Women in Buddhism

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The Guan Yin of the South Sea of Sanya is the largest statue of a woman in the world. Haishangguanyin.jpg
The Guan Yin of the South Sea of Sanya is the largest statue of a woman in the world.

Women in Buddhism is a topic that can be approached from varied perspectives including those of theology, history, anthropology and feminism. Topical interests include the theological status of women, the treatment of women in Buddhist societies at home and in public, the history of women in Buddhism, and a comparison of the experiences of women across different forms of Buddhism. As in other religions, the experiences of Buddhist women have varied considerably.

Theology Study of the nature of deities and religious belief

Theology is the systematic study of the nature of the divine and, more broadly, of religious belief. It is taught as an academic discipline, typically in universities and seminaries. It occupies itself with the unique content of analyzing the supernatural, but also especially with epistemology, and asks and seeks to answer the question of revelation. Revelation pertains to the acceptance of God, gods, or deities, as not only transcendent or above the natural world, but also willing and able to interact with the natural world and, in particular, to reveal themselves to humankind. While theology has turned into a secular field, religious adherents still consider theology to be a discipline that helps them live and understand concepts such as life and love and that helps them lead lives of obedience to the deities they follow or worship.

History The study of the past as it is described in written documents.

History is the past as it is described in written documents, and the study thereof. Events occurring before written records are considered prehistory. "History" is an umbrella term that relates to past events as well as the memory, discovery, collection, organization, presentation, and interpretation of information about these events. Scholars who write about history are called historians.

Anthropology is the scientific study of humans and human behavior and societies in the past and present. Social anthropology studies patterns of behaviour and cultural anthropology studies cultural meaning, including norms and values. Linguistic anthropology studies how language influences social life. Biological or physical anthropology studies the biological development of humans.

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Scholars such as Bernard Faure and Miranda Shaw are in agreement that Buddhist studies is in its infancy in terms of addressing gender issues. Shaw gave an overview of the situation in 1994:

Bernard Faure is a Franco-American author and scholar of Asian religions, who focuses on Chan/Zen and Japanese esoteric Buddhism. His work draws on cultural theory, anthropology, and gender studies. He is currently a Kao Professor of Japanese Religion at Columbia University and an Emeritus Professor of Religious Studies at Stanford University. He also previously taught at Cornell University, and has been a visiting a professor at the University of Tokyo, the University of Sydney, and the École Pratique des Hautes Études in Paris. He co-founded the Center for Buddhist Studies at Stanford University and the ARC: Asian Religions and Cultures Series within Stanford University Press. He is also the founder and co-director of the Columbia Center for Buddhism and East Asian Religions (C-BEAR). His work has been translated into several Asian and European languages.

Buddhist studies academic study of Buddhism

Buddhist studies, also known as Buddhology, is the academic study of Buddhism. The term Buddhology was coined in the early 20th-century by Estlin Carpenter – a Unitarian minister, to mean the "study of Buddhahood, the nature of the Buddha, and doctrines of a Buddha", but the terms Buddhology and Buddhist studies are generally synonymous in the contemporary context. According to William M. Johnston, in some specific contexts, Buddhology may be viewed as a subset of Buddhist studies, with a focus on Buddhist hermeneutics, exegesis, ontology and Buddha's attributes. Scholars of Buddhist studies focus on the history, culture, archaeology, arts, philology, anthropology, sociology, theology, philosophy, practices, interreligious comparative studies and other subjects related to Buddhism.

In the case of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism some progress has been made in the areas of women in early Buddhism, monasticism and Mahayana Buddhism. Two articles have seriously broached the subject of women in Indian tantric Buddhism, while somewhat more attention has been paid to Tibetan nuns and lay yoginis. [1]

However Khandro Rinpoche, a female lama in Tibetan Buddhism, downplays the significance of growing attention to the topic:

Khandro Rinpoche Buddhist lama

Mindrolling Jetsün Khandro Rinpoche is a lama in Tibetan Buddhism. Born in Kalimpong, India and the daughter of the late Mindrolling Trichen, Khandro Rinpoche was recognized by Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, 16th Karmapa at the age of two as the reincarnation of the Great Dakini of Tsurphu Monastery, Urgyen Tsomo, who was one of the most well-known female masters of her time. Khandro Urgyen Tsomo was the consort to Khakyab Dorje, 15th Karmapa Lama (1871–1922) and recognised in this Buddhist tradition as an incarnation of Yeshe Tsogyal. Her name is in fact her title, Khandro being Tibetan for dakini and rinpoche an honorific usually reserved for tulkus that means "precious one."

