On Erotica & Khandro Yeshe Tsogyal

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A while ago on Christmas Eve, I read An Unhurried View of Erotica by Ralph Ginzburg. I got this book two years ago from a bookstore clearance sale because I fell in love with its antiquated hard cover and sometimes this is enough reason to buy a book. I truly enjoyed this period book and for that matter any work that provides a good insight into sex and sexuality as these are hard to come by. The language and the feel of the book is very yellow paper-ish  (read- dated and dry), and my suspicion is partly because the author may have felt the need to restore some semblance of dignity and seriousness to the content after centuries of warped notions, censorship and refuge in the underground.  For those who love to read anything simply for the sake of curiosity – this book is a great introduction on erotic literature and here’s the spoiler alert; did you know that the Vatican has the world’s biggest collection of erotic literature? Speaking of the Vatican reminds me of our very own canonical texts, which leads me to khandro Yeshe Tsogyal.

I find theological musings/ findings/ history interesting and am fascinated by the way scholars interpret cultural myths and mysticism. For that reason I am an avid reader of Dan Martin’s blog, even though I am too much of a vegetable on the subject to comment or ask questions on half of the things he writes about. But within my limited understanding of that Buddhist world and literature, what I understand is that there are only a few female names in an ocean of male glitterati. What I am invested in is to know the life stories of these exceptional women because they represent a unique Tibetan brand of feminism before the term even existed. It is fascinating to read about them, especially misogynist comments that are ascribed to them- lamenting their sexuality and the inferiority of womanhood. Besides, the stories are so entwined with epiphanies and acts of divination that there are a great breeding ground for potential plots and ideas for magical realism. Are you listening Orhan Pamuk?  My Name Is Red can take a few skulls and flying Dakini cues from us Tibetans. As I mentioned I was looking for articles on Machik Labdron on the JIATS website but instead found an article on Yeshe Tsogyal by Janet Gyatso circa 2006. Here’s the link to that article http://www.thlib.org/collections/texts/jiats/#jiats=/02/gyatsoj It explores questions on whether Yeshe Tsogyal was a fictional or a historical character and an overview of the various versions of her life story by different authors. Amongst these I earmarked the one translated by Tarthang Tulku entitled Namkhé Nyingpo, Mother of Knowledge: The Enlightenment of Ye-shes mTsho-rgyal for future reading.

 

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4 responses »

  1. Hey there are lots of books out these days about feminine principles/bios and Buddhism. I just saw a shelf full of them today.

    With you on HH Karmapa, I hope it is settled soon. I fear its going to set back his permission to leave india yet again though….

    Happy 2011 to you.

  2. Gedun Choephel wrote a treatise on passion/lust (that too entirely on verse), never read it except few lines here are there. Here’s a translation by Donald S. Lopez Jr. :

    Because men and women are so different,
    if they were not joined by coupling,
    the world would be split into two factions
    always in quarrels and war.

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