Courtesans and Tantric Consorts: Sexualities in Buddhist Narrative, Iconography, and Ritual

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It is jataka No. Cowell, ed. The Amitayus Sutra is further discussed in chapter 13 herein. In the Suttavihhahga of the Vinaya Maudgalyayana is able to see the suffering of the dead and to understand its causes; trans.

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Horner as The Book of the Discipline, vol. I London: Pali Text Society, , , Tatelman, The Glorious Deeds of Puma, Similarly, the list of five unpardonable sins begins with matricide, followed by patricide, and then killing an arhat, and so on.

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Tatelman, The Glorious Deeds ofPurna, , emphasis added. Dipavamsa, trans. Hermann Oldenberg New Delhi: Asian Educational Services, , See also the shrine to filial piety in the Dazu Caves, which focus on the mother's intimate physical relationship to her children.

The ancient Indian medical text, the Susruta Samhita, states that "breast milk is secreted, and flows out at the touch, sight or thought of the child The Buddha is said to have been one of her sons. Cole, Mothers and Sons, Ruth S. Freed and Stanley A. Donald K. Gampopa, The Jewel Ornament of Liberation , trans. Guenther, Boston, MA: Shambhala, , Buddhism faces a dilemma.

Nevertheless, beings need to reincarnate in order to achieve enlightenment, and monastic institutions require the laity for financial support. Elaborate theories often arise from such incongruities, as can be seen in the following foray into Buddhist medical views of conception and the formation of sexual characteristics. The principal Tibetan medical text is the Four Tantras rGyud bZhi , 6 said to have been written in Sanskrit around c. It both asserts this theoretical approach to the patient and utilizes practical experience, such as hands-on examinations of pulses and urine, along with questioning the patient.

At the same time, the Tibetan experience of self includes: 1 the notion of past lives and the belief in future lives, 2 relationships with spiritual and natural beings of many different sorts, and 3 social arrangements that include family and clan members as an essential part of oneself. The modern Western isolation of a diseased organ from the rest of the body, 9 to say nothing of its isolation from the mind and emotions of the patient, as well as from the influences of spirits and of the cosmos, is inconceivable to a traditional Tibetan doctor. In this sense, even today many Tibetan doctors are believed to be tulkus Tib: sprul sku; Skt: nir- manakaya , reincarnations of spiritually advanced beings.

This means that to question the theory is to misunderstand reality; the theory is an eternal truth. Thus, the medical explanations put forth by the Four Tantras for the development of sexual characteristics offer profound insights into the Buddhist discourse on gender and sexuality. It begins by saying that the sex of the fetus is determined at several moments before and after conception, beginning with the three things necessary for conception: semen khu , blood khrag , and the consciousness :rNam shes of the being about to reincarnate.

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The mother's blood is said to develop the blood, muscles, and viscera of the embryo, while the father's semen develops the bone, brain, and spinal cord Plate 3, fourth row, figures four and five. More will be said about this in chapter Additionally, the male embryo curls up on the right side of the womb, the female on the left, while milk first appears in the right breast for a male and in the left for a female. Indeed, women are supposed to present only their right side to their husbands and other males.

What we see in the foregoing is the human proclivity to sustain various points-of-view simultaneously, even if they are contradictory. For instance, though karma is the first step in the determination of sex characteristics, karma can be altered by good deeds, such as making donations, and by performing religious acts such as circumambula- tions, and so on. It can only be practiced before the child's sexual organs have developed. It can even be done during the first or second week.

Courtesans and Tantric Consorts : Sexualities in Buddhist Narrative, Iconography, and Ritual

For anyone who wishes to have male descendants it is very important to practice this method. The best day is that on which the star rGyal [the eighth naksatra, pusya] and Jupiter meet, but at least it should be a day ruled by the star rGyal. On a subsequent day ruled by rGyal, one should heat the little figure in a charcoal fire for a little while, just until it changes its colour. Then one should take two handfuls of milk of a cow that has male calves and pour this into a vessel.

The husband takes one handful of this milk and gives it to his wife to drink. If these cannot be procured, red lhad-ts'er alloy application and quicksilver, pulverized by burning, grinding and pounding, can be used instead. Then a virgin boy should make a rope with three stands of the wool and make either one, three or five knots in it, according to the number of sheep used. The mother should tie this round her waist so that the two ends hang from the spot where her navel is. The figure should be wrapped into a female calf's skin and tied to the mother's rope, taking care to keep it always upright.

The combination of all these circumstances and materials specified, planets and constellations meeting together will certainly ensure a positive result. Needless to say, the text does not provide a ritual to assure a female embryo. The message is that it is females who can and who need to change sex, who must acquire masculinity, in order to achieve spiritual and social status. This is confirmed by practices to assure the transformation of females into males in the next life.

