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Barbara McHugh with Dorothy Edwards – Bride of the Buddha (Virtual Event)
January 30, 2021 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm PST
Bride of the Buddha is a vivid portrayal of the life of Yasodhara—abandoned wife of the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama—depicting her as a spiritual seeker in her own right, a woman who sought to understand the meaning of life even before her husband left their marriage and their infant son Rahula to seek his own enlightenment. Author Barbara McHugh brings to life the world of the aristocratic clan into which Yasodhara and Siddhartha Gautama were born and imagines Yasodhara as intelligent, resourceful and independent—a woman who had always sought her own spiritual path, despite the constraints placed on women at the time. Following the Siddhartha’s departure, Yasodhara devotes herself to her life as a mother, but when the Buddha returns and their young son leaves his family to enter the sangha, she is devastated to learn that, as a woman, she is prohibited from joining them. Bereft, she leaves the comforts of her family to live in the wild and apprentices herself to a female holy woman. After many adventures of her own, she conceals her gender and enters the Buddha’s sangha as a young monk named Ananda, who will eventually become one of the Buddha’s closest confidants and ultimately the one who convinces the Buddha to allow women into their community.
In the best tradition of historical fiction, McHugh, as she states in the novel’s Historical Note, mixes “fact and fiction, taking advantage of modern scholarship, while at the same time weaving in myths and symbolic narratives to express truth
beyond words” in order to portray “a Buddha who is both a historical being and an evolving, collective creation of the human imagination.” McHugh brings the past vividly to life in Bride of the Buddha while also addressing issues still debated today, including gender identity, sexuality, the role of women in religious communities, motherhood, and more. She has created a book that, as Sam Keen, author of Fire in the Belly and Your Mythic Journey writes, brings “Yasodhara out of the shadows” and makes “…use of historical texts, oral traditions, and a vivid imagination, [to create] a portrait of the bride of Buddha and the world in which he lived…unforgettable.”
Barbara McHugh, PhD, is a Buddhist practitioner with a degree in religion and literature from The Graduate Theological Union and UC Berkeley. She is a published poet, writing coach, and book doctor. Her research for this book includes exhaustive study of Pali texts in translation and on-site explorations in India.
Dorothy Edwards‘ first published work is Langston’s Moon, a children’s story about an African American family. Currently she is at work on a novel set in the Caribbean and a non-fiction book about imagination.