“Whose Heart Was Maddened by the Loss of Her Child”

Reiko Ohnuma

in Ties That Bind

Published in print July 2012 | ISBN: 9780199915651
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199950058 | DOI:
“Whose Heart Was Maddened by the Loss of Her Child”

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This chapter argues that Buddhist literature presents the grieving mother who has lost her child to death as a privileged emblem or iconic embodiment of the suffering of samsara and often contrasts the hysterical, grieving mother with the calm and dispassionate monk. Yet Buddhism also provides the grieving mother with an opportunity for true religious transformation. Several different Buddhist depictions of the religious transformation of the mother in grief are examined, including the various grieving mothers of the Therīgāthā (such as Ubbirī, Paṭācārā, Kisā Gotamī, Vaḍḍhamātā, and Vāsiṭṭhī) and the Buddhist traditions surrounding the local goddess known as Hārītī. This chapter draws on the work of Susan Starr Sered and the contrast she has drawn between the treatment of maternal grief within dominant, patriarchal religions and within smaller, women-dominated religious traditions.

Keywords: maternal grief; Therīgāthā; Ubbirī; Paṭācārā; Kisā Gotamī; Vaḍḍhamātā; Vāsiṭṭhī; Hārītī; Susan Starr Sered; women’s religion

Chapter.  12391 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Buddhism

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