Imagine this: a young woman, heavily pregnant and in labor, makes the journey to a grove of trees sacred to the local goddess. The village women accompany her, and she delivers her child in the traditional way, standing up, clutching tree branches for support, held around the waist by her sister. The little prince Siddhartha was born this way in Lumbini’s grove. His mother Maya, the queen of a small kingdom, died soon after giving birth.
The historical Buddha lived among women and was deeply influenced by them, according to a new book, Stars at Dawn, by Wendy Garling. Deconstructing and reconstructing old narratives from the biography of Siddhartha Gautama, Sanskrit scholar Garling centers women in the Buddhist origin stories, providing models of feminist/feminine strength and humanity for modern lay and monastic practitioners. I read and reviewed this book of rich and sometimes controversial tales for Buddhistdoor Global – read the review here!
Photo from wikimedia commons – part of a series of carvings depicting the life of the Buddha from 2nd/3rd century Kushan dynasty, N. India/Pakistan, from the Freer Gallery in Washington D.C.