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Dakini's Warm Breath: The Feminine Principle in Tibetan Buddhism [Kindle Edition]

Judith Simmer-Brown
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)

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Book Description

primary emblem of the feminine in Tibetan Buddhism is the dakini, or
"sky-dancer," a semi-wrathful spirit-woman who manifests in visions, dreams,
and meditation experiences. Western scholars and interpreters of the dakini,
influenced by Jungian psychology and feminist goddess theology, have shaped a
contemporary critique of Tibetan Buddhism in which the dakini is seen as a
psychological "shadow," a feminine savior, or an objectified product of
patriarchal fantasy. According to Judith Simmer-Brown—who writes from the
point of view of an experienced practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism—such
interpretations are inadequate.

the spiritual journey of the meditator, Simmer-Brown demonstrates, the dakini
symbolizes levels of personal realization: the sacredness of the body, both
female and male; the profound meeting point of body and mind in meditation; the
visionary realm of ritual practice; and the empty, spacious qualities of mind
itself. When the meditator encounters the dakini, living spiritual experience
is activated in a nonconceptual manner by her direct gaze, her radiant body,
and her compassionate revelation of reality. Grounded in the author's personal
encounter with the dakini, this unique study will appeal to both male and
female spiritual seekers interested in goddess worship, women's spirituality,
and the tantric tradition.

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Simmer-Brown (chair, religious studies, Naropa Univ.) has produced a comprehensive, scholarly, and intriguing study of "dakini," the feminine principle in Tibetan Buddhism. She defines dakini as a symbol "who personifies in Tibetan Buddhism the spiritual process of surrendering expectation and concept, revealing limitless space and pristine awareness." The methodology she employs in her study includes both scholarly preparation and training in Vajrayana Buddhist practice traditions. She is sensitive to and articulate about feminist issues related to her subject and on this basis finds the prevailing modes of feminist and Jungian paradigms lacking in there assessment of dakini. Therefore, she proposes more appropriate methodologies that draw on the disciplines of history of religions and gender studies. As she reviews the Indian historical background of dakini, she is careful to differentiate dakini in Tibetan tantric literature from dakini's "Hindu tantric cousins." While Thinley Norbu's Magic Dance: The Display of the Self-Nature of the Five Wisdom Dakinis is more poetic, Simmer-Brown's work is more scholarly and focused. It also includes an examination of the hagiographic lore about dakini and ends with a description of dakini as the protector of tantric teachings and midwife of the transmission of teachings. Recommended as a landmark study which will be a useful addition to any library's holdings on Tibetan Buddhism. David Bourquin, California State Univ., San Bernardino
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.


"A comprehensive, scholarly, and intriguing study of 'dakini,' the feminine principle of Tibetan Buddhism. A landmark study."—Library Journal

"Simmer-Brown has written what is destined to be a classic among vajrayana practitioners, Buddhists of other schools, and readers interested in Buddhism."—Shambhala Sun

"Dakini's Warm Breath is not only readable, but exhilaratingly lucid."—Tricycle: The Buddhist Review

"A scholarly and fascinating exploration into the feminine principle in Tibetan Buddhism."—Bodhi Tree Book Review

"A book-length discussion of dakinis, who are one of the most elusive aspects of Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism, is a welcome edition to the growing literature on symbols of the feminine in Buddhism. Simmer-Brown skillfully interweaves traditional stories with commentaries by contemporary Buddhist teachers to provide the most complete discussion of this topic to date."—Rita Gross, author of Buddhism after Patriarchy and Soaring and Settling: Buddhist Perspectives on Contemporary Social and Religious Issues

Product Details

  • File Size: 2114 KB
  • Print Length: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Shambhala Publications (January 21, 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00HZ374DQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #216,033 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
90 of 90 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Feminine in Buddhist Tantra - The Inside Story August 31, 2001
This book is highly readable, accurate, and informative. Beyond that, it is true to the essence of Vajrayana Buddhist teaching. Judith Simmer-Brown is both chairwoman of the religious studies department of Naropa University, and an acharya, an empowered teacher, of the Shambhala lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. It is inspired and useful reading for the practitioner of Vajrayana teachings, and should also be of benefit to someone who is contemplating that path but has not yet joined it. Her sources include personal meetings with and the oral and written teachings of several great modern teachers including Chogyam Trungpa, Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, and Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, as well as many great historical teachers and texts, and the existing academic literature on the subject.

