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Family in Buddhism

Liz Wilson

Publication Year: 2013

A wide-ranging exploration of Buddhism and family in Asia—from biological families to families created in monasteries.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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1 Introduction

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pp. 1-18

The familial ties that bind us in kinship networks are some of the most powerful social forces operating in our lives. Obligations to one’s kin can promote both virtue and vice, and they can both empower and disempower individuals in relation to one another. Family membership imposes obligations on social actors. Just as peer pressure motivates children in classrooms, the ...

Part I Historical Families,Imagined Families

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2 Serving the Emperor by Serving the Buddha

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pp. 21-42

The status of Buddhist monasticism in premodern Japan has never been simple. While the rhetoric of renunciation dominated discourse on monasticism in Japan before the Meiji period (1868–1912), making it seem as if taking the tonsure entailed complete detachment from family, friends, and state, premodern Japanese monasticism was actually quite diverse. There were vital traditions of clerical practice that entailed maintaining one’s involvement...

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3 The Tantric Family Romance

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pp. 43-66

Beginning in the late seventh century, the “cutting edge” of Indian Buddhist scriptural production consisted of the closely related genres of Mahāyoga and Yoginī tantras. Texts included in these doxographical categories, such as the Guhyasamāja, Cakrasamvara, and Hevajra tantras, were notorious both for their descriptions of sexual practices, as well as their frequent description...

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4 Bone and Heart Sons

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pp. 67-88

The concept of family lineage—the transmission of religious authority through hereditary ties—has a long history in Tibetan culture. It has been marginalized in mainstream studies of Tibetan Buddhism due to the dominance of large celibate monasteries in different parts of the Tibetan plateau and the surrounding Himalayas. However, despite popular perceptions of these forms of Buddhism as antagonistic, Tibetan monasteries have not ...

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5 Families Matter

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pp. 89-116

On March 28, 2004, I attended a lower ordination (pabbajjā) ceremony that was held at a temple in upcountry Sri Lanka where seventeen boys ranging from eight to eighteen years old became novices. As is customary, the head monk of the temple preached a sermon immediately following the boys’ entrance into the monastic order or sangha. Making reference to the merit associated with the ordination of a child, the head monk said: “There is a...

Part II Parents and Children

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6 The Passion of Mulian’s Mother

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pp. 119-146

Chinese Buddhism stands out as an unusual religion in that it asserts that all mothers go to hell.1 Now, it is not the case that Buddhists in China always said this. Rather, this piece of religious terror became widespread in the wake of a series of texts dedicated to the topic that first began showing up in the sixth century and were then expanded rather significantly in the Tang ...

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7 Māyā’s Disappearing Act

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pp. 147-168

Many have noted that motherhood is venerated and extolled in Buddhist writings, but at the same time mothers themselves are slotted to the lowest rungs of the spiritual ladder, functioning as emblems of attachment and human suffering.1 Sponberg argues that such paradoxical portrayals of women may be evidence of the multiple voices of the tradition,2 but it is also...

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8 Mother as Character Coach

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pp. 169-186

In contemporary medical settings, the fetus is visible to our naked eyes in ways that our ancestors probably never imagined. Some contemporary feminist scholars assert that the hypervisibility of today’s fetus is linked with the elision of the maternal body and marginalization of maternal agency. These scholars have raised questions about the extent to which fetal agency now...

Part III Wives and Husbands

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9 Yasodharā in the Buddhist Imagination

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pp. 189-204

This chapter explores representations of the Buddha’s wife Yasodharā (sometimes known as Bimbā) in Pali and Sinhala literature with a focus on how in popular Sinhala works Yasodharā emerges as a distinct personality with a viewpoint of her own.1 Like the bodhisattva , who, over many eons, was born, died, and reborn a countless number of times, Yasodharā too went ...

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10 Evangelizing the Happily Married Man through Low Talk

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pp. 205-236

According to classicist Mabel Lang, who studied ancient graffiti in Athens’ agora, “one of the very earliest uses to which the art of writing was put, along with alphabetic exercises and marks of ownership, was sexual insult and obscenity.”1 Plato and Aristotle both criticized the use of obscene language in religious ceremony, ordinary conversation, public censure, and works of literature, intimating, of course, its regular occurrence in those very contexts.2 ...

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11 Runaway Brides

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pp. 237-252

Stories have been employed by every society historically known to us, both present and past. Not only do stories function as a form of entertainment, but perhaps more importantly, they may also serve as a means of transmission, a method of explanation, a source of identity, a foundation of legitimacy, and a pool of collective memory. Of course exactly what is transmitted, explained, identified, legitimatized, and/or remembered depends on the type of story....

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12 The Priesthood as a Family Trade

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pp. 253-276

Buddhists in other parts of Asia have been known to look askance at Japa-nese monks, who, unlike clerics in most of Buddhist Asia, openly engage in marriage and family life. In a recent textbook on Japanese Buddhism, Kenji Matsuo recalls how foreign students enrolled in his Japanese culture courses (especially those from Southeast Asia) consistently approached him with the Matsuo says that he first responded by repeating conventional wisdom ...


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pp. 277-280


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pp. 281-290

Back Cover

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p. BC-BC

E-ISBN-13: 9781438447544
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438447537

Page Count: 298
Publication Year: 2013