- Tibetan Buddhism has offered two distinct, seemingly dichotomous perspectives about motherhood as it relates to traversing the spiritual path. In the first, mothering is the antithesis to spiritual development and realization, as it tethers a practitioner to the mundane duties of saṃsāra, the cycle of rebirth and suffering, propelling her deeper into it. In the second, mothering is a role that can lead to the acquisition of tremendous spiritual merit, as a practitioner shepherds her offspring into a life of virtue. As Tibetan Buddhism’s global presence has grown significantly since the Tibetan diaspora of 1959, it has taken root in new places and social landscapes. In light of this, a third perspective has emerged: the inquiry and hope that the practice of motherhood, informed by Buddhist wisdom, could indeed be a soteriological path.
By researching the stories of mothers, I came to the following conclusions: in Tibetan Buddhism, narratives of “mother-practitioners” suggest that mothering has much more in common with the path of awakening than simply generating merit, but that as household-practitioners, such women are burdened by the care of dependent children, which is associated with the attachment, suffering, and grief of worldly life. However, as evidenced by the doctrines and stories explored in this thesis, it is not in spite of this predicament and this suffering and grief, but because of it that experiences of mothering can be considered as brimming with spiritual potential in the Tibetan Buddhist context. It is also evident that the most sophisticated psychological dimensions of the virtue of particular love, or relational love, that is portrayed as both instrument and obstacle to spiritual development, demands a discernment and wisdom idealized by a contemplative path of practice. A synthetic work such as this, perhaps the first of its kind as focusing on the experiences of human as opposed to idealized mothers in Tibetan Buddhism, gives timely audibility to a chorus of voices often heard only as soloists.