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

By Serinity Young | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 7

COURTESANS IN BUDDHIST LITERATURE

The conversion of a courtesan is a popular motif in Buddhist literature, 1 one that provides dramatic impact. The presence of a beautiful courtesan demonstrates the Buddha's utter indifference to the sexual charms of women, since a rich and successful courtesan will be the most attractive of women. 2 This suggests to the male audience that they, too, should be beyond such attractions. At the same time, though, these stories about courtesans and ascetics still retain their associations with the power and auspiciousness of female sexuality. In Buddhist literature courtesans act as lightning rods for Buddhist teachings about sexuality, the nature of women, and the impermanence of the body. 3 The central obstacle to the Buddhist path of renunciation and the main cause of human suffering is desire, and courtesans are experts in desire-the male desire of their customers and their own greed. Indian literature represents the courtesan as one ruled by desire, both for sex and wealth, whose primary goal is to arouse desire in others. 4 When courtesans are converted, they reinforce the Buddhist teaching that all people can become Buddhists, even great sinners, and that not only women but even the worst women can be equal practitioners. Moreover, some converted courtesans also maintain their auspicious powers of fecundity.


ŚYÃMÃ JÃTAKA

In one of his past lives the Buddha was involved with a courtesan. In this tale from the MV (II.162-70), the Śyāmā Jātaka, the Buddha is a

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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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