Mothers and Sons in Chinese Buddhism

Mothers and Sons in Chinese Buddhism

Mothers and Sons in Chinese Buddhism

Mothers and Sons in Chinese Buddhism

Synopsis

Taking an alternative approach to the history of Buddhism, this book describes how Buddhist authors reorganized family values in China. It covers readings of more than 20 Buddhist texts written in China between the 5th and the 13th century.

Excerpt

This is a study of Buddhist family propaganda as it evolved in medieval China from the fourth to the thirteenth century. This propaganda, written primarily in apocryphal sutras, scripted new norms for the family and, in particular, sought to bind the family to the monastery in a symbiotic relationship. I refer to these texts as propaganda because "propaganda," with its root in the Latin propages ("offspring"), hints at the parallel between the reproduction of ideologies and biological reproduc- tion, both of which propel definitive modes of life forward in time. This connection is particularly germane because Buddhist propagandists became intensely interested in reproduction in all its aspects.

At the core of Buddhist family propaganda are the notions of sin and the threat of other-worldly punishment--concepts not prominent in Chi- nese literature prior to the arrival of Buddhism. Although pre-Buddhist texts suggest vague beliefs in post-mortem retribution, there was no pre- cisely punitive moral system, as is found in Buddhist cosmology. China also lacked a monastic tradition and the correlate ethic of supporting a public religious institution. Thus for Buddhism to take root in China, the Chinese had to be convinced of a circle of meaning based on the reality of sin, its tortuous effects, and the monasteries' claim to be the only ave- nue available for overcoming those sins.

What has not been noted thus far is that much of the Buddhist literature on sin came to focus on the family and its principal function--reproduction. Buddhist authors drew on nearly all aspects of reproduction--includ- ing conception, pregnancy, childbirth, breast-feeding, and child care--to . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.