TRAVELLER IN SPACE: In Search of Female Identity in Tibetan Buddhism by June Campbell

TRAVELLER IN SPACE: In Search of Female Identity in Tibetan Buddhism

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Feminist theory and psychoanalysis combine in this unusual study of Tibetan Buddhism by a Scottish woman with a unique experience of the tradition. Since Campbell became a Buddhist in 1967, she has lived in a Himalayan nunnery, studied at Tibetan monasteries in India, and traveled throughout Europe and North America as an interpreter to the late Kalu Rimpoche, who had spent 14 years in solitary retreat and was at that time one of the most senior Tibetan lamas in exile. Campbell tells us that for several years she was the tantric consort of Kalu, despite the fact that he was a high-ranking abbot with vows of celibacy. She believes that the Tibetan use of sexuality as part of the mystical path is flawed, because the insistence on secrecy denies the integrity of the woman as an individual capable of relationships in which mutuality is the key factor. Drawing on Robert Paul's Freudian analysis of Tibetan Buddhism, she targets the 13th-century creation of the Tulku, whereby lamas are believed to reincarnate themselves generation by generation, as a way of sidestepping the mother, and the feminine, with the implied identification of the sacred with the masculine. She argues that women stand for the mysterious ""other"" from a male perspective and, as such, serve merely as objects through which men have access to wholeness. Campbell gives us a succinct account of Buddhism and its Tibetan ""heterodox"" form. Campbell believes that a basis for a more authentic role for women can be found in the cult of the dakini, female spirits, and she pleads for diversity as well as oneness in the spiritual quest. In spite of occasional obscurity, essential reading for anyone concerned with a creative encounter between Tibetan Buddhism and the West.

Pub Date: April 16th, 1996
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Braziller