Miranda Shaw has spent many years studying women’s spiritual practices, Goddess traditions, and sacred dance in Indian and Himalayan Buddhism. Her book, Passionate Enlightenment: Women in Tantric Buddhism, came out in 1994, and has been translated into seven languages. She also wrote Buddhist Goddesses of India, published in 2006, and has written numerous peer reviewed articles. Shaw is currently working on her next book, on the Tantric Buddhist dance tradition in Nepal.

Dr. Shaw contributed five articles to the Encyclopedia of Women in World Religions. These can all be found in the Buddhism section of the encyclopedia:

  • Dance
  • Female Divinities
  • Prajnaparamita
  • Tara
  • Tantra (with Kenneth Lee)

In “Dance,” Shaw provides historical trends and details of women’s roles in Buddhist dance. In one passage, she explains that in the dance,  

“The practitioner adopted the appearance of the deity, meditated on the inner nature of the deity, and channeled the presence of the deity through the dance movements. Because the pantheon included female Buddhas, a woman could don the raiment and ornaments of a female deity and dance, evoking the Goddess within herself and bodying forth the presence of the Goddess through her movements.”

“Dance,” Encyclopedia of Women in World Religions: Faith and Culture across History (de-Gaia, ed.), page 1:107

An example of Tantric dance exist today, Shaw notes, in the Charya Nritya dance found in Kathmandu Valley of Nepal, where it is practiced predominantly by women and girls.

Miranda Shaw, Ph.D., is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at University of Richmond.