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Gynocentric Thealogy of Tantric Hinduism: A Meditation Upon the Devi

Neela Bhattacharya Saxena

in The Oxford Handbook of Feminist Theology

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780199273881
Published online January 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199273881.003.0006

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology

Gynocentric Thealogy of Tantric Hinduism: A Meditation Upon the Devi

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This chapter seeks to contribute to what Raimon Panikkar calls a dialogical dialogue, by speaking in the voice of a Shakta (Shakti worshipper) woman who grew up with the symbol of an all-powerful female deity: Kali, the presiding center of the Tantric tradition. Tantric Advaita, or non-dual thinking, and meditation practices permeate Indic traditions, making the world itself saturated with the spirit of the Divine Feminine. Tantric meditation upon the Devi that fine-tunes the entire being of the practitioner awakens her to the vibrant and subtle Shakti—the energy source of all which animates the universe—within her own body. This awakening at once annihilates the limited self bound by conditioned thinking and opens a window onto the infinite potentiality that only an encounter with death, symbolized by cremation-ground imagery of Kali, can inaugurate. The chapter presents this Gynocentric core of the Indic tradition within the larger context of Hinduism and its long, complex history. It shows how pluralist postmodern worldviews are more congenial to understanding polymorphous Hinduism(s) as opposed to absolutist Western perspectives influenced by imperial, missionary, and reductively rationalist ideas that misread the Great Goddess as a remnant of primitive religiosities, needing the light of masculine reason of Western Enlightenment. The chapter then locates the Indian context in a fast-changing world of global commerce that has the potential to impinge upon human diversity by imposing its own hegemonic vision. It further imagines a positive side effect of globalization—a new global consciousness strengthened by women's voices and spiritual convictions that would possibly herald what has been proclaimed as the second Axial age, opening up intercultural dialogues for the benefit of all—women, men, and the planet as a whole.

Keywords: Shakta; Shakti; Kali; Tantric meditation; Gynocentric theology; Hinduism; globalization

Article.  12915 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Interfaith Relations ; Religious Studies

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