Sutta about the ordination of women?

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Sutta about the ordination of women?

Postby Moth » Sat Oct 01, 2011 9:27 pm

I'm taking a Buddhism class and the teacher is essentially teaching us that the Buddha was a sexist. As a Buddhist this, to me, poses an obvious contradiction as to how one can be both enlightened and sexist. Our textbook offers the following quote,

"Indeed Ananda, it would be just as though the disease known as red rust were to fall on a ripe field of sugar cane. Just as that would be a great defilement to the field of sugar can, so would it be a great defilement to the teaching of the Buddha were Mother Gautami allowed to be initiated into his order and become a nun."

I'm familiar with this story, however my question is what Sutta does this come from? Is this simply a legend or is there a textual basis for it in the Pali Cannon? I'm beginning to doubt this ever even happened.
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Re: Sutta about the ordination of women?

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Oct 02, 2011 1:52 am

Here is the Dictionary of Pali Names link:
http://www.aimwell.org/DPPN/mahapajapati_gotami.htm

See here for something from the Vinaya:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... .ch23.html

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Re: Sutta about the ordination of women?

Postby Otsom » Tue Oct 04, 2011 2:53 pm

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Last edited by Otsom on Thu Feb 09, 2012 11:48 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Sutta about the ordination of women?

Postby Jason » Thu Oct 06, 2011 1:17 am

If you're interested, you can find some of my thoughts about this topic (along with a couple of references) here.
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" (AN 7.58).

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Re: Sutta about the ordination of women?

Postby namaste » Thu Oct 06, 2011 8:14 pm

These last quotes sound like the Buddha felt that women in the sangha would be a distraction to men, and therefore, the "holy life" wouldn't last long, that is, due to men's weakness (of which the Vinaya is chock-full of examples), they need to be segregated from women.

There are other passages in the sutras in which the Buddha supports the ordination of women. People focus on the negative, because of political correctness issues these days, I guess. There is a book produced in English by Buddhist scholars in Taiwan that discusses the Buddha's acceptance of women into his movement, and provides suttric quotes that contradict some of the quotes here. Some scholars, in the West as well as the East, feel that the apparently misogynistic passages were later additions, anyway. So be cautious about what you believe. When I receive and am able to review the book I mentioned, I'll either post here, or start a thread on it.
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Re: Sutta about the ordination of women?

Postby namaste » Fri Oct 07, 2011 8:15 pm

I'd like to add that the Buddha included women in the sangha at great risk to the future viability of the sangha. Firstly, in AN 8.51 he does say that women are capable of becoming arhats. But in the Buddha's time, it was an extremely radical act to include women in a sangha with male monastics. He knew that he could lose important sponsors of his movement by including women, yet he did so anyway.
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Re: Sutta about the ordination of women?

Postby namaste » Sat Oct 08, 2011 12:47 am

Moth, see: SN 37.4 Vaddha Sutta: Growth

"A female disciple of one of the noble ones grows in terms of these five types of growth. Which five?
She grows in terms of conviction.
She grows in terms of virtue.
She grows in terms of learning.
She grows in terms of generosity.
She grows in terms of discernment.

Growing in terms of these five types of growth, the female disciple of the noble ones grows in the noble growth. She grasps hold of what is essential and what is excellent in the body."
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Re: Sutta about the ordination of women?

Postby namaste » Sat Oct 08, 2011 7:20 pm

Here's one more quote for you, moth. Sorry, I don't mean to hog the board.

In DN16, the Buddha says, "I shall not come to my final passing away ... until my bhikkus and bhikkunis, laymen and laywomen, have come to be true disciples." Clearly, he was viewing both male and female followers with equal concern.
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Re: Sutta about the ordination of women?

Postby manas » Sun Oct 09, 2011 11:29 pm

We can't ever be certain about 'what the Buddha said' in any case. The suttas were transmitted at first orally, then eventually written down, and in any case handed down by monks and not nuns (correct me if I'm wrong) over a span of 2500 years, and from what I've read we cannot guarantee that *every* single monk responsible for that transmission was enlightened enough (metaphorically or literally) to trasmit *every* word (or sutta) completely accurately. (Has anyone ever played 'Chinese whispers' at school?) We cannot say, 'the Buddha said...', we should actually follow the example of the suttas themselves: 'thus have I heard...'. This is a more honest way of putting it.
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Re: Sutta about the ordination of women?

Postby BlueLotus » Sun Nov 06, 2011 9:44 am

There is a good possibility that some of the things got distorted over the years, specially from Hindu influences in Buddhism.
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Re: Sutta about the ordination of women?

