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Meeting the Great Bliss Queen


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About the Author

Anne C. Klein is professor and chair of Religious Studies at Rice University. She is also a founding director and resident teacher of Dawn Mountain, a center for contemplative study and practice in Houston. Her publications include Path to the Middle (SUNY Press), Unbounded Wholeness, coauthored with Geshe Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche (Oxford University Press), and Knowledge and Liberation (Snow Lion Publications).


The paradox of identity-self with others-is examined by a Buddhist feminist and author who has studied under Tibetan lamas. After joining a women's studies program at Harvard Divinity School in 1982, Klein hoped to reshape dialog between the essentialist and postmodern feminists by encouraging selected Buddhist practices. Mindfulness, for instance, can foster a sense of uniqueness in women's caretaking roles. Visualizing Tibetan Queen Yeshey Tsogyel (eighth century) for meditation, women can be empowered by the "unconditioned self" to surpass personhood and transcend linguistic constraints. Recognizing that some feminists, especially postmodern constructivists, will find an "ungendered essence" distasteful, Klein uses Yeshey Tsogyel, the Great Bliss Queen, as an emblem of the clear mind sphere, beyond dualities and available to all. Rather difficult reading, this treatise is recommended for academic libraries.-Dara Eklund, Los Angeles P.L.

Despite their formidable differences, Buddhism and feminism share common ground, according to Klein, who has studied with refugee Tibetan lamas in India, Nepal and the U.S. and is an associate professor of religious studies at Rice University. In this erudite tome, she suggests that the open boundary between self and cosmos in Tibetan Buddhism can offer inspiration to Western women seeking to redefine interdependent selfhood in a male-centered world dominated by individualism. Klein describes Buddhist meditation techniques for cultivating compassion, then links these practices to feminists' quests to overcome dualisms (active/passive, reason/emotion) that tend to marginalize women in the West. Eighth-century Tibetan queen Teshel Tsogyel encouraged the spread of Buddhism and is identified today with the largely mystical Great Bliss Queen of wisdom and compassion. Klein sifts the literature on the blissful red queen for her relevance to women seeking connectedness, self-empowerment and active engagement with the world. (Jan.)

"At the same time there is an element of personal reflection in Klein's work that makes the book immediately approachable and that contextualizes the scholarly material in a way that is rare in contemporary writing in the field of Buddhist studies. A work of great erudition and sensitivity. A must-read for anyone interested in the dialogue between Buddhism and feminism."-Jose Ignacio Cabezon, Iliff School of Theology

"An astute and absorbing exploration of the interface between Buddhism and Feminist perspectives."-Tsultrim Allione, founder of Tara Mandala and author of Women of Wisdom

"A groundbreaking and important book. Klein is one of the few scholars in the Buddhist studies field who has devoted serious attention to the literature of Western feminism; likewise her long experience in the field of Tibetan Buddhist study and practice provides her with the solid grounding necessary to speak for that tradition. The bringing together of these totally dissimilar worlds holds great promise for adding new insights to contemporary discussions of the nature of the self; indeed it is difficult to imagine that the kind of conversation Klein proposes will not end by profoundly transforming the participants on both sides."-Jan Nattier, Indiana University

"This book is a breakthrough in feminist cross-cultural reflection on self and subjectivity. An eminent scholar of Tibetan Buddhist studies has distilled twenty-five years of her rich research and personal experience in this compelling study. She succeeds in showing the current relevance of Buddhism to Western feminists without minimizing any of its challenge to certain notions about selfhood. The conversation constructed around the Great Bliss Queen is artful, elegant, and of importance to anyone interested in feminist theory Buddhist religious philosophy in America and different meanings of the self."-Nancy K. Frankenberry, Dartmouth College

"Through the symbol of the Great Bliss Queen, a mythical figure of Tibetan Buddhism, she explores the problems of a cross-cultural dialogue between women. Klein's well-wrought work challenges traditional understandings of Buddhist textual and interpretive traditions as well as a number of feminist assumptions. The book will be welcomed by those of us who examine gender issues in the classroom as well as in our own work. Meeting the Great Bliss Queen moves the debate forward and opens it to new participants."-Bernard Faure, Stanford University

"Anne Carolyn Klein lays bare the interface between Buddhism and the feminist world view with deep grasp of both. This is a lucid and scholarly explanation of the western feminist standpoint placed in matrix of the Buddhist thought process."-Tibet Journal

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