Kiss of the Yogini by David Gordon White
“Tantric Sex” in its South Asian Contexts
Provocative, well researched and an indispensable research source. Kiss of the Yogini by David Gordon White Book Review
Review by Kent Davis – Buy this book on Amazon
David Gordon White gives clear, detailed insights into the origins and evolution of Tantric practices. Serious students of South Asian religious history will find his meticulous work a wealth of information filled with practical examples, diverse sources and original accounts rarely, if ever, this accessible in English.
The work’s logical analysis of Tantric traditions visits its roots, components, rituals and development through the centuries. White states his goal “to reconstruct a history as well, perhaps, as a religious anthropology, a sociology, and a political economy of (mainly Hindu) Tantra, from the medieval period down to the present day.” Indeed, this is what his book accomplishes. Unlike other works focusing on a particular aspect of Tantra, White takes a holistic approach that includes texts, imagery, politics, art, architecture, social relationships and practice in his sources.
His linguistic abilities enabled him to include translated excerpts from more than 25 ancient Sanskrit works. He also references many modern sources that had me frequently returning to Amazon to order more books!
White’s creative vocabulary delights and stimulates; Acoustic phoneme, aestheticize, cosmeticized, countercasuistry, dissimulation, doctrine of radical nonduality, gerocomy, gnoseological, homologous, hegemonic, nondiscursive agglomerations, occulted, photeme, photic grapheme, polyvalence, postmodernisme oblige, semanticize, scholasticist, soteriology and typology are a few examples of the verbal tools he wields to make his finer points.
The resulting prose is necessarily dense; a complex treatment by an expert immersed in his topic. Most paragraphs cite multiple sources, all thoroughly described in his bibliography and copious endnotes. The book also includes more than 25 helpful illustrations that give visual representations of many concepts.
My only suggestion to improve future editions is that it would be helpful to add the following graphics:  Timelines – to illustrate chronological relationships of literary works, religious traditions and teachers referenced;  Hierarchical diagrams – to illustrate relationships among the multiple systems of gods, goddesses, demons, deities, yogis, yoginis, dakinis, etc. and;  Maps – to show geographical and temporal relationships in the spread of Tantric practices and related political systems.
Finally, I must comment on a few of the poor “reviews” of this work that sadly appear on Amazon. It is obvious that some people have not read the book. Like most fanatics, they leap to judge something they don’t care to accept or understand.
In his five page preface, and in many other chapters, White makes it quite clear that he is a scholar with tremendous respect for Indian and Hindu religious traditions. His years of investigative effort in original sources establish strong pedigrees of origin that, in fact, enhance the basis of these traditions. The only groups White directly criticizes are “New Age” proponents of Tantra who have hijacked Indian culture and distorted it for commercial gain in the West. His historically accurate report is no threat to any tradition based on truth.
Kent Davis is a US-based publisher, author and independent researcher specializing in Khmer studies with DatAsia, Inc. and Devata.org