Tibetan Buddhist metaphors and models of motherhood

Sarah H. Jacoby*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Motherhood is at the core of the central Buddhist metaphor for how we should treat one another. And yet within Buddhist texts there remains a deeply gendered chasm between the universalized Buddhist call to love all beings as if they were our mothers, an ideal embodied most often by male renunciates, and the intensely particular affections involved with actual mothering, an everyday activity most often embodied by female householders. In this article, the author takes a fresh look at the tension between the valorized mother metaphor and its ambivalent referent through a perspective rarely foregrounded in Buddhist sources or their scholarly interpretations: that of a Tibetan Buddhist adept who was herself a mother. Jacoby traces the ways that the life narrative written by Sera Khandro Dewé Dorjé (1892–1940) moves within the space between as if and actual motherhood, presenting a gynocentric view of the female body as the locus of both.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)45-62
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Feminist Studies in Religion
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • Motherhood
  • Tibetan Buddhism
  • Women’s spiritual autobiography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Religious studies


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