Beginning with the biographies of the Buddha, this study has examined Buddhist practices and beliefs about gender, sexuality, and family life primarily as they are revealed in biographical texts, iconography, and rituals. Sexuality was examined both from within family life among wives and husbands and outside of it among courtesans and tantric practitioners. Attitudes toward procreation and the parent/child relationship were also explored in terms of medical theory, rituals, and the ideology of karma. This exploration of what it meant and continues to mean to be Buddhist, gendered, and sexual has revealed anxieties about the stability of masculinity and argued that the symbolic inclusion of femaleness was accompanied by the actual exclusion of real women.
My focus has been on women, but this inevitably led to men, revealing male fears of female sexuality and pollution, and anxieties about the loss of masculinity. We have seen the early celebration of women's auspicious powers of procreation in the iconography of the Buddha's mother, Queen Māyā, its later elaboration in narratives about courtesans and female tantric consorts, and its apotheosis inākinīs, goddesses and female celestial bodhisattvas. In tandem with these articulations about women and the feminine we have seen ambivalent expressions of male reproductive power in ideas about fatherhood beginning with the Buddha's father, King Śuddhodana, the Buddha himself as father, and its apotheosis in the notion of the spiritual father, the guru.
Additional gendered themes surfaced in the abundant literature on sex change, lands without men, and heavens without women. These presented negative images of womanhood, and fractured images of