Courtesans and Tantric Consorts: Sexualities in Buddhist Narrative, Iconography and Ritual

By Serinity Young | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

Buddhist biographies, iconography, and rituals provide vivid, compelling, and somewhat contradictory views of how Buddhists lived and what they believed. In focusing on beliefs and practices that surround gender and sexuality I have uncovered an ongoing, complex, and even contentious discourse on what it meant-and what it continues to mean-to be gendered, sexual, and Buddhist. This discourse began in fifth century B.C.E. India and continues to be debated today in Asia and the West. Throughout its long history, wherever Buddhism flourished, the meaning of gender and the place of sexuality was argued, portrayed, and enacted in biographies, works of art, and rituals.

Monastic Buddhism was and is a religion that exalts celibacy and one that has always been dominated by men. This is reflected in biographies and other texts that made some very negative statements about women, and which explicitly connected women, not men, to sexuality, relegating men to some not-female/not-sexual hinterland. Yet, sexual women, such as wives and courtesans, made frequent and meaningful appearances in the biographies of the Buddha (566-486 B.C.E.), while early Buddhist iconography is prolific in its depictions of positive images of women and female divinities that emphasize their beauty and their auspicious powers of fertility. Simply put, the iconography seemed to be expressively exalting women while the texts often condemned them. As I pondered this incongruity a third dimension of Buddhist life, ritual activity, became relevant. Early Indian Buddhists had rituals for securing fertility and abundance for themselves, their domestic animals, and their fields that were focused on curvaceous nude and seminude female images.

-xxi-

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Courtesans and Tantric Consorts: Sexualities in Buddhist Narrative, Iconography and Ritual
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Advance Praise for Courtesans and Tantric Consorts ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations xi
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • Abbreviations xvii
  • Note on Transliteration xix
  • Introduction xxi
  • Chapter 1 - Rejection and Reconciliation 3
  • Part II - Parents and Procreation 21
  • Chapter 2 - Mothers and Sons 23
  • Chapter 3 - Medical Excursus 57
  • Chapter 4 - Fathers and Heirs 67
  • Part III - Sexualities 81
  • Chapter 5 - Wives and Husbands 83
  • Chapter 6 - South Asian Courtesans 105
  • Chapter 7 - Courtesans in Buddhist Literature 121
  • Chapter 8 - Tantric Consorts: Introduction 133
  • Chapter 9 - Tantric Consorts: Tibet 149
  • Chapter 10 - The Traffic in Women 165
  • Chapter 11 - Women, Men, and Impurity 179
  • Chapter 12 - Sex Change 191
  • Chapter 13 - Other Lands/Other Realities 211
  • Conclusion 231
  • Bibliography 233
  • Index 249
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