Lama title for a teacher of the Dharma in Tibetan Buddhism

Lama is a title for a teacher of the Dharma in Tibetan Buddhism. The name is similar to the Sanskrit term guru and in use it is similar, but not identical to the western monastic rank of abbot.

Tibetan Buddhism is the form of Buddhism named after Tibet where it is the dominant religion. It is also found in the regions surrounding the Himalayas, much of Chinese Central Asia, the Southern Siberian regions such as Tuva, as well as Mongolia.

When there is a talk about women and Buddhism, I have noticed that people often regard the topic as something new and different. They believe that women in Buddhism has become an important topic because we live in modern times and so many women are practicing the Dharma now. However, this is not the case. The female sangha has been here for centuries. We are not bringing something new into a 2,500-year-old tradition. The roots are there, and we are simply re-energizing them. [2]

As a present evaluation of women (and equality) in Buddhism, Masatoshi Ueki gave a diachronic textual interpretation of Buddhist texts from Early Buddhism to the Lotus Sutra. Ueki examined the terms 'male' and 'female' as based not solely on the physical characteristics of each sex biologically but also on their functional roles within society, calling them the 'male principle' and 'female principle,' and concluded that no difference is preached in the Shakyamuni's teachings regarding the enlightenment of woman.

Masatoshi Ueki Japanese journalist

Masatoshi Ueki is a Japanese scholar in Buddhist studies.

Buddhist texts Holy texts

Buddhist texts were initially passed on orally by monks, but were later written down and composed as manuscripts in various Indo-Aryan languages which were then translated into other local languages as Buddhism spread. They can be categorized in a number of ways. The Western terms "scripture" and "canonical" are applied to Buddhism in inconsistent ways by Western scholars: for example, one authority refers to "scriptures and other canonical texts", while another says that scriptures can be categorized into canonical, commentarial, and pseudo-canonical. Buddhist traditions have generally divided these texts with their own categories and divisions, such as that between buddhavacana "word of the Buddha," many of which are known as "sutras," and other texts, such as shastras (treatises) or Abhidharma.

The term Early Buddhism can refer to two distinct periods, both of which are covered in a separate article:

The establishment of the male principle in equal measure with the female principle is the natural order of things. They should never exist in a mutually exclusive relationship. They should not be an emphasis on one at the expense of the other, for both are indispensable. ... will the establishment of the true self be a fact of reality for both men and women. [3]

Timeline of women in Buddhism

Women in early Buddhism

The founder of Buddhism, Gautama Buddha, permitted women to join his monastic community and fully participate in it, although there were certain provisos or garudhammas . As Susan Murcott comments, "The nun's sangha was a radical experiment for its time." [48]

According to Diana Paul, the traditional view of women in Early Buddhism was that they were inferior. [49] Rita Gross agrees that "a misogynist strain is found in early Indian Buddhism. But the presence of some clearly misogynist doctrines does not mean that the whole of ancient Indian Buddhism was misogynist." [50] There are statements in Buddhist scripture that appear to be misogynist, such as depicting women as obstructers of men's spiritual progress or the notion that being born female leaves one with less opportunity for spiritual progress. However, in societies where men have always been the authorities and the ones given wider choices, a negative view of women might be seen as simply reflecting the empirical political reality. Furthermore, the religious literature is more likely to be addressed to men. Hence we find the Buddhist emphasis on renunciation of sensual desires expressed in terms of the male’s attachment to women more frequently than we find the reverse. [51] The mix of positive attitudes to femininity with blatantly negative sentiment has led many writers to characterise early Buddhism's attitude to women as deeply ambivalent. [52]

