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CompleteMartialArts.com - Tantric Visions of the Divine Feminine: The Ten Mahavidyas


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Manufacturer: University of California Press
Average Customer Rating: Average rating of 4.5/5Average rating of 4.5/5Average rating of 4.5/5Average rating of 4.5/5Average rating of 4.5/5

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Binding: Paperback
Dewey Decimal Number: 294.52114
EAN: 9780520204997
ISBN: 0520204999
Label: University of California Press
Manufacturer: University of California Press
Number Of Items: 1
Number Of Pages: 289
Publication Date: 1997-08-18
Publisher: University of California Press
Studio: University of California Press

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Editorial Reviews:

The Hindu pantheon is rich in images of the divine feminine--deities representing a wide range of symbolic, social, and meditative meanings. David Kinsley's new book documents a highly unusual group of ten Hindu tantric goddesses, the Mahavidyas, many of whom are strongly associated with sexuality and violence. What is one to make of a goddess who cuts her own head off, or one who prefers sex with a corpse? The Mahavidyas embody habits, attributes, or identities usually considered repulsive or socially subversive and can be viewed as "antimodels" for women. Yet it is within the context of tantric worship that devotees seek to identify themselves with these forbidding goddesses. The Mahavidyas seem to function as "awakeners"--symbols which help to project one's consciousness beyond the socially acceptable or predictable.
Drawing on a broad range of Sanskrit and vernacular texts as well as extensive research in India, including written and oral interpretations of contemporary Hindu practitioners, Kinsley describes the unusual qualities of each of the Mahavidyas and traces the parallels between their underlying themes. Especially valuable are the many rare and fascinating images he presents--each important to grasping the significance of the goddesses. Written in an accessible, engaging style, Kinsley's book provides a comprehensive understanding of the Mahavidyas and is also an overview of Hindu tantric practice.


Spotlight customer reviews:

Customer Rating: Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5Average rating of 4/5
Summary: A deep and comprehensive scholarly treatment of the Mahavidyas.
Comment: This is probably the most comprehensive scholarly book on the Mahavidyas easily accessible within the English reading community. The Author explores one of the most fascinating themes in Hinduism, namely the
Ten Goddesses supposed to grant supreme Knowledge, unveil the mystery
of existence, drive humans towards liberation.
Prof. Kinsley follows an approach which is predominantly scriptural,
but also considering iconography, and anthropological aspects.
He develops most of his arguments from Sanskrit sources, with
extensive citations from the prominent Tantric and Puranic literature,
but he also adds some information obtained on the field,
through interview and direct experience. The result is an extremely
pleasant read which may satisfy scholars of Hinduism and practitioners alike. I read this book seven years ago for the first time,
and I keep finding new information in it.

The books starts investigating the Mahavidyas as a collective
entity, and five mythological and philosophical versions of the
origin of this collective entity are presented.
The idea that the Mahavidyas may be conceived as aspects of
a Great Cosmic Goddess, MahaDevi, be She represented as Sati,
Parvati, Kali, Durga or Satakshi, is introduced.
Then chapters on the individual Mahavidyas provide a rich
repository of primary sources, iconographical representations,
and liturgical details.
The concluding reflections explore the possible impact of this
kind of worship from philosophical, psychological and
sociological perspectives.

The book, as good scholarly texts should be, is somewhat detached and dispassionate, presenting evidence in an un-opinionated and rational manner.
However, the Author is able, through a careful choice of quotations from Tantras, to insert at least one very profound concept which may be useful also to practitioners. This is focused on what is perhaps one of
Hinduism's crucial points, namely the relationship between the One
and the Many.
Strictly speaking, Hinduism has a very complex approach on the issue
of One versus Many Gods. I am convinced that to characterize Hinduism
as simply polytheistic or monotheistic is partial and superficial.
Various Hindu traditions point at a substantial One-ness existing
beyond Time and Space, but simultaneously portray a multiplicity of Spiritual Entities, layered through a stratified cosmos in which the
Many dominate.
The essence of Shaktism, (and of other Hindu traditions as well) is
to realize the Oneness through Multiplicity. Unlike other Faiths which proclaim One Transcendent God, separated from, and not immerse and immanent in Nature, the Godhead of these Hindu traditions is -both- Transcendent and Immanent. It is Transcendent `before' Creation and `after' Dissolution, self-embraced in its timeless Unity. But it is immanent when conceived through the manifestation of Time and Space,
Name and Form, and Multiplicity.

The Ten Mahavidyas offer a wonderful symbolic depiction of this complex
and sophisticated system. Each Mahavidya appears as an emanation of a Transcendent principle, a supreme Feminine concept existing on a remote plane beyond existence, space, and time.
So each Mahavidya is a subset of the Supreme Godhead. Yet, each Mahavidya
is a full universe on Her own, and the practitioner who tries to approach Her through Sadhana could experience, starting from the Multiplicity in which the sensible world is immersed, the Oneness with the Supreme Godhead.
The Mahavidyas appear from the point of view of the One as a fraction
of It. Yet, from the point of view of the human, they are complete, self-sufficient, without a second.
Somewhat as a fractal geometry, in which the exact same structure can be recognized while zooming into a detail, so the intricate cosmic perception of esoteric Hinduism should allow humans to recognize the entire Universe into one of its fragments.

By carefully selecting and referring to the appropriate sources, Prof. Kinsley is able to subtly hint at this very profound and complex concept of Hindu philosophy. This is per se a remarkable achievement for a book conceived within the academic framework, supposed to document a tradition
and not necessarily to provide spiritual teachings.

The reason why I give only four stars instead of five just reflects my
own personal bias. I do consider the most wonderful book on the Mahavidyas the work by Shankaranarayanan (Ten Cosmic Powers) which is completely centered on Sadhana. Since I am no scholar of Hinduism, I gained the most from that work.

But if one has to evaluate Professor Kinsley's excellent work from a strictly academic and scholarly perspective, I am convinced that it deserves the maximum rating: a truly excellent work from a truly
excellent scholar.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: thank you mr kinsley
Comment: david kinsley is one of our heroes. he started to write very special and beautiful books about hinduism (especially about godesses/kali) in the late sixties - and continued his interesting and fruitful journey through the fields of barely known aspects of hinduism until today. his work on the ten mahavidyas is a crowning achievement. there are virtually no books about this theme field on the market - and there are no good books about the mahavidyas at all. kinsley fills the gap (once more)... and how! bravo!! kinsleys writing style is clear as a mountain spring, he really has a capacity for explaining complex hindu ideas with the utmost clarity. a must-read.


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