It is written so as to meet all the requirements of an academic contribution to religious studies, and I expect that other reviewers will praise it from that point of view also. There are excellent notes and a bibliography at the end. The subject of the dakini principle has been approached in a variety of ways in recent literature which gives one every opportunity to misunderstand it. So it is necessary to explain that this is not a Jungian interpretation of the feminine as the anima, it is not about goddess worship or modern paganism, it is not a feminist complaint that the Vajrayana exploits women, nor does it interpret Vajrayana as the worship of women (although Vajrayana offers profound respect for women). All of these views are currently available, and Simmer-Brown treats each sympathetically, but the essence of what is to be understood transcends all of them and all interpretations. Judith Simmer-Brown offers up her own feminist background as part of the feast of insight into the dakini.
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38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Have for Feminists and buddhists January 14, 2003
This book is at once both a very much needed manual for serious students of Buddhism as well as a clear and authoritative education for the feminist.
For the Feminist: This is a book that should be savored and closely studied. The wisdom that this research and insight present transcends any idea that anyone--male or female--could have cooked up about any topic adressed here. I doubt that I will ever be able to hold a serious conversation on the subject of gender differences with anyone, male or female, who has not read this book. Every page is filled with the author's insights and detailed instructions gathered during many years of her own personal investigation. Along the way she debunks many previous misunderstandings of respected authors and thinkers who have attempted to prove their biased points of view using Tibetan texts and ideas as their reference points, but have misconstrued the basic meaning due to their own wishful thinking. Simmer-Brown points out that the female mind is neither superior nor inferior to, and not the same as and not different from the male mind. One begins to see that the battle of the sexes has come about from a simple confusion with regard to the mind itself, explained here in terms of the feminine principle of Secret Dakini. Relative differences do exist and when understood properly, become a strength that both genders can draw from.
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The feminine principle in Tibetan Buddhism November 16, 2004
The feminine (not: female) principle is very important, even indispensible, in third-cycle (vajrayana) teachings of Tibetan Buddhism.
Whether transcendent as nonconceptual living archetype of primordial Wisdom, or embodied as female "sky-goer" ("sky" meaning "space" as the ground and expanse of all being), the Wisdom Dakini is the Great Mother, the visionary Queen, the subtle body of bliss, Protector of the tantric teachings, Remover of all obstacles to authentic spiritual practice, consort of practitioners in mutual alchemy (subtle spiritual transformation).

How she is seen depends upon the "sacred outlook" of the meditator. Moreover, anyone who doesn't respect her Presence on his or her level of experience, will inadvertently face her fierce, wrathful expression.

This wonderful book is the most comprehensive study I have encountered on the subject of the feminine principle in Tibetan Buddhism, as well as the interaction between the male and female principles in spiritual practice. A must-read for anyone interested.

As a side note: on page 66 of this book there is an exceptionally lovely and beautiful picture of Yeshe Tsogyal ("Ocean of Wisdom"), one of the principle consorts of Guru Padmasambhava.

"The teachings of the whispered lineage
are the Dakini's warm breath"
- Milarepa
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Getting past the stereotype June 3, 2001
By Jules
Despite my curiosity and intrigued fascination with the mystical dakini - likened to angels and guardians of true spiritual practitioners - I've likewise heard the word dakini used to mean "hot babe" by regular people and Dharma practitioners alike. So is there any truth to the dakini being the true mystical feminine energy in the world? The author is keen to show that the dakini is not merely a gorgeous babe, but rather is a profound and vibrant force in our personal spiritual practice. Her main sources are directly from highly qualified lamas and their oral instructions, and she quotes them regularly throughout the book. She also quotes several lineage texts, adding the power of realized beings to her points. What struck me most was how well she melded such a fascinatingly mystical topic to fit such an academic, systematic format as a book - both the academic and metaphysical sides of my mind were satisfied. The only further thing I would have added to the book was an extra chapter or chapter topic describing the dakini practices in the other two schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Highly recommended for people interested in finding the dakini in all levels of their personal world.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars What is a "dakini"? and what does this title mean?
If you have some curiosity about these questions, this is the best book I have read on the subject. The presentation style is clear and comprehensive, (quite a feat to balance both... Read more
Published 18 days ago by Marian J. Broadus
5.0 out of 5 stars Feminine wisdom embodies in Buddhist females
This is the best book written on the figure of the dakini, the feminine wisdom archetype integral to Vajrayana Buddhism.
Published 3 months ago by Patrick J.Mahaffey
5.0 out of 5 stars Very helpful
scholarship, research excellent and explains a lot about Dakinis and Herukas, which I have always found it a litlte difficult to understand. Very helpful, well written.
Published 13 months ago by kestrel
5.0 out of 5 stars i love it
she breaks down every aspect of Dakini that one may try to comprehend. There's allot of information and good insights
Published 17 months ago by vanessa B
2.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but
This book was way too deep into the past and present culture of Tibetan Buddhism in relation to the Dakini. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Moon High Priestess
5.0 out of 5 stars Goddesses of naked awareness, beyond all duality
Simmer-Brown applies a lifetime of learning and practice to this exploration of Tibetan dakini traditions. Read more
Published on April 27, 2010 by Brian Griffith
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential
This book is wonderful. As an academic book it is a model of moderate, responsible, rational and empathetic scholarship. Read more
Published on August 9, 2009 by Matthew Gindin
2.0 out of 5 stars Cosmic Heterosexual Hegemony?
Book is okay. It avoids some very difficult questions such as what if one is not a heterosexual practitioner?
Published on December 8, 2001
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful, insightful, stimulating reading
In Tibetan Buddhism, the dakini or "sky-dancer" is a semi-wrathful spirit-woman who manifests in visions, dreams, and meditation experiences. Read more
Published on October 10, 2001 by Midwest Book Review
5.0 out of 5 stars A marvelous work
This is a marvelous book. It is comprehensive in its treatment of the dakini, those fascinating female inspirational beings of tantric Buddhism. Read more
Published on August 6, 2001 by Nathan Katz
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