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

By Serinity Young | Go to book overview

CONCLUSION

Beginning with the biographies of the Buddha, this study has examined Buddhist practices and beliefs about gender, sexuality, and family life primarily as they are revealed in biographical texts, iconography, and rituals. Sexuality was examined both from within family life among wives and husbands and outside of it among courtesans and tantric practitioners. Attitudes toward procreation and the parent/child relationship were also explored in terms of medical theory, rituals, and the ideology of karma. This exploration of what it meant and continues to mean to be Buddhist, gendered, and sexual has revealed anxieties about the stability of masculinity and argued that the symbolic inclusion of femaleness was accompanied by the actual exclusion of real women.

My focus has been on women, but this inevitably led to men, revealing male fears of female sexuality and pollution, and anxieties about the loss of masculinity. We have seen the early celebration of women's auspicious powers of procreation in the iconography of the Buddha's mother, Queen Māyā, its later elaboration in narratives about courtesans and female tantric consorts, and its apotheosis in

ākinīs, goddesses and female celestial bodhisattvas. In tandem with these articulations about women and the feminine we have seen ambivalent expressions of male reproductive power in ideas about fatherhood beginning with the Buddha's father, King Śuddhodana, the Buddha himself as father, and its apotheosis in the notion of the spiritual father, the guru.

Additional gendered themes surfaced in the abundant literature on sex change, lands without men, and heavens without women. These presented negative images of womanhood, and fractured images of

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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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