"With its violent, pulsating, and raw sensuality,this story of a heroine from the edges of Buddhist traditions appeals to thesenses.... Schanfield's portrayal of the feminine aspects of the divine is highlypotent...Grounded strongly in visceral details, The Tigress and the Yogi...creates a deeply saturated world."Patty Comeau, 5 stars, Foreword Clarion Reviews.
From the Author
The historical fantasy genre gives writers license to make setting, characters, and plot in their novels resemble actual places, persons, or events as much or as little as they choose. Unlike writers of historical fiction, we are not constrained by facts. We can change timelines, names, or the sex of a main character. Or we may change a real place into a fantasy realm that closely resembles it, as Guy Gavriel Kay transforms China's Tang dynasty or we may bring magical elements into a real setting, as Helene Wecker brings mythical creatures to late 19th century New York City in her novel about a golem and a jinni.
I've used that license to re-imagine the Buddha's story. Traditionally, Buddhists tell it this way:
Some 2500 years ago in northern India, a sage prophesies that the young Sakyan prince, Siddhartha, will either rule the world or become a homeless seeker of truth. He lives surrounded by luxury and beauty until one day, his charioteer takes him for a drive outside the palace walls that have sheltered him from harsh reality. For the first time he sees a sick man, an old man, and a corpse. He realizes that everyone suffers and dies, even wealthy princes. He takes no more pleasure in his royal life. His spiritual crisis comes to a head and he flees home and family to become a wandering sage. After six years of intense searching, he attains enlightenment and becomes a buddha, an awakened one, and travels through the kingdoms between the Ganges and the Himalayas teaching the path to freedom from suffering.
I conceived my books as a trilogy that would center on women from the legends that surround Siddhartha: a beautiful courtesan who becomes a follower, the aunt who raised him after his mother's death, and a young cousin whose grief is healed by his teachings.
But writers don't always get to choose what they write. A character who appeared on the page almost as soon as I began was not found in any Buddhist tales or Indian myths I had read. She was an outcaste girl who meets the goddess in the form of a tigress, an experience that awakens her hunger for spiritual knowledge forbidden to her caste. I felt compelled to write a story where her spiritual striving would lead her to the Buddha, who rejected the rigid class structure of his time. His followers represented all levels of society: from the lowest polluted ash-covered keeper of the cremation grounds to the highest disenchanted Brahmin who no longer found meaning in ancient sacrificial rituals. The outcaste girl became the protagonist of the first novel in the Sadhana trilogy, The Tigress and the Yogi.
The trilogy's second book focuses on Dhara, the warrior girl who becomes Siddhartha's wife, and her friend Sakhi, who stands by Dhara when Siddhartha embarks on his quest. The third book ties together the stories of Mala, her daughter Kirsa, Dhara, Sakhi and many other characters, legendary or completely imagined, with Siddhartha's return as the Buddha.
For more traditional versions of Buddha's story as well as to get a feel for his times and extraordinary teachings, see Karen Armstrong's Buddha, Iqbal Singh's Gautama Buddha, and Edward J. Thomas's The Life of the Buddha as Legend and History. I would also highly recommend Stephen Batchelor's Confession of a Buddhist Atheist not only for his insights into the earliest Buddhist literature but also for its account of his own remarkable spiritual journey.