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Dakini's Warm Breath: The Feminine Principle in Tibetan Buddhism

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The primary emblem of the feminine in Tibetan Buddhism is the dakini, or "sky-dancer," a semi-wrathful spirit-woman who manifests in visions, dreams, and meditation experiences. Western scholars and interpreters of the dakini, influenced by Jungian psychology and feminist goddess theology, have shaped a contemporary critique of Tibetan Buddhism in which the dakini is seen as a psychological "shadow," a feminine savior, or an objectified product of patriarchal fantasy. According to Judith Simmer-Brown—who writes ...

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Dakini's Warm Breath: The Feminine Principle in Tibetan Buddhism

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Overview

The primary emblem of the feminine in Tibetan Buddhism is the dakini, or "sky-dancer," a semi-wrathful spirit-woman who manifests in visions, dreams, and meditation experiences. Western scholars and interpreters of the dakini, influenced by Jungian psychology and feminist goddess theology, have shaped a contemporary critique of Tibetan Buddhism in which the dakini is seen as a psychological "shadow," a feminine savior, or an objectified product of patriarchal fantasy. According to Judith Simmer-Brown—who writes from the point of view of an experienced practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism—such interpretations are inadequate.

In the spiritual journey of the meditator, Simmer-Brown demonstrates, the dakini symbolizes levels of personal realization: the sacredness of the body, both female and male; the profound meeting point of body and mind in meditation; the visionary realm of ritual practice; and the empty, spacious qualities of mind itself. When the meditator encounters the dakini, living spiritual experience is activated in a nonconceptual manner by her direct gaze, her radiant body, and her compassionate revelation of reality. Grounded in the author's personal encounter with the dakini, this unique study will appeal to both male and female spiritual seekers interested in goddess worship, women's spirituality, and the tantric tradition.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Simmer-Brown (chair, religious studies, Naropa Univ.) has produced a comprehensive, scholarly, and intriguing study of "dakini," the feminine principle in Tibetan Buddhism. She defines dakini as a symbol "who personifies in Tibetan Buddhism the spiritual process of surrendering expectation and concept, revealing limitless space and pristine awareness." The methodology she employs in her study includes both scholarly preparation and training in Vajrayana Buddhist practice traditions. She is sensitive to and articulate about feminist issues related to her subject and on this basis finds the prevailing modes of feminist and Jungian paradigms lacking in there assessment of dakini. Therefore, she proposes more appropriate methodologies that draw on the disciplines of history of religions and gender studies. As she reviews the Indian historical background of dakini, she is careful to differentiate dakini in Tibetan tantric literature from dakini's "Hindu tantric cousins." While Thinley Norbu's Magic Dance: The Display of the Self-Nature of the Five Wisdom Dakinis is more poetic, Simmer-Brown's work is more scholarly and focused. It also includes an examination of the hagiographic lore about dakini and ends with a description of dakini as the protector of tantric teachings and midwife of the transmission of teachings. Recommended as a landmark study which will be a useful addition to any library's holdings on Tibetan Buddhism. David Bourquin, California State Univ., San Bernardino Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher
"A comprehensive, scholarly, and intriguing study of 'dakini,' the feminine principle of Tibetan Buddhism. A landmark study."—Library Journal

"Simmer-Brown has written what is destined to be a classic among vajrayana practitioners, Buddhists of other schools, and readers interested in Buddhism."—Shambhala Sun

"Dakini's Warm Breath is not only readable, but exhilaratingly lucid."—Tricycle: The Buddhist Review

"A scholarly and fascinating exploration into the feminine principle in Tibetan Buddhism."—Bodhi Tree Book Review

"A book-length discussion of dakinis, who are one of the most elusive aspects of Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism, is a welcome edition to the growing literature on symbols of the feminine in Buddhism. Simmer-Brown skillfully interweaves traditional stories with commentaries by contemporary Buddhist teachers to provide the most complete discussion of this topic to date."—Rita Gross, author of Buddhism after Patriarchy and Soaring and Settling: Buddhist Perspectives on Contemporary Social and Religious Issues

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781570627200
  • Publisher: Shambhala Publications, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/29/2001
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.34 (w) x 9.31 (h) x 1.36 (d)

Meet the Author

Judith Simmer-Brown, Ph.D., is professor and chair of the religious studies department at Naropa University (formerly the Naropa Institute), where she has taught since 1978. She has authored numerous articles on Tibetan Buddhism, Buddhist-Christian dialogue, and Buddhism in America. She is an Acharya (senior teacher) in the lineage of Chögyam Trungpa. A practicing Buddhist since 1971, she lives in Boulder, Colorado.

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Table of Contents

Illustrations
Preface
Acknowledgments
Introduction: Encountering the Dakini 1
Ch. 1 Gender, Subjectivity, and the Feminine Principle 11
Ch. 2 The Dakini in Tibetan Buddhism 43
Ch. 3 The Select Dakini: The Great Mother 81
Ch. 4 The Inner Dakini: The Visionary Queen 116
Ch. 5 The Outer Dakini: The Subtle Body of Bliss 161
Ch. 6 The Outer-Outer Dakini: The Dakini in Human Form 182
Ch. 7 Living Encounters with the Dakini 234
Ch. 8 Protectors of the Tantric Teachings 265
Conclusion: Dakini's Warm Breath: Quintessence of a Tantric Symbol 286
Notes 293
Select Bibliography 363
Tibetan Transliterations and Sanskrit Equivalents 385
Credits 393
Index 395
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 29, 2012

    Simmer-Brown applies a lifetime of learning and practice to this

    Simmer-Brown applies a lifetime of learning and practice to this exploration of Tibetan dakini traditions. With the guidance of numerous Tibetan teachers, she gives us the lore of enlightened women--real founders of spiritual lineages, classical images of inner liberation, voices of wisdom, tales of visionary guides, or modern women who are teaching today. The author explains the significance and role of these traditions in Tibetan Buddhism, both historically, and for individual seekers of enlightenment. She carefully puts Western interpretations in context, showing how Jungian psychology or modern feminism impose a polemic view of Tibet's dakinis. She refers to Tibetan female teachers themselves, who explain their struggles in a patriarchal culture, but point to a deeper kind of identity, beyond any duality of male and female.

    --author of A Galaxy of Immortal Women: The Yin Side of Chinese Civilization

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 5, 2001

    A great book about feminine principle

    It is a book worth reading. it shows a side of feminine principle that many never see, the Tibetan-Buddist side. I have waited a long time to see a book like this, and now that it's here I can hardly controll my urge to read all of it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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