Women's spiritual attainment in Buddhism

The various schools and traditions within Buddhism hold different views as to the possibilities of women's spiritual attainments. [53] One significant strand emphasizes that in terms of spiritual attainment, women and men have equal spiritual capabilities and that women not only can, but also in many cases have, attained spiritual liberation. Such a perspective is found in a number of sources of different periods, including early Buddhist literature in the Theravāda tradition, Mahāyāna sūtras, and tantric writings. There are stories of women and even children who attained enlightenment during the time of the Buddha. Furthermore, Buddhist doctrines do not differentiate between men and women since everyone, regardless of gender, status, or age, is subject to old age, illness, and mortality; thus the suffering and impermanence that mark conditioned existence apply to all. [54]

Feminist scholars have also postulated that, even when a woman's potential for spiritual attainment is acknowledged, records of such achievements may not be kept—or may be obscured by gender-neutral language or mis-translation of original sources by Western scholars.

Limitations on women's spiritual attainment in Buddhism

According to Bernard Faure, "Like most clerical discourses, Buddhism is indeed relentlessly misogynist, but as far as misogynist discourses go, it is one of the most flexible and open to multiplicity and contradiction." [55]

In the Buddhist tradition, positions of apparently worldly power are often a reflection of the spiritual achievements of the individual. For example, gods live in higher realms than human beings and therefore have a certain level of spiritual attainment. Cakravartins and Buddhas are also more spiritually advanced than ordinary human beings. However, as the Taiwanese nun Heng-Ching Shih states, women in Buddhism are said to have five obstacles, including being incapable of becoming a Brahma King, Sakra, King Mara, Cakravartin or Buddha. [53] This is based on the statement of Gautama Buddha in the Bahudhātuka-sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya in the Pali Canon that it is impossible that a woman should be "the perfectly rightfully Enlightened One", "the Universal Monarch", "the King of Gods", "the King of Death" or "Brahmaa". [56] Earlier limitations on attainment of Buddhahood by women were abolished in the Lotus Sutra, which opens a direct path to enlightenment for women equal to that of men. [57] According to Nichiren" "Only in the Lotus Sutra do we read that a woman who embraces this sutra not only surpasses all other women but surpasses all men". [58]

Women and Buddhahood

Although early Buddhist texts such as the Cullavagga section of the Vinaya Pitaka of the Pali Canon contain statements from Gautama Buddha, speaking to the fact that a woman can attain enlightenment, [59] it is also clearly stated in the Bahudhātuka-sutta that there could never be a female Buddha.

In Theravada Buddhism, the modern school based on the Buddhist philosophy of the earliest dated texts, Achieving Buddhahood is a rare event. The focus of practice is primarily on attaining Arhatship, and the Pali Canon has examples of both male and female Arhats who attained nirvana. Yasodharā, the former wife of Buddha Shakyamuni and mother of Rahula, is said to have become an arhat after joining the Bhikkhuni order of Buddhist nuns. In Mahayana schools, Buddhahood is the universal goal for Mahayana practitioners. The Mahayana sutras maintains that a woman can become enlightened, only not in female form. For example, the Bodhisattvabhūmi, dated to the 4th Century, states that a woman about to attain enlightenment will be reborn as a male. According to Miranda Shaw, "this belief had negative implications for women insofar as it communicated the insufficiency of the female but never a woman body as a locus of enlightenment". [60]

Some Theravada sutras state that it is impossible for a woman to be a bodhisattva, which is someone on their way to Buddhahood. A bodhisattva can only be a human (that is, a man). [61] These sutras do not deny that women can become awakened, but they are ineligible to lead a Buddhist community. If the aspiration to Buddhahood has been made and a Buddha of the time confirms it, it is impossible to be reborn as a woman. An appropriate aim is for women to aspire to be reborn as male. They can become a male by moral actions and sincere aspiration to maleness. Being born a female is a result of bad karma. [61]

However, the Jataka tales (stories of the Buddha's past lives as a bodhisattva within the Theravada canon) mention that the Buddha spent one of his past lives as a princess. This is directly contradictory to the assertion that a bodhisattva cannot be born a female. [62]

