Thesis title: Kurukullā: The Scarlet Enchantress of Love, Power, and Magic in Tibetan Buddhism
Supervisor: Prof Sondra Hausner
Kurukullā (Skt. kurukullā, Tib. ku ru ku lle or rig byed ma) is a female meditational deity in Tibetan Buddhism traditionally associated with subjugation, enchantment, and exerting power over others (Skt. vaśīkaraṇa, Tib. dbang), concepts that are popularly subsumed under the term magnetising in Western Buddhism. Kurukullā is referred to as the Buddhist Goddess of Love due to her connection with transforming amorous desire. The Kurukullā subjugation practices are categorised as one of The Four Enlightened Activities (Skt. caturkarman, Tib. phrin las rnam bzhi). The other activities include pacifying, enriching, and destroying.
My research addresses what Kurukullā practice communicates about Vajrayana Buddhist concepts regarding the transformation of desire and the Buddhist understanding of the ultimate nature of mind and enlightenment. It analyses the ritual texts and practice instruction manuals (Skt. sādhana; Tib. sgrub thabs) related to Kurukullā found in the various Tibetan Buddhist liturgies. In order to tackle the intricacies of utilizing desire to transform the mind, I discuss how the ritual symbolism and deity yoga practices of Kurukullā make use of subjugation, love, and enchantment. In addition to translations of primary sources and secondary literature, I include my first-hand analysis of the symbolism and usage of ritual based on my fieldwork and participation in Kurukullā ritual gatherings. The development of Kurukullā rituals is explored to understand how they have evolved over time and how they fit into the Buddhist concept of enlightenment.
Furthermore, I explore the psychological foundation of these tantric methods by analysing these issues using psychoanalytical and Lacanian psychodynamic concepts, including a discussion of Kurukullā rituals from a gender perspective using Vajrayana Buddhist discourses on gender identity that aim to transcend mainstream social constructions. This study illustrates how Kurukullā practice skilfully uses practical witchcraft, or folk magic, to obtain seemingly mundane goals while attaining yogic accomplishments and gaining the realization to reach enlightenment to fulfil the Buddhist goal of helping all sentient beings.
Funding: Khyentse Foundation Buddhist Studies scholarship
Research areas: Study of Asian Religions, Psychology of Religion
Selected Publications: https://oxford.academia.edu/GüzinAYener
Academic-related Activities: Peer supporter in Wolfson College
Other research interests:
Ritual Theory and dynamics, psychology of religion and spiritual experience, comparative religion, non-sectarian and non-dogmatic spirituality, esotericism and esoteric Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhist and Hindu Tantrism, mindfulness, Post-structural, psychoanalytical and feminist discourse methodologies, Silk Road cultures, Turkic and Tibetan relations in Central Asia during the Imperial period (7-11 CE).