Renowned Goddess Of Desire: Women, Sex, And Speech In Tantra

Paperback | January 4, 2008

byLoriliai Biernacki

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Tantra is a family of rituals modeled on those of the Vedas and their attendant texts and lineages. These rituals typically involve the visualization of a deity, offerings, and the chanting of his or her mantra. Common variations include visualizing the deity in the act of sexual union with aconsort, visualizing oneself as the deity, and "transgressive" acts such as token consumption of meat or alcohol. Most notoriously, non-standard or ritualized sex is sometimes practiced. This accounts for Tantra's negative reputation in some quarters and its reception in the West primarily as acollection of sexual practices. Although some today extol Tantra's liberating qualities, the role of women remains controversial. Traditionally there are two views of women and Tantra. Either the feminine is a metaphor and actual women are altogether absent, or Tantra involves the transgressive use of women's bodies to serve maleinterests. Loriliai Biernacki presents an alternative view, in which women are revered, worshipped, and considered worthy of spiritual attainment. Her primary sources are a collection of eight relatively modern Tantric texts written in Sanskrit from the 15th through the 18th century. Her analysisof these texts reveals a view of women that is generally positive and empowering. She focuses on four topics: 1) the "Kali Practice," in which women appear not only as objects of reverence but as practitioners and gurus; 2) the Tantric sex rite, especially in the case that, contrary to other Tantrictexts, the preference is for wives as ritual consorts; 3) feminine language and the gendered implications of mantra; and 4) images of male violence towards women in tantric myths. Biernacki, by choosing to analyse eight particular Sanskrit texts, argues that within the tradition of Tantra thereexists a representation of women in which the female is an authoritative, powerful, equal participant in the Tantric ritual practice.

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Tantra is a family of rituals modeled on those of the Vedas and their attendant texts and lineages. These rituals typically involve the visualization of a deity, offerings, and the chanting of his or her mantra. Common variations include visualizing the deity in the act of sexual union with aconsort, visualizing oneself as the deity, a...

Loriliai Biernacki is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder
Format:PaperbackDimensions:312 pages, 6.1 × 9.09 × 0.79 inPublished:January 4, 2008Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195327837

ISBN - 13:9780195327830

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Table of Contents

Introduction1. The "Kali Practice": Rereading Women's Roles in Tantra2. Sex Talk and Gender Rites: Women and the Tantric Rite of Sexual Union3. The Other/Woman: The Role of Wives and Goddesses in a Tantric Rite of Kamakhya4. To Speak Like a Woman: The Feminine Mantra and Bodied Speech5. How a Blue Goddess of Speech Turns BlueAppendix 1: Sources, Their Comparison with Other Tantric Texts, and Historical ContextAppendix 2: Synopsis of Contents of the Brhannila TantraBibliography

Editorial Reviews

"A rhetorically and poetically beautiful piece of scholarship that incorporates the best of previous work but moves well beyond it into a fundamentally new set of ideas about female agency and speech, the Tantric sex rite, male asceticism, and transcultural encounter. Biernacki's corpus orbodied speech is as blue and as powerful as the Tantric goddesses she writes about." --Jeffrey J. Kripal, author of Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion