Buddhist Goddesses of India

Miranda Shaw

Language: English

Pages: 592

ISBN: 0691168547

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The Indian Buddhist world abounds with goddesses--graceful nature divinities, maternal nurturers, potent healers, mighty protectors, transcendent wisdom figures, cosmic mothers of liberation, and dancing female Buddhas. Despite their importance in Buddhist thought and practice, female deities have received relatively little scholarly attention, and no comprehensive study of the female pantheon has been available.

Buddhist Goddesses of India chronicles the histories, legends, and artistic portrayals of nineteen goddesses and several related human figures and texts. Beautifully illustrated and drawing on a sweeping range of material, from devotional poetry and meditation manuals to rituals and artistic images, Shaw reveals the character, powers, and practice traditions of the female divinities in this definitive and essential guide.

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originally been the adjective rummini for some dread goddess, gruesome and beautiful at the same time, like so many tribal Mothers."74 Visitors to Lumbini have also been apprised that the grove goddess is known as Rupadevi ("Beautiful Goddess"), Rupandei Bhagavati, or even Tathagata, a name pre­ serving the Buddhist associations of the site?5 Today, two images are in worship there, both effigies ofMayadevi with her arm entwined with a tree and her infant at her feet. One is a heavily eroded,

could not be Buddhist" and, slightly later, Jean Vogel's adjudgment of their ':lasciviousness combined with grossness," concluding that "it marks a degradation to find the sacred shrines . . . enclosed by railings exhibiting women-that snare of Mara and hindrance to salvation-in the greatest variety of graceful attitudes."101 Etienne Lamotte, too, succumbed to prurience when he insisted that the donors of the monuments upheld the "strictest morality" but that the artists "were easily led astray

the authors and audiences of the texts. The Dhammapada refers to her as the goddess who grants good fortune to a kingdom. 31 The Sudhabhojana ]ataka faults her for capriciously lavishing favors on those who are greedy, lazy, and foolish while neglecting those who are industrious, vir­ tuous, and wise. 32 It is more common, however, to find Lak�mi's blessings linked to ethical virtue. For example, the Mahaunmagga ]ataka maintains that L�mi favors the wise and casts off those who are thoughtless,

there not only spiritual guidance but also emotional comfort and hope for more immediate benefits of progeny, prosperity, good health, and success in worldly undertakings. Thus, there is little doubt that her shrines helped make the monasteries more vibrant and multifaceted centers of religious life. There may also have been temples devoted to Hariti. The remains of two such temples have been unearthed in Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh. 32 Hsuan-tsang reported on a stupa erected at Peshawar in

untold congregations of enlightening beings . . . in all worlds in the ten directions entered my belly. . . . Yet even though it took in all those multitudes, my belly was not enlarged, nor did this body of mine become any more than a human body.27 These disorienting visions of mind-expanding vastness, with their as­ tronomically large numbers of light rays, beings, and worlds emerging from a single atom or pore of skin, express a key insight of Hua-yen philosophy, namely, that enlightenment

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