Book Review No. 19 - Stars at Dawn by Wendy Garling
Hello Hello! Welcome back! This week's book review Tuesday was something a bit new for me. I just finished reading this amazing book by Wendy Garling called "Stars at Dawn: Forgotten Stories of Women in the Buddha's Life" Just look at the book cover, I know you aren't supposed to judge a book by its cover, but I really like artwork.
Now, before cracking this book open (or turning on my e-reader) I knew very little--to nothing about the life of the Buddha. My only real encounter with Gautama Buddha was with his beautiful and serene figurines and statues. This book is a feminist view of Buddha, the author on several occasions points out how in some variations of his life the roles of women are significantly downplayed and how some Buddhist monastic orders deny women, although Buddha respected women just as men. I read the book I realized the Buddha had many women impact all stages of his life, and he was very keen to include women into the religious practice.
Garling crafts a wonderful story, using varying Buddhist traditions to explore the importance of women in his life and how they helped shaped the course of his enlightenment and teachings. She explores the importance his mother, step-mother (aunt) and father's harem during his early years, how the relationships with his wives shaped his decisions to leave on his journey for enlightenment, and the varying women (and goddesses) that help during his years of wandering and ultimate enlightenment under the Bodhi tree.
This book does not read like a textbook, there aren't specific dates, but flows more as a examination of specific events in chronological order. This isn't a book on the Buddha's teachings either, although they are discussed in the context of his life-events. There is a lot of information, and because of the different Buddhist traditions the author presents many different reiterations of the same incident, comparing the different interpretations.
I enjoyed reading this book, it was on a subject I knew next to nothing about. As a prominent religious figure, I can say I found it refreshing for the whole of Buddha's life to be considered, and not exactly from his point of view, but from the lives around him. If you like learning about different spiritual practices and how they influence peoples lives, I recommend. As a feminist (yikes) its refreshing to read a book where the female perspective is considered.