MEETING THE GREAT BLISS QUEEN by Anne Carolyn Klein

MEETING THE GREAT BLISS QUEEN

Buddhists, Feminists and the Art of the Self
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 A unique though complicated investigation of Buddhism and feminism. Klein (Religious Studies/Rice Univ.) wants to initiate a conversation between Buddhism and Western feminism in order to tackle questions of selfhood. To do this, she juxtaposes what she sees as the feminist dichotomy between essentialism (self as intrinsic and universal womanhood) and postmodernism (all aspects of self are constructed) against the Buddhist dichotomy between the discovery of enlightenment (enlightenment is intrinsic) and developmental enlightenment (enlightenment can be acquired). According to Klein, Western feminism's emphasis on individualism results in the bifurcation of mind and body, obscuring the potentially fruitful balance between them. One method for maneuvering between connection and separateness is the Buddhist practice of mindfulness, ``the ability to sustain a calm, intense, and steady focus.'' Possible nonlinguistic states, silence, and compassion, she says, also have the potential to bridge the different levels of knowledge and to aid in the resolution of mind and body. The Great Bliss Queen, a well-known mythological female figure in some Buddhist traditions, emerges as important to Klein- -largely because there are so few female role models in Buddhism. But the Bliss Queen doesn't have easy answers to the questions Klein proposes. Repeatedly claiming that the conversation between Buddhism and feminism has the potential to offer insights to both, Klein uses technical language about Buddhist practices that obscures some of the more important discoveries. What does emerge is the falsehood of contemporary Western society's belief that an individual can be completely autonomous, with a self independent of community, a possibility that Buddhism finds absurd. In other words, it is possible to share an essential nature that is partially constructed by time and place. What promises to be a powerful analysis appears more and more to reflect Klein's own struggles to reconcile Buddhism and feminism, not accessible to most readers because of its technicality.

Pub Date: Jan. 12th, 1995
ISBN: 0-8070-7306-7
Page count: 336pp
Publisher: Beacon
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1994




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