Volume 7, 2000
Family Matters: Dramatic Interdependence and the Intimate Realization of Buddhist Liberation
Peter D. Hershock
Asian Studies Development Program
In this paper, I assemble a set of narratives that will persuade us to refrain from seeing Buddhist families as either fundamentally biological or essentially cultural phenomena, but rather as dramatic communities in narrative motion away from saṃsāra toward nirvāṇa—communities intent on anuttara samyak sambodhi or utmost and all-encompassing enlightenment. Such a view of the family will stand in significant opposition to the interpretation of enlightenment as a peak and private experience; to the reduction (Buddhist) teachings to texts; and to the belief that it is on the basis of valorizing individuality and equality that we are best able to realize satisfyingly human community. Hopefully, it will also encourage us to question our own prejudices for minimally defining family and community in objective and institutional terms rather than in terms of dramatically exemplary or virtuosic relationships.