Family in Buddhism

Edited by Liz Wilson

Subjects: Buddhism, Religion, Asian Studies, Asian Religion And Philosophy, India And South Asian Studies
Paperback : 9781438447520, 298 pages, July 2014
Hardcover : 9781438447537, 298 pages, August 2013

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Table of contents

1. Introduction: Family and the Construction of Religious Communities
Liz Wilson
Part I. Historical Families, Imagined Families
2. Serving the Emperor by Serving the Buddha: Imperial Buddhist Monks and Nuns and Abbots, Abbesses, and Adoptees in Early Modern Japan
Gina Cogan
3. The Tantric Family Romance: Sex and the Construction of Social Identity in Tantric Buddhist Ritual
David Gray
4. Bone and Heart Sons: Biological and Imagined Kin in the Creation of Family Lineage in Tibetan Buddhism
Amy Holmes-Tagchungdarpa
5. Families Matter: Ambiguous Attitudes toward Child Ordination in Contemporary Sri Lanka
Jeffrey Samuels
Part II. Parents and Children
6. The Passion of Mulian’s Mother: Narrative Blood and Maternal Sacrifices in Chinese Buddhism
Alan Cole
7. Māyā’s Disappearing Act: Motherhood in Early Buddhist Literature
Vanessa R. Sasson
8. Mother as Character Coach: Maternal Agency in the Birth of Sīvali
Liz Wilson
Part III. Wives and Husbands
9. Yasodharā in the Buddhist Imagination: Three Portraits Spanning the Centuries
Ranjini Obeyesekere
10. Evangelizing the Happily Married Man through Low Talk: On Sexual and Scatological Language in the Buddhist Tale of Nanda
Amy Paris Langenberg
11. Runaway Brides: Tensions Surrounding Marital Expectations in the Avadānaśataka
Phillip Green
12. The Priesthood as a Family Trade: Reconsidering Monastic Marriage in Premodern Japan
Lori Meeks

A wide-ranging exploration of Buddhism and family in Asia--from biological families to families created in monasteries.


The Buddha left his home and family and enjoined his followers to go forth and "become homeless." With a traditionally celibate clergy, Asian Buddhism is often regarded as a world-renouncing religion inimical to family life. This edited volume counters this view, showing how Asian Buddhists in a wide range of historical and geographical circumstances relate as kin to their biological families and to the religious families they join. Using contemporary and historical case studies as well as textual examples, contributors explore how Asian Buddhists invoke family ties in the intentional communities they create and use them to establish religious authority and guard religious privilege. The language of family and lineage emerges as central to a variety of South and East Asian Buddhist contexts. With an interdisciplinary, Pan-Asian approach, Family in Buddhism challenges received wisdom in religious studies and offers new ways to think about family and society.

Liz Wilson is Professor of Comparative Religion at Miami University in Ohio. She is the editor of The Living and the Dead: Social Dimensions of Death in South Asian Religions, also published by SUNY Press, and the author of Charming Cadavers: Horrific Figurations of the Feminine in Indian Buddhist Hagiographic Literature.


"…for students and scholars of Buddhist Studies [Family in Buddhism is] groundbreaking and speak[s] to exciting ways of rethinking the male-dominated and eremitic characterizations of Buddhist monasticism that have become normative in the field." — Journal of the American Oriental Society

"Wilson … frames the pieces with an introduction that effectively grounds their specialized and occasionally esoteric focuses. This work is best suited for advanced undergraduates and graduate students learning to think outside the box of traditional scholarship and methodologies." — CHOICE