Tantric Visions of the Divine Feminine: The Ten Mahāvidyās

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Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 1998 - Hindu goddesses - 318 pages
3 Reviews
What is one to make of a group of goddesses that includes a goddess who cuts her own head off, a goddess who sits on a corpse while pulling the tongue of a demon, or a goddess who prefers sex with corpses? Tantra visions of the Divine Faminine deals with
  

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Kinsley is a howling idiot. Sorry to say this bluntly. Under the facade of book learning lies an empty head, and emptier soul. Practicing no sadhana, he enters areas well beyond his competence, quite unlike Mark Dyczkowski, whose books are illuminated by considerable internal progress. Kinsley is in a class of knaves who sell the shastras for personal benefit, and create garbage as a result. His informant, e.g. Jeffrey Kripal, appear to be of the same persuasion, a case of the blind leading the blind. I am disgusted by the endless repetition of Western Indological stereotypes about the role of women, of society and of "caste" and sexuality.
These schools, and this author in particular, understand nothing about Indian culture and spirituality as it is lived and practiced, beyond their own prejudices and the need to achieve notoriety amongst their peers in academia. Their publications are worthless, except for the efforts of a very exceptional few who labornot for gain but have a true vocation. Again, like Wendy Doniger, the work of a howling idiot.
 

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Ten Essences of the Tantric Goddess By Ali Hale Tilley
The aim of this review is to take a literary circumambulation through David Kinsley’s scholarly account of ten dynamic goddesses, known
as the Māhavidyās, or “Great Knowledge”. This eclectic group of divine females emerged from the Śhakta religion of ancient India, to become the chosen illuminati Tantric ritual. The Māhavidyās are independent champions of cosmic reality, free from subordination to divine male counterparts, and though they are closely linked to Śiva, Lord of Destruction, even he runs for cover as these confrontational goddesses gain momentum (Pg. 23). Kinsley presents, that beyond their provocative appearance, which can seem intimidating and overtly sexual, the Māhavidyās are potent tools for spiritual liberation. By stretching egocentric and patrilineal restrictions of the ordinary world, these super-powerful goddesses can propel the individual, sans clergy, into the cosmic sphere of Adi-Shakti (the supreme matrix of the universe), where all goddesses become singular. Entry into this world is via graveyards, diagrammatic yantras, lengthy liturgies, and bizarre rituals, however, once fears and inhibitions have been surpassed and knowledge gained, supreme consciousness becomes accessible in an exhilarating release that is ultimately blissful.
Collectively the ten Māhavidyās, Kali, Tara, Tripura-sundari, Bhuvaneshvari, Bhairavi, Chinnamasta, Dhumavati, Bagalamukhi, Matangi and Kamala, are fierce guardians of a tradition that is both secretive and seditious. Although the book clearly explains each goddess in detail, their sacred nature gets somewhat lost within the author’s dry academic analysis. As if sampling complex fragrances at a world-class perfumery, and only being able to verify a few ingredients, the author seems to keep the quintessence of the Māhavidyās hidden, presenting their more esoteric characters in a rhetorical way. In doing so, the book behaves both like mantra and yantra, two arcane tools of Tantric ritual. Unless belief and devotional practice (sadhana) accompanies knowledge, mantra remains as a mysterious string of sounds, and the yantra gathers dust as a geometrical curiosity whose power has yet to be deciphered. Professor Kinsley guides us around the inner sanctum of these Tantric goddesses like a highly educated pandit and though his extensive research provides a rich field of knowledge, the Māhavidyās appear as teratological vanguards rather than illustrious liberators.
 

Contents

The Black Goddess
67
The Goddess Who Guides through Troubles
92
She Who Is Lovely in the Three Worlds
112
She Whose Body Is the World
129
The SelfDecapitated Goddess
144
The Fierce One
167
The Paralyzer
193
The Outcaste Goddess
209
The Lotus Goddess
223
NOTES
253
GLOSSARY
281
INDEX
299
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