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Ties That BindMaternal Imagery and Discourse in Indian Buddhism$
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Reiko Ohnuma

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199915651

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199915651.001.0001

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“Who Breastfed the Blessed One after His Mother Had Died”

“Who Breastfed the Blessed One after His Mother Had Died”

Nurturance, Guilt, and Debt in the Traditions Surrounding Mahāprajāpatī

(p.86) 4 “Who Breastfed the Blessed One after His Mother Had Died”
Ties That Bind

Reiko Ohnuma

Oxford University Press

This chapter, together with the previous and the following, presents the argument that the Buddhist tradition has consciously shaped the two mothers of the Buddha, Māyā and Mahāprajāpatī, into a contrasting pair, using this pair to explore the nature of motherhood in a highly imaginative fashion. The argument, in brief, is that Māyā is highly idealized as a perfect embodiment of the Maternal Function, yet this idealization comes at the expense of her spiritual potential; by contrast, Mahāprajāpatī is treated ambivalently and sometimes negatively, yet this is the result of granting her her spiritual potential. More particularly, this chapter focuses on the ambivalent depiction of Mahāprajāpatī as the mother who survives into the son’s adulthood, thus resulting in both guilt when the son renounces the world, and an unresolved debt that the son is obligated to repay, and whose repayment is explicitly linked to the establishment of an order of nuns.

Keywords:   Buddha’s mothers, Māyā, Mahāprajāpatī, order of nuns, Maternal Function, guilt, debt

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