Ties That Bind: Maternal Imagery and Discourse in Indian Buddhism

Paperback | July 13, 2012

byReiko Ohnuma

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Reiko Ohnuma offers a wide-ranging exploration of maternal imagery and discourse in pre-modern South Asian Buddhism, drawing on textual sources preserved in Pali and Sanskrit. She demonstrates that Buddhism in India had a complex and ambivalent relationship with mothers andmotherhood-symbolically, affectively, and institutionally. Symbolically, motherhood was a double-edged sword, sometimes extolled as the most appropriate symbol for buddhahood itself, and sometimes denigrated as the most paradigmatic manifestation possible of attachment and suffering. On an affective level, too, motherhood was viewed with the sameambivalence: in Buddhist literature, warm feelings of love and gratitude for the mother's nurturance and care frequently mingle with submerged feelings of hostility and resentment for the unbreakable obligations thus created, and positive images of self-sacrificing mothers are counterbalanced byhorrific depictions of mothers who kill and devour. Institutionally, the formal definition of the Buddhist renunciant as one who has severed all familial ties seems to co-exist uneasily with an abundance of historical evidence demonstrating monks' and nuns' continuing concern for their mothers, aswell as other familial entanglements. Ohnuma's study provides critical insight into Buddhist depictions of maternal love and maternal grief, the role played by the Buddha's own mothers, Maya and Mahaprajapati, the use of pregnancy and gestation as metaphors for the attainment of enlightenment, the use of breastfeeding as a metaphor forthe compassionate deeds of buddhas and bodhisattvas, and the relationship between Buddhism and motherhood as it actually existed in day-to-day life.

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Reiko Ohnuma offers a wide-ranging exploration of maternal imagery and discourse in pre-modern South Asian Buddhism, drawing on textual sources preserved in Pali and Sanskrit. She demonstrates that Buddhism in India had a complex and ambivalent relationship with mothers andmotherhood-symbolically, affectively, and institutionally. Symb...

Reiko Ohnuma is Associate Professor of Religion at Dartmouth College.

other books by Reiko Ohnuma

Format:PaperbackDimensions:288 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.68 inPublished:July 13, 2012Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199915679

ISBN - 13:9780199915675

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Table of Contents

List of IllustrationsConventionsAcknowledgmentsIntroduction1. ''A Mother's Heart is Tender'': Buddhist Depictions of Mother-Love2. ''Whose Heart Was Maddened by the Loss of Her Child'': Mothers in Grief3. ''Whose Womb Shall I Enter Today?'': Maya as Idealized Birth-Giver4. ''Who Breast-Fed the Blessed One After His Mother Had Died'': Nurturance, Guilt, and Debt in the Traditions Surrounding Mahaprajapati5. ''Short-Lived'' versus ''Long-Standing''; Maya and Mahaprajapati Compared6. ''She is the Mother and Begetter of the Conquerors'': Pregnancy, Gestation, and Enlightenment7. ''Just as a Mother's Milk Flows From Her Breasts'': Breastfeeding and Compassionate Deeds8. ''What Here is the Merit, May That Be For My Parents'': Motherhood On the GroundConclusionAbbreviationsBibliographyIndex