“She Is the Mother and Begetter of the Conquerors”

Reiko Ohnuma

in Ties That Bind

Published in print July 2012 | ISBN: 9780199915651
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199950058 | DOI:
“She Is the Mother and Begetter of the Conquerors”

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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

Chapter.  12576 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Buddhism

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