sky-Dancers 3
Ch. 2 Tantric Buddhism in India: Religious and Historical Introduction 20
Ch. 3 Women in Tantric Theory: Powerful and Auspicious 35
Ch. 4 Women in Tantric Circles: Adepts and Experts 74
Ch. 5 Women in Tantric History: Founders and Pioneers 101
Ch. 6 Women in Tantric Relationships: Intimacy as a Path to Enlightenment 140
Ch. 7 Spontaneous Jewellike Yogini on Passion and Enlightenment 179
Ch. 8 Conclusions 195
Notes 207
Bibliography 265
Index 283

This book has been translated into:

  • Russian
  • Swedish
  • Italian

Another Princeton book authored or coauthored by Miranda Shaw:


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Hardcover published in 1994

Paperback: Not for sale in South Asia

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