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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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“She Is the Mother and Begetter of the Conquerors”

“She Is the Mother and Begetter of the Conquerors”

Pregnancy, Gestation, and Enlightenment

(p.134) 6 “She Is the Mother and Begetter of the Conquerors”
Ties That Bind

Reiko Ohnuma

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the use of pregnancy and gestation as metaphors for the attainment of buddhahood by looking at five different “metaphorical pregnancies” that define the Buddhist path. Two of these come from the life story of the Buddha—the episode involving Sujātā’s offering of milk-rice to the bodhisattva just prior to his attainment of buddhahood, and the parallel drawn (in some sources) between the bodhisattva’s attainment of buddhahood and his wife Yaśodharā’s pregnancy with their son Rāhula. Three more instances of the imagery of pregnancy come from general Mahāyāna discourse: the imagery of the bodhisattva as a pregnant woman, the notion of Prajñāpāramitā (the Perfection of Wisdom) as the Mother of all buddhas, and the notion of tathāgata-garbha (“buddha-womb” or “buddha-embryo”). The chapter concludes by arguing that Buddhism appropriates the reproductive functions of the mother to assert and strengthen the link between spiritual fathers and their spiritual sons.

Keywords:   pregnancy, gestation, Sujātā, Yaśodharā, Rāhula, Prajñāpāramitā, Perfection of Wisdom, tathāgata-garbha, buddha-womb

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