The appearance of female Buddhas can be found in the tantric iconography of the Vajrayana practice path of Buddhism. Sometimes they are the consorts of the main yidam of a meditation mandala but Buddhas such as Vajrayogini, Tara and Simhamukha appear as the central figures of tantric sadhana in their own right. [60] Vajrayana Buddhism also recognizes many female yogini practitioners as achieving the full enlightenment of a Buddha, Miranda Shaw as an example cites sources referring to "Among the students of the adept Naropa, reportedly two hundred men and one thousand women attained complete enlightenment". [60] Yeshe Tsogyal, one of the five tantric consorts [63] of Padmasambhava is an example of a woman (Yogini) recognized as a female Buddha in the Vajrayana tradition. According to Karmapa lineage however Tsogyel has attained Buddhahood in that very life. On the website of the Karmapa, the head of the Karma Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, it is stated that Yeshe Tsogyal—some thirty years before transcending worldly existence—finally emerged from an isolated meditation retreat, (c.796-805 AD), as "a fully enlightened Buddha" [64] (samyak-saṃbuddha)[ citation needed ].

There are predictions from Sakyamuni Buddha to be found in the thirteenth chapter of the Mahayana Lotus Sutra, [65] referring to future attainments of Mahapajapati and Yasodharā.

In the 20th Century Tenzin Palmo, a Tibetan Buddhist nun in the Drukpa Lineage of the Kagyu school, stated "I have made a vow to attain Enlightenment in the female form—no matter how many lifetimes it takes". [66]

The divine feminine as Buddha Locana in Tantrism

The divine feminine is connected to the story of Gautama Buddha's enlightenment under the bodhi tree. When Mara appears to Gautama and questions his worthiness to become the Awakened one, Gautama calls upon Mother Earth to witness his merit throughout countless previous lifetimes by touching the ground. This gesture is known as the bhūmisparśa or "earth witnessing" mudra. While Mother Earth is associated with the Goddess Prithvi, Alex Wayman asserts that the divine feminine in Tantra is connected with a plethora of terms including prajna ('insight'), yogini ('female yogin'), vidya ('know how'), devi ('goddess'), matr ('mother'), matrka ('mother' or 'letters'), and mudra ('seal' or 'gesture'). [67] The anthropomorphic expression of Mother Earth in Gautama's enlightenment story developed into the figure of Buddha Locana ("eyes") in Tantrism. As one of the Five Buddha Mothers that represents the purity of the element of earth, Buddha Locana is a fully enlightened female Buddha and is the consort of Akshobya according to the Guhyasamāja Tantra or "Secret Assembly." [68] In the Guhyasamāja mandala, Buddha Locana occupies a higher status than Gautama Buddha as he was not able to attain enlightenment without her being called as a witness. Her title as a Buddha Mother, however, should not be mistaken as a child birthing figure in this context. Rather, the role of Buddha Mother refers to her primordial status. As a metaphorical form, Buddha Locana represents the all seeing eye and mother figure that watches over humanity. Alex Wayman suggests that the metaphorical symbolism of the earth represents the power of arya-prajna, which provides the means to destroy illusion. [67] The primordial nature and central significance of Buddha Locana can be seen in her placement in the mandala, as she represents the prajna of Vairocana Buddha, who in turn is the dharmakaya of Gautama Buddha. Owing to this classification, Buddha Locana represents the high status of the divine feminine in Tantra, a status that surpasses the masculine principle.

Notable female tulkus

In the fifteenth century CE, Princess Chokyi-dronme (Wylie: Chos-kyi sgron-me) was recognized as the embodiment of the meditation deity and female Buddha in the Vajrayana tradition, Vajravarahi. Chokyi-dronme became known as Samding Dorje Phagmo (Wylie: bSam-lding rDo-rje phag-mo) and began a line of female tulkus, reincarnate lamas. At present, the twelfth of this line lives in Tibet.

