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Family Matters in Indian Buddhist Monasticisms

Family Matters in Indian Buddhist Monasticisms

Shayne Clarke
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 296
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    Family Matters in Indian Buddhist Monasticisms
    Book Description:

    Scholarly and popular consensus has painted a picture of Indian Buddhist monasticism in which monks and nuns severed all ties with their families when they left home for the religious life. In this view, monks and nuns remained celibate, and those who faltered in their "vows" of monastic celibacy were immediately and irrevocably expelled from the Buddhist Order. This romanticized image is based largely on the ascetic rhetoric of texts such as theRhinoceros Horn Sutra. Through a study of Indian Buddhist law codes (vinaya), Shayne Clarke dehorns the rhinoceros, revealing that in their own legal narratives, far from renouncing familial ties, Indian Buddhist writers take for granted the fact that monks and nuns would remain in contact with their families.The vision of the monastic life that emerges from Clarke's close reading of monastic law codes challenges some of our most basic scholarly notions of what it meant to be a Buddhist monk or nun in India around the turn of the Common Era. Not only do we see thick narratives depicting monks and nuns continuing to interact and associate with their families, but some are described as leaving home for the religious life with their children, and some as married monastic couples. Clarke argues that renunciation with or as a family is tightly woven into the very fabric of Indian Buddhist renunciation and monasticisms.Surveying the still largely uncharted terrain of Indian Buddhist monastic law codes preserved in Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Chinese, Clarke provides a comprehensive, pan-Indian picture of Buddhist monastic attitudes toward family. Whereas scholars have often assumed that monastic Buddhism must be anti-familial, he demonstrates that these assumptions were clearly not shared by the authors/redactors of Indian Buddhist monastic law codes. In challenging us to reconsider some of our most cherished assumptions concerning Indian Buddhist monasticisms, he provides a basis to rethink later forms of Buddhist monasticism such as those found in Central Asia, Kaśmīr, Nepal, and Tibet not in terms of corruption and decline but of continuity and development of a monastic or renunciant ideal that we have yet to understand fully.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-4007-5
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Conventions
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. Chapter One The Rhinoceros in the Room: Monks and Nuns and Their Families
    (pp. 1-36)

    This series of four rules introduces monastic legislation to accommodate any pregnant nuns who give birth to baby boys within Indian Buddhist nunneries. Translated here from theMahīśāsakavinaya, an Indian Buddhist monastic law code (vinaya) preserved in a fifth-century C.E. Chinese translation, the narrative recounts how a particular Buddhist “nun,” abhikṣuṇī,² gave birth to a baby boy. Without any explicit or even implicit criticism of the birth of a son to an ordained Buddhist nun, the authors or redactors of this monastic law code, canonical Indian Buddhist jurists, put into the mouth of the Buddha a series of rules...

  7. Chapter Two Family Matters
    (pp. 37-77)

    The present chapter establishes a foundation for our inquiry into the place of family in the narrative landscape of Indian Buddhist monastic law codes. In Section 1, I survey the corpus of Indian Buddhist inscriptions. The epigraphical record is our earliest datable evidence for how a range of Indian Buddhists viewed themselves and the world around them. Here we find references to monastics making religious donations together with brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, mothers and fathers. These inscriptions provide us with the first hints of continued interaction between Buddhist monastics and their biological kin in India outside canonical Buddhist...

  8. Chapter Three Former Wives from Former Lives
    (pp. 78-119)

    In the preceding chapter, I suggested that for the authors/redactors of Indian Buddhist monastic law codes, embarking on the religious life did not require the severance of all familial ties. Indeed, numerous monastic narratives are predicated on the assumption that monks and nuns would have continued interaction with their families. Moreover, I argued that leaving home is not to be confused with abandoning or even necessarily leaving one’s family. In the narrative world of the monastic codes, men and women sometimes left home for the religious lifeas a family.

    In this chapter, my aim is to explore the contours...

  9. Chapter Four Nuns Who Become Pregnant
    (pp. 120-149)

    We begin our discussion of monastic motherhood, in Section 1, by looking at what the authors/redactors of the extant monastic law codes have to say about the ordination of pregnant women. Taking our cue from work on modern legal theory, we will examine the nature of these rules, and this will allow us to identify a distinction recognized both in legal theory and Buddhist monastic law: the distinction between prohibition and rule of law.

    In Section 2, we look at the rules in their narrative context in theDharmaguptaka-vinaya, the onlyvinayastill used to govern monastic communities in which...

  10. Chapter Five Reconsidering Renunciation: Family-Friendly Monasticisms
    (pp. 150-170)

    The picture that emerges from this study stands in stark contrast to much we have been told about the familial and marital relationships of Buddhist monks and nuns in India. Buddhist monks and nuns, we are told, went forth from home into homelessness. Scholars have generally understood this literally. World renunciation has been taken to imply, if not entail, that monastics severed all ties with kith and kin, that monastics were socially dead. The case, however, has never been set forth adequately, much less proven; the vital step between assertion and acceptance seems to have been overlooked. In the present...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 171-228)
  12. Works Consulted
    (pp. 229-262)
  13. Index of Texts
    (pp. 263-266)
  14. Index of Authors/Subjects
    (pp. 267-276)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 277-281)