“Whose Womb Shall I Enter Today?”

Reiko Ohnuma

in Ties That Bind

Published in print July 2012 | ISBN: 9780199915651
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199950058 | DOI:
“Whose Womb Shall I Enter Today?”

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This chapter, together with the following 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 and complex 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 depiction of Māyā as an idealized birth-giver by looking at the traditions surrounding the Buddha’s gestation and birth. A comparison with Mary as the mother of Jesus is also included.

Keywords: Buddha’s mothers; Māyā; Mahāprajāpatī; Buddha’s birth; Mary

Chapter.  8364 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Buddhism

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