The physiology behind these ideas is complex, even contradictory. On the one hand, the medical texts present the human body as a male body. In other words, the male body is the normative body—an idea we will meet in an assortment of Buddhist texts. When one considers that the texts were written by men for male doctors and were studied in male monastic colleges, this becomes understandable, if not laudable.

Ideologically, though, the medical texts, their commentaries, and the iconographic display of their contents were immensely influential. Nonetheless, maleness is the ideal to be aspired to by all variants. Masculinity can be weakened by sexual contact with women or through contact with menstruating women. On the other hand, the medical texts clearly establish the difference between female and male as generated by different karma and in brief statements about women, such as defining them as those endowed with breasts and a womb and who menstruate and lactate.

The enactment of such beliefs is explored in chapter For instance: In the eleventh week. This misery of staying in a womb may be illustrated in another way. When a mother indulges too often in sexual intercourse during her pregnancy, the embryo feels as if it were beaten with thorns. In the thirty-eighth week, there arises in the mother's womb the so-called "flower gathering" me. This turns the foetus around and pushes it near the mouth of the womb.

It feels pain as if being damaged by iron machines. However, despite this emphasis on the male body and the male medical expert, the paintings contain many female deities as healers and protectors of the medical tradition, such as the culture heroine Yid Thogma Yid 'phrog ma , who traveled the world studying with human and divine medical teachers and whose knowledge was passed on to the semilegendary first doctor of Tibet, Yuthog. Charlotte Furth notes a similar female source for Chinese medical practices, especially those specific to women, such as gynecological practices.

The influence of these views on Buddhist fathers is the subject of the following chapter. His cult was widespread in Tibet; see Anthony Aris, ed. Abrams, , vol. Berkeley: University of California Press, , Discussed in Birnbaum, The Healing Buddha , especially Tashigangpa, Rechung Rinpoche, Tibetan Medicine, 48, has translated part of this text, though he drew on a slightly different manuscript than I have used.

Zysk, Asceticism and Healing, 3. Zysk, Asceticism and Healing, has persuasively argued for the early Buddhist influence on the ancient Indian medical texts, Sheridan New York: Random House, , , passim. Rechung, Tibetan Medicine, See also Paul, Women in Buddhism, , for more on the establishment of sex at conception. Even though Monier-Williams glosses vaidurya as "a cat's-eye gem," and the translators of Sangye Gyatso's commentary as "beryl," I am influenced in taking this as lapis lazuli by Raoul Birnbaum's discussion of lapis lazuli in The Healing Buddha, , and his translations of this term from Chinese texts, passim.

Aris has translated much of what follows somewhat out of sequence with the Leh edition that I used Vaidurya snon po, ed. Tashiganpa [Leh: ], vol. I, 25, and vol. II, For more information on the author of this text, Sangye Gyatso Sangs rgyas rGya mtsho, , regent of the Fifth Dalai Lama, an extremely important and very enigmatic figure, see D. Snellgrove and Hugh E. Aris, Tibetan Medical Paintings, vol. I, 25, col. Susruta Samhita, Manu voices the same ideas, III. I, 25, and Susruta Samhita, See also ff for similar ideas in India and China.

I, See Samuel's discussion in Civilized Shamans, Some of these will be discussed in chapter 12 herein. This ritual is remarkably similar to the pumsavana rite in the Caraka, 4. Primarily, though, I am influenced by conversations with Jo Ann McNamara who suggested the two sexual ideologies of a human continuum and binary opposites.

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Gampopa, The Jewel Ornament of Liberation, Both their biographies are contained in Rechungpa, Tibetan Medicine, Yid Thogma is discussed further herein, chapter 9. Furth, A Flourishing Yin, King Suddhodana, are far and few between. When he does appear, it is usually with Queen Maya, seated on a throne, listening to her dream being interpreted. Queen Maya's iconography is associated with two major events in the Buddha's life that are commemorated at two of his eight pilgrimage sites: his birth at Lumbini and his descent at Sam- kasya after having preached to her in Trayastrimsa heaven.

Suddhodana receives no such iconographic attention nor is he featured at any of the Buddha's pilgrimage sites, yet he is a larger presence in the texts than the Buddha's mother. This is not simply a matter of his having lived longer than Queen Maya. Stories and images of the Buddha's miraculous conception serve to distance King Suddhodana from his son. Though the texts accord him all the respect due Indian fathers, at the same time they emphasize his opposition to the Buddha's choice of a spiritual life from the moment of his conception through his adulthood.

The absence of Rahula's birth curiously parallels Suddhodana's absence in the Buddha's conception. In the LV the Buddha is neither fathered nor does any fathering. Further, it limits the Buddha's preaching to his mother in Trayastrimsa heaven to two stanzas XX. Nor does this text deny his siring the Buddha. It says Queen Maya dreamed of the elephant before she conceived, and that she conceived "without defilement" 1.