Postscripts: The Journal of Sacred Texts, Cultural Histories, and Contemporary Contexts, Vol 4, No 3 (2008)

Return of the Eunuch: Gender Disobedience as a Path to Awakening in Buddhist Tantra

Dallas J. Baker
Issued Date: 10 Dec 2010


This article surveys tensions in Buddhist scripture around gender norms and gender abnormality and argues that, in the context of Vajrayana (or Tantric) Buddhism, gender disobedience—or “gender insubordination,” to deploy Judith Butler’s phraseology—can be understood to be a legitimate path to Awakening, in and of itself. It extends the notion of gender disobedience beyond an engagement with the transgender to a practice/performance of the sexless and genderless which is evoked by the figure of the eunuch. The article uses the traditional Tibetan sacred image of the enlightened protector (Wrathful Buddha) Gonpo Maning Nagpo as a case in point. The article is reflective as well as theoretical and informed by spiritual praxis and foregrounds similarities between Buddhist and Queer Studies perspectives on sex, gender and sexuality.

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DOI: 10.1558/post.v4i3.339

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