Another female tulku lineage, that of Shugseb Jetsun Rinpoche (Wylie: Shug-gseb rJe-btsun Rin-po-che) (c. 1865 – 1951), [69] began in the late nineteenth century CE. [70] While she received teachings of all the Tibetan schools, Shugseb Jetsun Rinpoche was particularly known for holding a lineage of Chöd, the meditation practice of offering one's own body for the benefit of others. [71] At the start of the twentieth century, Shugsheb Jetsun Rinpoche—also called Ani Lochen Chönyi Zangmo—founded the Shuksep or Shugsep (Wylie: shug gseb) nunnery located thirty miles from Lhasa on the slopes of Mount Gangri Thökar. [72] [73] It became one of the largest and most famous nunneries in Tibet. [69] Shugsep Nunnery, part of the Nyingma school, has been re-established in exile in Gambhir Ganj, India. The nuns of Shugsep continue their practices, including Longchen Nyingtig and Chöd. [71]

The Third Drubwang Padma Norbu ("Penor") Rinpoche, 11th Throneholder of Palyul Monastery, former Supreme Head of the Nyingma tradition, [74] officially recognized the American woman Ahkon Lhamo in 1987 as the tulku of Genyenma Ahkon Lhamo during her visit to his Namdroling Monastery in Bylakuppe, Karnataka, India. [75] [76] As is customary, Penor Rinpoche sought confirmation of his recognition before announcing it. He received it from both Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (1910–91), the then Supreme Head of the Nyingma tradition who was on a teaching visit to Namdroling at the time, and the most senior Palyul tulku, the Second Dzongnang Jampal Lodro Rinpoche (d. 8/87). [77]

Buddhist ordination of women

Gautama Buddha first ordained women as nuns five years after his enlightenment and five years after first ordaining men into the sangha. The first Buddhist nun was his aunt and foster mother Mahapajapati Gotami. Bhikkhunis have to follow the eight rules of respect, which are vows called The Eight Garudhammas. According to Peter Harvey "The Buddha's apparent hesitation on this matter is reminiscent of his hesitation on whether to teach at all," something he only does after persuasion from various devas. [78] The ordination of women in Buddhism is and has always been practiced in some Buddhist regions, such as East Asia, is being revived in some countries such as Sri Lanka, and is newly beginning in some Western countries to which Buddhism has recently spread, such as the United States.

Family life in Buddhism

In the Anguttara Nikaya (5:33), Buddha tells future wives that they should be obedient to their husbands, please them, and not make them angry through their own desires. Furthermore, the Buddha offers advice to married women in the Anguttara Nikaya (7:59; IV 91-94), from the Pali (Theravada) canon, where he tells of seven types of wives—the first three types are destined for unhappiness, while the last four, as they are imbued with long term self-control, are destined to be happy. These latter wives are characterised as caretakers (motherly-wife), companions (friend-wife) and submissives (sister-wife and slave-wife)—the Buddha thus endorsed a variety of types of wives within marriage.

According to Diana Paul, Buddhism inherited a view of women whereby if they are not represented as mothers then they are portrayed as either lustful temptresses or as evil incarnate. [49]

Motherhood

The status of motherhood in Buddhism has also traditionally reflected the Buddhist perspective that dukkha, or suffering, is a major characteristic of human existence. In her book on the Therigatha collection of stories of women arhats from the Pali Canon, Susan Murcott states: "Though this chapter is about motherhood, all of the stories and poems share another theme—grief. The mothers of this chapter were motivated to become Buddhist nuns by grief over the death of their children." [79]

However, motherhood in Early Buddhism could also be a valued activity in its own right. Queen Maya, the mother of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, had a certain following, especially in Lumbini, where she gave birth to him. [80] Since Maya died some days after his birth, Gautama Buddha was brought up by a fostermother, his mother's sister Mahapajapati, who also had two children of her own. She became the first Buddhist nun. Both of her children, her son Nanda and her daughter Sundari Nanda joined the Buddhist sangha of monastics. The wife of Gautama Buddha, Yasodhara, was the mother of one son named Rahula, meaning "fetter", who became a Buddhist monk at the age of seven and Yasodhara also eventually became a nun.

