Love and Liberation

Love and Liberation: Autobiographical Writings of the Tibetan Buddhist Visionary Sera Khandro

SARAH H. JACOBY
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 456
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/jaco14768
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    Love and Liberation
    Book Description:

    Love and Liberationreads the autobiographical and biographical writings of one of the few Tibetan Buddhist women to record the story of her life. Sera Khandro Künzang Dekyong Chönyi Wangmo (also called Dewé Dorjé, 1892--1940) was extraordinary not only for achieving religious mastery as a Tibetan Buddhist visionary and guru to many lamas, monastics, and laity in the Golok region of eastern Tibet, but also for her candor. This book listens to Sera Khandro's conversations with land deities,dakinis, bodhisattvas, lamas, and fellow religious community members whose voices interweave with her own to narrate what is a story of both love between Sera Khandro and her guru, Drimé Özer, and spiritual liberation.

    Sarah H. Jacoby's analysis focuses on the status of the female body in Sera Khandro's texts, the virtue of celibacy versus the expediency of sexuality for religious purposes, and the difference between profane lust and sacred love between male and female tantric partners. Her findings add new dimensions to our understanding of Tibetan Buddhist consort practices, complicating standard scriptural presentations of male subject and female aide. Sera Khandro depicts herself and Drimé Özer as inseparable embodiments of insight and method that together form the Vajrayana Buddhist vision of complete buddhahood. By advancing this complementary sacred partnership, Sera Khandro carved a place for herself as a female virtuoso in the male-dominated sphere of early twentieth-century Tibetan religion.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51953-3
    Subjects: History, Anthropology, Religion, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xi-xviii)
    Sarah Jacoby
  5. TECHNICAL NOTE ON TIBETAN AND SANSKRIT WORDS
    (pp. xix-xx)
  6. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
  7. CHRONOLOGY OF MAJOR EVENTS IN SERA KHANDRO’S LIFE
    (pp. xxiii-xxv)
  8. Maps
    (pp. xxvi-xxx)
  9. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-22)

    THE ROLES OF WOMEN and sexuality within Tantric Buddhist communities are topics of fascination for many, despite the scarcity of reliable sources. Tibetan doctrinal, liturgical, and biographical works are pervaded by references to female celestial figures known asdakims(Tib.mkha’ ’gro ma), literally “female sky-goers,” but the lives, experiences, and perspectives of historical Buddhist women who attained religious mastery in India, across the Himalayas, and in Tibet remain by and large elusive. The vast majority of Tantric scriptures were written by men and represent meditation practices from the perspective of the male subject. The dearth of Tantric Buddhist texts...

  10. 1 THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SERA KHANDRO
    (pp. 23-75)

    The hell on earth Sera Khandro spoke of in a visionary interaction with the paramount female saint of Tibet, Yeshe Tsogyel, began amid the nobility o f late nineteenth-century Lhasa and continued among the nomads in the grasslands of Golok in eastern Tibet. Lhasa during Sera Khandro’s childhood was the cosmopolitan center of Tibetan political and cultural life on the edge of the Qing dynasty. This urban context could hardly have been more different than the vast pasturelands and snow peaks of Golok and Serta that later became her home. Located at the crossroads of the eastern Tibetan regions of...

  11. 2 A GUEST IN THE SACRED LAND OF GOLOK
    (pp. 76-130)

    What did it mean for Sukha, or Sera Khandro Dewe Dorje, to be a dākinī emanation of Yeshe Tsogyel empowered in the profound Treasures of Padmasambhava? What were these Treasures, and how could she open the door of their hidden essence? What did auspicious connections (rtenbrel) have to do with the process of revelation, and what types of vast benefit were these Treasures meant to provide? The prophecy above that Sera Khandro attributes to Pema Lendreltsel, an epithet of her guru Drime Ozer, is one of seven that introduces her autobiography. It announces the central topic of Sera Khandro’s...

  12. 3 ḌĀKINĪ DIALOGUES
    (pp. 131-187)

    The passages from Sera Khandro’s auto/biographical writings examined in chapter 2 presented her status as Yeshe Tsogyel’s emanation as afait accompli, predetermined by her aspirations and actions in former lifetimes. However, when the twenty-four-year-old Sera Khandro bemoaned her “inferior female body” to theḍākinīwho appeared in her vision, her words suggest that actualizing Padmasambhava and Yeshe Tsogyel’s command to reveal Treasures was easier said than done: both she and others for and about whom she wrote seem to have needed extensive convincing of her spiritual potential. That Sera Khandro’s autobiography is filled with a litany of self-deprecating comments...

  13. 4 SACRED SEXUALITY
    (pp. 188-248)

    Sera Khandro described her status as neither nun nor laywoman to a beautifulḍākinīwho appeared in her dream when she was thirty-nine by punning on the many negative valences of the word nak, which include fault (nag), laywoman (nag mo), criminal (nag can), and guilt (nag nyes). That she positioned herself between the virtue of nunhood and the vice of lay life raises a number of questions: What do her auto/biographical writings reveal about the nature and purpose of religious practices involving sexuality in her religious communities? How did religious specialists such as Sera Khandro negotiate between the competing...

  14. 5 LOVE BETWEEN METHOD AND INSIGHT
    (pp. 249-318)

    With his final breath, Drimé Özer spoke these words to Sera Khandro before he passed away into buddhahood, according to his biography. The image of Drimé Özer as the supreme method and Sera Khandro as the insight realizing emptiness, united inseparably in the form of the Tantrie deities Hayagrlva and Vajrāvārahi, embodies the Tantric Buddhist vision of complete buddhahood. The roots of this gendered two-in-one symbolism stem from Mahāyāna Buddhist conceptions of bodhisattva training involving a set of perfections, first six and later ten. Method (skt.upāya, Tib.thabs) refers to the skillful means by which one seeks enlightenment for...

  15. EPILOGUE: Love After Death
    (pp. 319-324)

    LOVE PREVAILED OVER DEATH in Sera Khandro’s auto/biographical writings, in the sense that separation by death was not the end of heryab yumrelationship with Drimé Özer. After his passing, aḍākinīconsoled Sera Khandro, telling her that their parting was only an illusion of conventional truth, and “In the ultimate sphere of great bliss, method and insight are indivisible.”¹ Two otherḍākinīsreminded her thatyabandyumcould never really be separated because her “adamantine awareness is not different than the mind of Pema Lendrel.”² Beyond pointing toward a transcendent nonduality between method and insight, Sera Khandro’s...

  16. SPELLING OF KEY TIBETAN NAMES AND TERMS
    (pp. 325-336)
  17. NOTES
    (pp. 337-378)
  18. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 379-394)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 395-426)