Charming Cadavers: Horrific Figurations of the Feminine in Indian Buddhist Hagiographic Literature

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University of Chicago Press, Dec 1, 1996 - Religion - 258 pages
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In this highly original study of sexuality, desire, the body, and women,
Liz Wilson investigates first-millennium Buddhist notions of
spirituality. She argues that despite the marginal role women played in
monastic life, they occupied a very conspicuous place in Buddhist
hagiographic literature. In narratives used for the edification of
Buddhist monks, women's bodies in decay (diseased, dying, and after
death) served as a central object for meditation, inspiring spiritual
growth through sexual abstention and repulsion in the immediate world.

Taking up a set of universal concerns connected with the representation
of women, Wilson displays the pervasiveness of androcentrism in Buddhist
literature and practice. She also makes persuasive use of recent
historical work on the religious lives of women in medieval
Christianity, finding common ground in the role of miraculous
afflictions.

This lively and readable study brings provocative new tools and insights
to the study of women in religious life.


 

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Contents

Introduction
1
Object Lessons
3
Was the Buddha a Feminist?
5
Seeing Through the Gendered I
12
Celibacy and the Social World
15
Horrific Figurations of the Feminine
17
Celibacy in the Life of the Sangha
19
Early Records of the Celibate Life
20
The Duplicity of the Female Body
93
Punishment as Horrific Transformation
95
Horrific Figurations of the Masculine?
105
Womanly Wiles and the Cunning of the Buddha
109
Lead Us Now Into Temptation Countering Samsaric Duplicity with Dharmic Deceptions
111
Do the Buddhas Lie?
115
Salvific Stratagems
117
Illusions That Bespeak Reality
122

Sex and the Social World
24
Householders Hell
27
The Buddha as a Family Man
29
Father Knows Best
32
Mara and His Minions versus the Sons and Daughters of the Buddha
33
Whos Afraid of Maras Daughters?
37
Like a Boil with Nine Openings Buddhist Constructions of the Body and Their South Asian Milieu
41
Aversion and Liberation
43
Ways to Discern the Bodys Foulness
46
Anatomy and Impurity in Brahminical Thought
48
A Brahminicized Buddhism?
50
Desire and Loathing Strangely Mixed
57
Bliss and Bondage in the Harem
63
Samsara as a Mantrap
70
Marooned on Vampire Island
71
False Advertising Exposed Horrific Figurations of the Feminine in Pali Hagiography
77
Horrific Transformations Set in Cremation Grounds
82
Cremation as Horrific Transformation
90
The Womanly Wiles of the Buddhas
124
The Binding of Mara with Magic
126
He Who Feeds on Death That Feeds on Men Possesses Life
130
Not a Magician but an XRay Technician
136
Seeing Through the Gendered I The Nuns Story
141
The Status of Women in the Sangha
143
Womens Ordination as a Process of Mortification
148
Female Phantasms as Aids to Womens SelfObjectification
157
SelfDenigrating and SelfDisfiguring Practices in the Life of the Bhikkhuni Sangha
164
The Heroics of Virginity
169
The Heroics of Virginity versus the Heroics of Pedagogy
174
Conclusion
181
The PostAsokan Milieu
185
Notes
195
Selected Bibliography
245
Index
255
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