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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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“Short-Lived” versus “Long-Standing”

“Short-Lived” versus “Long-Standing”

Māyā and Mahāprajāpatī Compared

(p.113) 5 “Short-Lived” versus “Long-Standing”
Ties That Bind

Reiko Ohnuma

Oxford University Press

This chapter, together with the previous two, 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 looks at several contexts in which the two mothers are depicted as mothers in grief and develops the argument that Māyā is a spiritually stunted creature, precisely because she is reduced to her motherhood, whereas Mahāprajāpatī stands for women’s full autonomy and subjectivity and serves as a vindication of women’s spiritual potential.

Keywords:   Buddha’s mothers, Māyā, Mahāprajāpatī, women’s autonomy, spiritual potential, maternal grief

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