One of the attractions for women in Vajrayana Buddhism of following the path of a yogini rather than that of a bhikkhuni nun was the opportunity to practice amidst family life with a husband or spiritual consort and possibly have children. Also Yoginis -unlike nuns- were not obliged to shave their hair. Machig Labdrön followed such a path, living in a monastery for a while but later leaving to unite with Topabhadra as her consort. According to Machig's namthar he cared for the children while she practiced and taught. Some of Machig's children followed her on the spiritual path, becoming accomplished yogins themselves. Tsultrim Allione, a recognised emanation of Machig Labdron, herself was a nun for four years but left to marry and have children. She has spoken of the contribution motherhood has made to her practice:

...in Buddhism the image of the mother as the embodiment of compassion is used a lot. She'll do anything for the children. As a mother I felt that depth of love and commitment and having somebody who I really would give my own life for—it was very powerful to have that kind of relationship. I also felt that I didn't really grow up until I had my children. There were ways that maturity was demanded of me and having children brought forth that maturity. So I wouldn't say my children were an inspiration in the sense of what I thought would have been a spiritual inspiration before I had children. More so I think meeting the challenges of motherhood with what I had learned made my practice very rich. [81]

Romantic love, sexual conduct and marriage

In general, "While Buddhism regards the celibate monastic life as the higher ideal, it also recognizes the importance of marriage as a social institution." [82] Some guidelines for marriage are offered. Although Buddhist practice varies considerably among its various schools, marriage is one of the few concepts specifically mentioned in the context of Śīla, the Buddhist formulation of core facets of spiritual discipline. The fundamental code of Buddhist ethics, The Five Precepts contains an admonishment against sexual misconduct, although what constitutes misconduct from the perspective of a particular school of Buddhism varies widely depending on the local culture.

In Early Buddhism, the Sigalovada Sutta of the Digha Nikaya in the Pali Canon describes the respect that one is expected to give to one's spouse. However, since the ideal of Early Buddhism is renunciation, it can be seen from examples such as the story of the monk Nanda and his wife Janapada Kalyāni that striving for the bliss of Nirvana is valued above romantic love and marriage. Despite having married her just that day, encouraged by his cousin Gautama Buddha, Nanda left his wife to become a bhikkhu in the Buddhist Sangha. In stories like this from the Pali Canon, romantic love is generally perceived as part of attachment to samsara, the endless cycle of rebirth. [83] Susan Murcott has pointed out that Early Buddhist attitudes to romantic love and marriage generally reflect the Brahmanic ideals of India at the time... including the recent rise of the renunciate ideal and the associated decline in the status of romantic love and marriage. [84]

In Vajrayana Buddhism, a sexual relationship with a consort is seen in a technical way as being a spiritual practice in anuttarayoga tantra intended to allow the practitioners to attain realizations and attain enlightenment. The union of tantric consorts is depicted in the yab-yum iconography of meditation deities.

Views of male Buddhist religious leaders about women

The 14th Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama spoke at a conference on Women in Buddhism at the University of Hamburg in 2007:

Warfare has traditionally been carried out primarily by men since they seem better physically equipped for aggressive behavior. Women, on the other hand, tend to be more caring and more sensitive to others' discomfort and pain. Although men and women have the same potentials for aggression and warm-heartedness, they differ in which of the two more easily manifests. Thus, if the majority of world leaders were women, perhaps there would be less danger of war and more cooperation on the basis of global concern. I sympathize with feminists, but they must not merely shout. They must exert efforts to make positive contributions to society. [85]

In 2009, at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee he said: "I call myself a feminist. Isn't that what you call someone who fights for women's rights?" [86]

He also said that by nature, women are more compassionate "based on their biology and ability to nurture and birth children." He called on women to "lead and create a more compassionate world," citing the good works of nurses and mothers. [87]

In 2007 he said that the next Dalai Lama could possibly be a woman, remarking "If a woman reveals herself as more useful the lama could very well be reincarnated in this form". [88]

In 2010 he stated that "twenty or thirty years ago", when discussing whether a woman could be a Dalai Lama in the future, he said yes but "I also said half-jokingly that if the Dalai Lama's reincarnation is female, she must be very attractive. The reason is so that she will have more influence on others. If she is an ugly female, she won't be very effective, will she?" [89]

