Stars at Dawn: Forgotten Stories of Women in the Buddha's Life

Stars at Dawn: Forgotten Stories of Women in the Buddha's Life

by Wendy Garling


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A contemporary and provocative examination of the life of the Buddha highlighting the influence of women from his journey to awakening through his teaching career--based on overlooked or neglected stories from ancient source material. 

In this retelling of the ancient legends of the women in the Buddha’s intimate circle, lesser-known stories from Sanskrit and Pali sources are for the first time woven into an illuminating, coherent narrative that follows his life from his birth to his parinirvana or death. Interspersed with original insights, fresh interpretations, and bold challenges to the status quo, the stories are both entertaining and thought-provoking—some may even appear controversial. Focusing first on laywomen from the time before the Buddha’s enlightenment—his birth mother and stepmother, his co-wives, and members of his harem when he was known as Prince Siddhartha—then moving on to the Buddha’s first female disciples, early nuns, and to female patrons, Wendy Garling invites us to open our minds to a new understanding of their roles.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781611802658
Publisher: Shambhala
Publication date: 08/30/2016
Pages: 328
Sales rank: 714,712
Product dimensions: 6.02(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.86(d)

About the Author

Wendy Garling is a writer, mother, Buddhist practitioner, and independent scholar with a BA from Wellesley College and MA in Sanskrit language and literature from the University of California, Berkeley. She is an authorized dharma teacher and has taught women’s spirituality with a focus on the sacred feminine and women’s stories for many years.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction 1

1 Maya, Mother of the Buddha 17

A Shakya Girl 19

Maya's Wedding 24

A Queen in Kapilavastu 27

On Conceiving a Bodhisattva 31

The Bodhisattva in Utero: Maya's Pregnancy 39

The Journey to Lumbini's Grove 46

Buddha's Birth, Maya's Death 53

2 Mahaprajapati, Goddesses, and Growing Up in the Harem 62

Who Will Be My Mother? 63

The Voice of the Goddess 65

Childhood Stories 71

The Harem as Family 74

3 Yashodhara, Mrigi Gautami, and the Harem Wives 78

Courtship in Kapilavastu 79

Who Is Yashodhara? 83

Yashodhara and Siddhartha 84

Yashodhara in the Jataka Tales 90

Junior Wives 92

The Mysterious Kisa Gautami 95

Kisa Gautami as Mrigi in the Mahavastu 101

Mrigi Gautami: A Reconstructed and Imagined Biography 104

4 The Great Departure: A Family Affair 107

Tension in the Palace 109

Mahaprajapati Takes Charge 119

Brotherly Advice 122

The Harem as Muse 125

Yashodhara's Dreams 132

The Great Departure 135

Sadness in Kapilavastu 143

5 En Route to the Bodhi Tree 155

A Mendicant Begins His Journey 157

Gautama's Extreme Austerities 162

On Finding the Middle Way 167

Meetings with Sujata 169

Two Sisters and the Rice Milk 180

Further Symbols of the Sacred Feminine 182

Under the Bodhi Tree 185

6 Return to Kapilavastu 196

The First Female Disciples 196

Yashodhara's Pregnancy 201

The Rape of Yashodhara 210

Reunion of Suddhodana and His Son 212

Mahaprajapati's Tears 216

Rahula Meets His Father 220

7 Women during the Buddha's Ministry 229

Suddhodana's Death 230

Taking Ordination: Mahaprajapati, Yashodhara and the Five Hundred Women 232

Visakha, Chief among Lay women 243

The Deaths of Buddhism's First Nuns 254

Maya's Conversion, the Demise of the Shakyas, and Amrapali 264

Women at the Buddha's Parinirvana 270

Notes 276

Annotated Bibliography of the Ten Principal Primary Sources 294

General Bibliography 297

About the Author 303

Index 304

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