Sunday, May 14, 2017

Did the Buddha love his mother?

Dhr. Seven and Amber Larson, Wisdom Quarterly

Shakya Land (Scythia) at left
In her excellent Tricycle article, Wendy Garling sounds like she is about to go off the rails, not realizing that the sexism Buddhism developed was not there in the beginning. The Buddha lived one way, overcoming the biases of his day and cultures (born in modern-day Scythia or Afghanistan to the west of "India" and teaching in Magadha and other neighboring allied kingdoms which only became "India" as we think of it with the advent of the Buddhist Emperor Asoka). Buddhists lived another, and even enlightenment did not remove all of their residual biases, just attachment to them. The Buddha's enlightenment was a kind known as supreme-enlightenment (samma-sam-buddhahood), whereas disciples awakened with their personalities and quirks intact but right view regarding the most important things: the impersonal, impermanent, and unsatisfactory nature of all phenomena and a thorough penetration of the Four Noble Truths, "noble" because they are ennobling.
Did the Buddha love his mother?
Queen Maya on her way to her parents gives birth in Lumbini standing, holding a sal tree
The illusory beauty Queen Maya (Maha Maya Devi) dreams of conception with royal symbols.
Of course young Prince Siddhartha Gotama loved his mother, Queen Maya Gotami. But that is not the question.

Queen Maya gives birth standing
She died a week after his birth. His father, King Suddhodana, chief of the Indo-Scythians/Shakya Clan/Sakas, had other wives. The palace included Queen Maya's sister and co-wife Pajapati Gotami (Sanskrit, Prajapati Gautami).

Pajapati is famous in the early Buddhist Pali language texts of the Theravada tradition not only because she loved and raised Prince Siddhartha but because she was the first woman in history to be allowed to become a Buddhist nun.

The question is, What happened to Queen Maya? And while Siddhartha loved his foster mother, did the supremely-enlightened Buddha (which is who Siddhartha became when he awakened) love Maya?
Afghanistan/Shakya Land upper left
The Shakyian/Scythian/Saka queen, having passed away seven days after the birth of the Prince Siddhartha, had been reborn in Sakka's celestial world, the "World of the Thirty-Three" (Tavatimsa). 
  • Imagine that! The warrior Sakas' titular god was a deva was a celestial-ruler and King of Kings Sakka? [Sakka not only was the most eminent deva, the "Lord of Lords," among the 33 in the "World of the Thirty-Three" devas but was at the same time the "King of Kings" of the next lower space plane, the "Realm of the Four Great Space Kings" (Catu-maha-rajika deva loka) of the four cardinal directions in the sky.]
Burmese Theravada Buddhist depiction of the Four Great Sky Kings of the quarters (W)
From there she saw Siddhartha grow into a young man, marry at 16, become a father at 29, renounce the world and become a wandering ascetic on the same day, and awaken to buddhahood at 35.
Now completely detached, risen above bias and affection for friends and family, did the Buddha still love his biological mother?

The aunt who raised Prince Siddhartha
Yes, he was so grateful to her and loved her so much that he traveled to the World of the Thirty-Three expressly to teach her the Dharma -- that is, the "Path to Liberation" he had discovered that makes an end of all rebirth and suffering.
He repeatedly visited that "heavenly" world and proclaimed the "Higher Teaching" (Abhidharma) to the devas ("shining ones") living there, particularly the beautiful Maya now reborn as a deva (a devaputra, lit. a "son of god" more correctly "offspring of the devas").

Yes, the Buddha loved his mother, both of them.
The Saka Queen in Sakka's Heaven
Ven. Nyanaponika from The Life of Sariputta adapted by Wisdom Quarterly
One of the most important contributions made by the Venerable Sariputra to the Buddhist Teaching is that, according to tradition (e.g., in the Atthasalini), the Buddha preached the "Higher Doctrine" or "Ultimate Teaching" (Abhidharma) in Tavatimsa heaven to his biological mother, Queen Maya, who had been reborn as a deva in that world after passing away from this world.

The Buddha did this for three months. When returning to earth from that celestial plane daily for his meals, the Buddha gave Ven. Sariputra the "method" (naya) of the portion of Abhidharma he had taught.

The Atthasalini says: "Thus the giving of the method was to the chief disciple, who was endowed with analytical knowledge, as though the Buddha stood on the edge of the shore and pointed out the ocean with his open hand. To the elder the doctrine taught by the Blessed One in hundreds and thousands of methods became very clear." Thereafter, the elder passed on what he had learned to his five hundred disciples.
Further it is said: "The textual order of the Abhidhamma originated with Sariputra; the numerical series in the Great Book (Patthana) was also determined by him. In this way the elder, without spoiling the unique doctrine, laid down the numerical series in order to make it easy to learn, remember, study, and teach the Dharma."
The Atthasalini, the Commentary to the Dhammasangani, also ascribes to Ven. Sariputra the following contributions to the canonical Abhidharma:
(a) the 42 couplets (dyads, duka) of the Suttanta Matika, which follows the Abhidhamma Matika, both of which preface the seven Abhidhamma books. The 42 Suttanta couplets are explained in the Dhammasangani and this likewise has probably to be ascribed to the Elder. (b) the fourth and last part of the Dhammasangani, the Atthuddhara-kanda, or "synopsis."
(c) the arrangement for the recitation of the Abhidhamma (vacanamagga).
(d) the Numerical Section (gañanacara) of the Patthana.
In the Anupada Sutra (MN 111) the Buddha himself speaks of Ven. Sariputra's analysis of meditative consciousness into its chief mental concomitants, which the elder undertook from his own experience, after rising from each of the meditative attainments in succession.

This analysis may well be either a precursor or an abridgment of the detailed analysis of absorption (jhana) consciousness given in the Dhammasangani. More
Would it be better to give birth to a buddha and go to heaven or stay on earth and become an enlightened nun, paving the way for other women to enter the Buddha's Female Order?

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