Buddhist Goddesses of India

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Princeton University Press, 2006 - Religion - 571 pages
3 Reviews

"Beautifully written and erudite, this book fills a need in the growing literature about goddesses in Buddhism. The goddesses are meticulously researched and brilliantly analyzed. Destined to become a classic in the field, Buddhist Goddesses of India leaves no doubt that goddesses have been central, not peripheral, to Buddhism, even from the earliest traceable beginnings of the tradition."--Susan L. Huntington, author of "The Art of Ancient India"

"A jewel. A very significant contribution to the field."--Adalbert J. Gail, Freie Universitt Berlin

"Miranda Shaw comprehensively demonstrates the importance of the feminine divine in Buddhism. She draws together art, scripture, myth, and ritual to bring these goddesses and female Buddhas alive, producing a definitive resource for scholars of Buddhism and of women's spirituality. With her eloquent translations and scrupulous analyses, Shaw has given us a treasure of religious insight into the sacred feminine."--Patricia Monaghan, Depaul University, author of "Goddess Path"

"This work is a masterpiece. Shaw's fascinating study deepens our understanding of the divine feminine in South Asia. Her luminous writing carries the reader through an amazing terrain that is rich with historical discoveries and vivid portraits of a remarkable female pantheon."--Graham M. Schweig, author of "Dance of Divine Love: India's Classic Sacred Love Story" and "Bhagavad Gita: The Beloved Lord's Secret Love Song"

  

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Buddhist goddesses of India

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Female deities in India represent the energies, powers, and beings that influence human life and also reflect the core of the human spirit that may be awakened through spiritual practice. This first ... Read full review

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Miranda Shaw devoted more than a decade of research to create this epic work, greatly expanding on concepts she introduced in "Passionate Enlightenment". "Buddhist Goddesses of India" sets a new benchmark for the study and understanding of female deities in the context of South Asian religion and society. While the title states the focus is on Buddhist goddesses, the book’s scope is actually far greater; the author’s rigorous research explores Hindu and animist relationships for each goddess, carefully examining their origins and the historical evolution of their worship.
To her credit, Shaw designed the book as a reference that readers can explore in a non-linear fashion; each chapter is independent. That said, the author constructed a brilliant hierarchy that is a pleasure to read in sequence. What makes this reference especially rare is Shaw’s writing style, which transcends the strength of her logic to give readers a work of beauty and inspiration.
She begins each chapter with a quote of original scripture relating to the goddess, followed by her own prose introduction, such as this example from page 188:
“ Parnasavari dwells in a forest glade high on a mountainside. Her beauty reflects the allure of the forest. Her skin glistens with emerald light; the healing sap of trees flows in her veins; her limbs are robust and supple as saplings. Parnasavari adorns herself with nature’s finery: feathers, flowers, fruit, and berries. A skirt made of leaves sways around her hips as she dances in her primeval bower. Thus arrayed in tribal splendor, she wanders in a state of joyous, primal rapture, alive to the colors, fragrances, and textures of the forest. Her woodland home is a treasure trove of botanical riches and medicinal secrets....”
Shaw then conducts a thorough analysis of each goddess (see list below) including origin, development, iconography, sphere of influence, methods of worship, geographical areas of influence, temporal and regional variations, tantric manifestations, conflicting interpretations, relationships with other gods and goddesses, etc. Shaw’s sources include her own translations and extensive field work in South Asia. Most goddesses are illustrated with multiple photos and the book includes 16 stunning color plates.
This systematic approach consistently gives rise to new insights, illuminating roles, iconography and relationships among gods and goddesses that have previously been obscure. The author’s focus on feminine deities has caused some to criticize her as a “feminist.” My perception is that she is a realist, conducting research where previous scholars have missed crucial connections, or chosen not to make them. In this regard, her groundbreaking scholarship is similar to Trudy Jacobsen’s work "Lost Goddesses:The Denial of Female Power in Cambodian History".
"Buddhist Goddesses of India" is an indispensible reference on the evolution of female deities in Asian religion. But it is Miranda Shaw’s lifelong passion for this topic that makes her book an inspiration for anyone seeking an intimate understanding of the feminine divine.
 

Contents

Introduction
1
Prthivi Mother Earth
17
Mayadevi The Buddhas Wondrous mother and Her Sacred Grove
38
Yaksinis Voluptuous Magical Nature Spirits
62
Sri Laksmi Glorious Good Fortune
94
Hariti Goddess of Motherly Love
110
Female Buddhas The Case of Gotami
143
Goddesses in the Flower Ornament Scripture
155
Sitatapatra Invicible Goddess With a Thousand Heads and Hands
276
Usnisacijaya Bestower of Long Life and Immortality
291
Tara Mahayana Buddha Universal Savior
306
Vajrayogini Her Dance Is Total Freedom
357
Nairatmya Her Body Is the Sky
387
Chinnamunda SeveredHeaded Goddess
403
Simhamukha LionFaced Female Buddha
418
Kurukulla Red Enchantress with Flowered Bow
432

Prajnaparamita Luminous Mother of Perfect Wisdom
166
Parnasavari Healing Goddess Clothed in Leaves
188
Marici Lady of Sunrise Splendor
203
Janguli The Buddhist Snake Goddess
224
Sarasvati Divine Muse
234
Vasudhara Lady Bountiful
247
CUNDA Saving Grace
265
Epilogue
448
Notes
453
Glossary of Tibetan
521
Bibliography
525
Index
553
Copyright

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Page 531 - The Stupa of Bharhut. A Buddhist Monument. Ornamented with numerous Sculptures illustrative of Buddhist Legend and History in the Third Century BC By ALEXANDER CUNNINGHAM, CSI, CIE, Major-General, Royal Engineers (Bengal Retired) ; Director-General Archaeological Survey of India.
Page 533 - Tree and Serpent Worship ; Or, Illustrations of Mythology and Art in India in the First and Fourth Centuries after Christ, from the Sculptures of the Buddhist Topes at Sanchi and Amravati.

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