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Miranda Shaw

Passionate Enlightenment; Women in Tantric Buddhism
Princeton, Princeton Press, 1994. 

    Tantric Buddhism, as it originated in in eighth-to twelfth century India, has been presented by Western scholars as exploiting women.

    "Most Western Scholars insist that the genuine, serious preacitioners of Tantra were men and that women were only admitted to rituals when their 'services' were required by male Tantriacs. These authors depict the Tantric yoginis in derogatory, even contemptuous, terms...." (p.7)

    But Shaw documents extensive and impeccable evidence for a diametrically opposite picture.

    "Women participated fully....Tantric biographies portray bold, outspoken, independent women. Tantric texts prescribe how women should be respected, served and riturally worshipped. Tantric literature introduces practices performed solely by women and others performed by women and men together [and none performed by men alone]. Tantric theory advances an ideal of cooperative, mutually liberative relationships between women and men." [p. 4]

    This was a movement created and led by women, which swept Asia with a cultural renaissance that emphasized spiritual life in the midst of the world and "the transformative dimensions of passion and intimacy."

    Tantric teachers gave Shaw initiations necessary to receive the most advanced teachings, and Asian Tantric scholars encouraged her research by affirming her vision of Tantra and sharing difficult-to-find texts.

    Shaw's descriptions of these "bold, outspoken, independent women," translated by her directly from primary sources, moved me with an unsettling combination of rage and joy.

"Blessed are the birth-givers; Buddhist views on birth and rebirth"
Parabola, Vol.23 No.4 (Nov 1998), pp.48-53 (Copyright 1998 Society for the Study of Myth and Tradition)

"Passionate Enlightenment"
An interview with Miranda Shaw by Tashi Grady Powers, from the Fall, 1995 issue of Enlightening Times.

"Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Tantra but were Afraid to Ask"
An interview with Miranda Shaw by Craig Hamilton in What is Enlightenment, issue 13. 
    © Copyright Catherine Holmes Clark 1996 & 2001; last updated 9 May 2001