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Buddhadharma : Spri 2007
spring 2007| 70 |buddhadharma in the Indian tradition of Buddhism, the splendid pantheon of deities included a diverse array of goddesses who served as saviors, protectors, wis dom beings, and mothers of liberation. Miranda Shaw has just published a fas cinating new taxonomy of these female deities, to be followed by a companion volume on Buddhists goddesses of Tibet and Nepal. Known for her earlier provocative work on goddess traditions of India, this time Shaw has taken a more measured, classificatory approach. As in her previ ous research, she has collected textual evidence from a wide variety of genres: ritual texts, devotional poetry, scriptures, and hagiographies. In addition, she has gathered architectural and artistic sup port from a variety of field sources and interprets iconography from both tradi tional and contemporary perspectives. The result is a wellwritten, accessible reference work on the bestknown Indian Buddhist goddesses. Shaw has chosen the word “goddess” carefully, reflecting on both Buddhist and feminist critiques that would reject the term. “Goddess” is drawn from the Sanskrit term (devi or devata), which is freely used in Hindu, Buddhist, and pan Indic sources, and Shaw makes the case that contemporary Asian Buddhist teach ers are increasingly comfortable with the word. She is especially concerned to place this research in the field of goddess studies, an emergent academic field, and shows clearly that “Buddhism may right fully take a place among the world’s god dess traditions.” The book is organized into early, Mahayana, and tantric Buddhist god desses, and each chapter features a com plete profile of a single goddess, with information on her Indian origins and counterparts, her role in Buddhist practice and liturgy, her development over time, and her iconographic depictions. Shaw treats each goddess comprehensively and interpretively, a different approach from many art history books, which often sim ply caricatures a particular goddess with out reference to her religious meaning or historical context. Buddhist Goddesses of India is a wonderful contribution to the study of deities (it would be helpful to have the same kind of resource for the study of male deities in Buddhism). In one of the most striking sections, Shaw focuses on Prajnaparamita, the mother of all buddhas, who plays a central role in Mahayana literature, practice, and lore. She calls her the Buddhist Sophia, the manifestation of Buddhist wisdom, and describes her as the ultimate object of worship in the Mahayana. Drawing JuditH simmer-Brown is a professor of Bud- dHist studies at naropa university and tHe autHor of Dakini’s Warm Breath: the Feminine PrinciPle in tiBetan BuDDhism (sHamBHala puBlications). Buddhist Goddesses oF india By Miranda shaw Princeton university Press, december 2006 602 pages; $35 (hardcover) reviewed by Judith simmer-Brown portraits of wisdoM and CoMpassion