Buddhist view of motherhood
by S.M. Wijayaratne Kurunegala daily
The Buddha raised
the status of women in India despite criticism levelled
Generally speaking, during the time of the Buddha, due
to brahminical influence,
women were not given much recognition. Sometimes,
they were held in contempt, although there were solitary
cases of their showing
erudition in matters of
philosophy, and so on.
There will be no Fully Awakened. One on this earth
without a mother. There will be no sons and daughters on
this earth without mothers. Motherhood was greatly
admired and honoured by the Buddha. The most Enlightened
One admonished His followers to treat their mothers
similar to that of the Fully - Awakened One. So, we can
understand how respectfully and nobly. He treated
Queen Maha Maya, the mother of Prince Siddhartha passed
away when the prince was only seven days old.
After passing away of Queen Maha Maya King Suddhodana
married the princess Prajapathi, the sister of Queen
Maya to look after and foster the motherless Prince
Siddhartha. After passing away of King Suddhodana, Queen
Prajapathi decided to be a Buddhist nun. With much
effort and determination, she was able to become a nun
Prince Siddhartha left the royal palace at the age of 29
and strove immensely to attain the Enlightenment for six
years. Ultimately, he was able to be the Fully-Awakened
After attaining the Buddhahood, He visited His mother
reborn in the heaven known as Thusitha as Mother God.
The Buddha preached the profound Dhamma known as
“Abhidarma” to her and made her realize the noble
doctrine. She ultimately became an heir to the supreme
bliss of Nibbana.
That is how He paid His gratitude to His mother who
helped Him to be born into this world for His final
The Buddha raised the status of women in India despite
criticism levelled against Him. Generally speaking,
during the time of the Buddha, due to brahminical
influence, women were not given much recognition.
Sometimes, they were held in contempt, although there
were solitary cases of their showing erudition in
matters of philosophy, and so on.
In his large-heartedness and magnanimity, the Buddha
treated women with consideration and civility, and paved
the way to them, too, for peace, purity and sanctity.
The Buddha established the Order of Nuns (Bhikkuni
Sasana) for the first time in history; for never before
this had been there.
Women from all walks of life joined the Order. The lives
of quite a number of these noble nuns, their strenuous
endeavours to win the goal of freedom, and their paeans
of joy at Deliverance of mind are graphically described
in the “psalms of sisters” (Theri-Gatha).
While the dead body of Theri Prajapathi Gotami was being
taken to the cemetery in a procession, it is said that
the Buddha too followed (went behind) the cortege to pay
His last respects to His foster mother who breast fed
Him. That is how The Buddha showed his gratitude to the
motherhood. The Buddha never belittled the motherhood
and women’s wisdom. He guided women to develop their
insight and to put an end to this samsaric journey (the
process of births and deaths) Kisa Gotamee and Patacara
went mad due to unbearable sorrow of losing their
But ultimately, they became Bhikkunis of perfect wisdom
and virtues. We should not forget that the sacred
Bo-tree planted in Maha Meuna Park in Anuradhapura in
Sri Lanka was brought to this island by a woman. She was
Theri Sangamittha, the daughter of Emperor Asoka of
India. The Sacred Tooth Relic of the Buddha which is now
enshrined in the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy, too was
brought here by a woman. She was princess Hemamala from
India. Queen Visakha was the chief laywoman disciple
(devotee) of the Buddha during those days of the Buddha
Theri Patacara became the chief female disciple of
discipline in the Order of Buddhist nuns during the time
of the Buddha.
Queen Vihara Maha Devi, the beloved mother of King
Dutugemunu in Sri Lanka pioneered in protecting Buddhism
in Sri Lanka when Buddhism and Buddhists were at the
risk of destruction due to misguided non-Buddhist
The first lesson that the Buddha gave to the world was
gratitude. He showed that lesson by example. He honoured
the Sacred - Bo tree which supported Him to meditate by
glancing at it with open eyes for a week. The Buddha
always practised what he preached.
So, all of us should start practising the perfect way
shown by the Buddha without further delay to enjoy the
bliss of deliverance. Perfect wisdom will never come to
us without dedicated efforts. Since we are presently
blessed with the noble humanity, we should attempt to
reap the maximum benefits of it. How can we believe that
we would be blessed with the form of humanity in our
next birth? Who gives us that guarantee? The power of
kammic energy is unimaginable and incomprehensible.
Although our beloved parents can provide us with almost
all our material requirements for the welfare of this
very life here on earth, they are unable to open the
doors of the next world that is filled with joy and
delight. It is our well-directed mind that brings us
eternal bliss of Nibbana. We should honour and respect
our parents through day and night as they have brought
us up with sound physical fitness. It is the sole
benefit that we are presently capable of performing
Let’s pay our highest homage to the motherhood as long
as we live on this earth. Under these circumstances, we
should be humble enough to pay our great honour to the
womenkind. Not only that, we should also protect and
foster them with loving-kindness.
To re-pay for the breast-milk of our mothers that we
have sucked from them to survive, we must use our all
possible strength to make our mothers to tread on the
path of purification as shown by the Buddha. Then only
we can be satisfied that we have paid fully for the debt
of her blood that she turned into white milk to feed us.