The Woman Who Raised the Buddha: The Extraordinary Life of Mahaprajapati

Shambhala. Mar. 2021. 272p. ISBN 9781611806694. pap. $18.95. REL
Garling continues to cement her role as a feminist Buddhist scholar with this latest offering, after Stars at Dawn: Forgotten Stories of Women in the Buddha’s Life, detailing the life of the now nearly forgotten woman known as Mahaprajapati, who raised the Buddha (Siddhartha). In this work, Garling digs deep into well-known and obscure Buddhist stories and archives to tell the story of this remarkable woman who lovingly raised her nephew, the future Buddha, after her sister’s untimely death and was largely responsible for the inclusion of women in Buddhist monastic and lay communities. In this retelling, the author begs the question—Why, over the years, has Mahaprajapati been written out of history when she once figured so prominently, and what do patriarchal hierarchies in Buddhist scholastic communities gain from this exclusion? Readers will need at least a basic understanding of the life of the Buddha to follow the author’s intent, but novices to scholars will appreciate this well-researched work.
VERDICT An important contribution to filling a major gap in Buddhist studies and a triumph in understanding Buddhism through a feminist lens. Recommended for academic libraries and scholars interested in religious or feminist studies.
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