During a 2014 interview with Larry King when asked if he thought we will ever see a female Dalai Lama he stated "Yes! That's very possible." he recalled telling a reporter in Paris many years ago that it is possible mentioning that there are some female Lama's in history dating "...six or seven centuries ago, so it is nothing new." He then recalled joking with the reporter, "If female Dalai Lama come, that female must be very, very attractive. [It's] More useful" [90] [91]

In 2015 he repeated this anecdote during an interview with the BBC on refugees. When asked if the Dalai Lama could be a woman he answered "Yes". Recalling again an interview in Paris the possibility he said, "I mentioned, Why not? The female biologically [has] more potential to show affection and compassion...therefore I think female[s] should take more important role and then - I told the reporter - if a female does come her face should be very, very attractive." The interviewer Clive Myrie then asked if a female Dalai Lama must be attractive, he followed up, "I mean. If female Dalai Lama come, then that female must be attractive. Otherwise not much use." Myrie replied "You're joking, I'm assuming. Or you're not joking?" to which The Dalai Lama insisted "No. True!". The Dalai Lama then pointed to his own face, stating that some people think he is very attractive and continued to laugh. [92] [93]

Buddhist scripture about women

Mallikā Sutta

In the Mallikā Sutta of the Pali Canon, King Pasenadi expresses disappointment when Queen Mallikā gives birth to a daughter instead of a son. In Bhikkhu Sujato's translation of the Sutta, the Buddha responds to this disposition by stating:

"Well, some women are better than men,
O ruler of the people.
Wise and virtuous,
a devoted wife who honors her mother in law.

And when she has a son,
he becomes a hero, O lord of the land.
The son of such a blessed lady
may even rule the realm."

Somā Sutta

In the Somā Sutta, the nun Somā is addressed by the evil god Māra:

"That state’s very challenging;
it’s for the sages to attain.
It’s not possible for a woman,
with her two-fingered wisdom."

Somā responds to this taunt in verse:

"What difference does womanhood make
when the mind is serene,
and knowledge is present
as you rightly discern the Dhamma.

Surely someone who might think:
'I am woman', or 'I am man',
or 'I am' anything at all,
is fit for Māra to address."

At this response, Māra disappears.

Dhanañjānī Sutta

According to the Dhanañjānī Sutta, Dhanañjānī, wife of the brahmin Bhāradvāja, had deep faith in the Buddha. She persuaded her husband to speak with the Buddha, who later converted, ordained, and became an arahant.

Buddhist feminism

Buddhist feminism is a movement that seeks to improve the religious, legal, and social status of women within Buddhism. It is an aspect of feminist theology which seeks to advance and understand the equality of men and women morally, socially, spiritually, and in leadership from a Buddhist perspective. The Buddhist feminist Rita Gross describes Buddhist feminism as "the radical practice of the co-humanity of women and men." [94]

Influential female Buddhist figures

Pre-sectarian Buddhism

Theravada

Dipa Ma in Barre, Massachusetts, 1978 Dipa Ma IMS.png
Dipa Ma in Barre, Massachusetts, 1978
Dhammananda Bhikkhuni. Dhammananda09.jpg
Dhammananda Bhikkhuni.

East Asian traditions

A Dharma talk by Daehaeng Kun Sunim at the Jinju, South Korea, Hanmaum Seon Center 1-beobhoe1.jpg
A Dharma talk by Daehaeng Kun Sunim at the Jinju, South Korea, Hanmaum Seon Center

Tibetan tradition

Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, September, 2006. Palmo - Cropped.jpg
Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, September, 2006.

Celebrities

See also


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Buddhist vegetarianism

Buddhist vegetarianism is the belief that following a vegetarian diet is implied in the Buddha's teaching. In Buddhism, however, the views on vegetarianism vary between different schools of thought. According to Theravada, the Buddha allowed his monks to eat pork, chicken and fish if the monk was aware that the animal was not killed on their behalf. The Mahayana schools generally recommend a vegetarian diet; according to some sutras the Buddha himself insisted that his followers should not eat the flesh of any sentient being. Monks of the Mahayana traditions that follow the Brahma Net Sutra are forbidden by their vows from eating flesh of any kind.

