The Graceful Guru: Hindu Female Gurus in India and the United States

Front Cover
Karen Pechilis
Oxford University Press, 2004 - Religion - 260 pages
A distinctive aspect of Hindu devotion is the veneration of a human guru, who is not only an exemplar and a teacher but is also understood to be an embodiment of the divine. Historically, the role of guru in the public domain has been exclusive to men. The new visibility of female gurus in
India and the U.S. today, and indeed across the globe, has inspired this first-ever scholarly study of the origins, variety, and worldwide popularity of Hindu female gurus. In the Introduction, Karen Pechilis examines the historical emergence of Hindu female gurus with reference to the Hindu
philosophy of the self, women spiritual exemplars as wives and saints, Tantric worship of the Goddess, and the internationalization of gurus in the U.S. in the twentieth century. Nine essays profile specific female gurus, presenting biographies of these remarkable women while highlighting
overarching issues and themes concerning women's status as religious leaders; these themes are nuanced in the afterword to the volume. The essays explore how Hindu female gurus embody grace in both senses--as a feminine ideal and an attribute of the divine-and argue that their status as leaders is
grounded in their negotiation of these two types of grace. This book provides biographical profiles of the following female gurus plus sensitive scholarly analysis of their spiritual paths: Ammachi, Anandamayi Ma, Gauri Ma, Gurumayi, Jayashri Ma, Karunamayi Ma, Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati, Mother Meera,
Shree Maa and Sita Devi.
 

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Contents

Hindu Female Gurus in Historical and Philosophical Context
3
1 Sita Devi an Early Vaishnava Guru
51
2 The Life of Gauri Ma
65
3 Anandamayi Ma the BlissFilled Divine Mother
85
Jayashri Ma and the Primordial Mother
119
5 Mother Meera Avatar
129
6 Gurus and Goddesses Deities and Devotees
149
7 Shree Maa of Kamakkhya
179
8 Ammachi the Mother of Compassion
203
9 Gurumayi the Play of Shakti and Guru
219
Afterword
245
Web Pages of Female Gurus As of Spring 2004
251
Index
255
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About the author (2004)


Karen Pechilis is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Drew University, where she has recently been appointed the NEH Distinguished Teaching Professor and Director of the Humanities. She is the author of The Embodiment of Bhakti (OUP, 2000).

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