Samanera

A sāmaṇera (Pali); Sanskrit śrāmaṇera, is a novice male monastic in a Buddhist context. A female novice is a śrāmaṇerī or śrāmaṇerikā.

Mahapajapati Gotami Disciple of Gautama Buddha

Mahāpajāpatī Gotamī was the step-mother and maternal aunt of the Buddha. In Buddhist tradition, she was the first woman to seek ordination for women, which she did from Gautama Buddha directly, and she became the first bhikkhuni.

Tenzin Palmo Tibetan Buddhist nun

Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo is a bhikṣuṇī in the Drukpa Lineage of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. She is an author, teacher and founder of the Dongyu Gatsal Ling Nunnery in Himachal Pradesh, India. She is best known for being one of the very few Western yoginis trained in the East, having spent twelve years living in a remote cave in the Himalayas, three of those years in strict meditation retreat.

The International Congress on Buddhist Women's Role in the Sangha: Bhikshuni Vinaya and Ordination Lineages was an historic event that took place July 18–20, 2007. It was a meeting of internationally recognized Buddhist scholars specializing in monastic discipline and history, as well as practitioners. It was expected to be the final discussion of a decades-long dialogue about re-establishing full bhikshuni ordination in Buddhist traditions. Papers and research based on Buddhist texts and contemporary practice traditions in China, Korea, Taiwan, Tibet, and South Asia were presented, between them the Abstract: The Eight Garudhammas. The fourteenth Dalai Lama attended the final day of the conference and conclusions. His letter of support is available to the public.

Thubten Chodron American Buddhist abbess

Thubten Chodron , born Cheryl Greene, is an American Tibetan Buddhist nun, author, teacher, and the founder and abbess of Sravasti Abbey, the only Tibetan Buddhist training monastery for Western nuns and monks in the United States. Chodron is a central figure in the reinstatement of the Bhikshuni ordination of women. She is a student of the 14th Dalai Lama, Tsenzhab Serkong Rinpoche, Lama Thubten Yeshe, Thubten Zopa Rinpoche, and other Tibetan masters. She has published many books on Buddhist philosophy and meditation, and is the only nun who has co-authored a book with the Dalai Lama—Buddhism: One Teacher, Many Traditions.

Dhammananda Bhikkhuni Buddhist nun

Dhammananda Bhikkhuni, was born Chatsumarn Kabilsingh or Chatsumarn Kabilsingh Shatsena is a Thai bhikkhuni. On 28 February 2003, Kabilsingh received full monastic ordination as a bhikkhuni of the Theravada tradition in Sri Lanka. She is Abbess of Songdhammakalyani Monastery, the only temple in Thailand where there are bhikkhunis.

Eight Garudhammas

The Eight Garudhammas are additional precepts required of bhikkhunis above and beyond the monastic rule (vinaya) that applied to monks. The authenticity of these rules is highly contested; they were supposedly added to the (bhikkhunis) Vinaya "to allow more acceptance" of a monastic Order for women, during the Buddha's time. They are controversial because they attempt to push women into an inferior role and because many Buddhists, especially Theravadin women, have found evidence that the eight Garudhammas are not really the teachings of Gautama Buddha.

Freda Bedi British buddhist nun

Freda Bedi was a British woman who was the first Western woman to take ordination in Tibetan Buddhism, which occurred in 1972. She was born in Derby, England.

Carola Roloff

Carola Roloff is a German Buddhist nun. Her monastic name is Bhiksuni Jampa Tsedroen. An active teacher, translator, author, and speaker, she is instrumental in campaigning for equal rights for Buddhist nuns.

A bhikkhunī (Pali) or bhikṣuṇī (Sanskrit) is a fully ordained female monastic in Buddhism. Male monastics are called bhikkhus. Both bhikkhunis and bhikkhus live by the Vinaya, a set of rules. Until recently, the lineages of female monastics only remained in Mahayana Buddhism and thus are prevalent in countries such as China, Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam but a few women have taken the full monastic vows in the Theravada and Vajrayana schools over the last decade. From conservative perspectives, none of the contemporary bhikkuni ordinations are valid.

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Bibliography

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