Postby BlueLotus » Sun Nov 06, 2011 9:58 am

I just read the sutta. If women of that time could willingly leave homes/palaces, march down the streets in robes and attend the Buddha asking for ordination then that does not mean they had little to no decision making power in society. I am actually finding it hard to justify why the Buddha refused them. If he refused them thinking their entry to the sangha would distract the bhikkus or would displease his lay disciples, then isn't it discrimination based on gender differences aka sexism? :thinking:
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Re: Sutta about the ordination of women?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sun Nov 06, 2011 11:25 am

BlueLotus wrote:If he refused them thinking their entry to the Sangha would distract the bhikkhus or would displease his lay disciples, then isn't it discrimination based on gender differences aka sexism?
Discriminating on the basis of gender is not sexism.

All kinds of world records in athletics and other sports discriminate on the basis of gender.

Paula Radcliffe holds the World fastest time for the Marathon, but only for women. Why should she claim to have the fastest time when thousands of men have run faster?

What about the armed forces? How many allow female combat troops to fight alongside men? Isn't it obvious that the men may put themselves and their colleagues into greater danger if the women are in danger?
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Re: Sutta about the ordination of women?

Postby Fede » Sun Nov 06, 2011 11:25 am

The Buddha wasn't sexist.
He was a considerate individual who realised the hearts and minds of people. His subsequent followers were sexist.
I've posted this before, and it's worth repeating.

http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php ... 66,0,0,1,0
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Re: Sutta about the ordination of women?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sun Nov 06, 2011 2:09 pm

Venerable Mettānando's interpretation of the Garudhamma is at odds with that of Ajahn Thanissaro. There is nothing there about bhikkhunis not being allowed to teach the Dhamma to bhikkhus.

7) "A bhikkhu must not in any way be insulted or reviled by a bhikkhunī...

8) "From this day forward, the admonition of a bhikkhu by a bhikkhunī is forbidden, but the admonition of a bhikkhunī by a bhikkhu is not forbidden. This rule, too, is to be honored, respected, revered, venerated, never to be transgressed as long as she lives.

The Pali for admonition is vacanapatha 4. bringing up (for trial), charging M i.251 (vacanapatha). The meaning is to accuse of an offence. If a bhikkhuni sees, hears, or suspects a bhikkhu of committing an offence she should report it to the Sangha and they will then investigate the matter.
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Re: Sutta about the ordination of women?

Postby BlueLotus » Sun Nov 06, 2011 3:35 pm

Fede wrote:The Buddha wasn't sexist.
He was a considerate individual who realised the hearts and minds of people. His subsequent followers were sexist.
I've posted this before, and it's worth repeating.

http://www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php ... 66,0,0,1,0


Thanks a lot Fede. This article is truly enlightening. :smile: I highly recommend everyone should read it if you haven't already. Thanks again

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Re: Sutta about the ordination of women?

Postby daverupa » Sun Nov 06, 2011 3:52 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Discriminating on the basis of gender is not sexism.


Gender discrimination = sexism. It's the definition. Check any dictionary you like.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Sutta about the ordination of women?

Postby santa100 » Sun Nov 06, 2011 10:13 pm

Moth wrote:
I'm taking a Buddhism class and the teacher is essentially teaching us that the Buddha was a sexist. As a Buddhist this, to me, poses an obvious contradiction as to how one can be both enlightened and sexist.


Then the answer is obvious: the Buddha could not be a sexist. If He was, He would still be floating around in this miserable Samsara ~2,500 years later, maybe even teaching a few Buddhist courses in the same school with your poor Buddhist class instructor right now..
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Re: Sutta about the ordination of women?

Postby Dan74 » Sun Nov 06, 2011 11:50 pm

To my ears the discriminatory passages in the sutta clash with many other passages which honour female arahats, extol the virtues of good disciples, male and female and give instructions to virtuous followers, male and female.

Personally I suspect that they are either necessary "evil" for the times or later corruptions.
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Re: Sutta about the ordination of women?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Mon Nov 07, 2011 7:00 am

daverupa wrote:
Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Discriminating on the basis of gender is not sexism.

Gender discrimination = sexism. It's the definition. Check any dictionary you like.

Dictionary definitions can be misinterpreted to suit your own prejudices.

Discrimination also means the application of wisdom and discernment, and is not necessarily prejudiced and discriminatory.
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Re: Sutta about the ordination of women?

Postby Ben » Mon Nov 07, 2011 7:10 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:
daverupa wrote:
Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Discriminating on the basis of gender is not sexism.

Gender discrimination = sexism. It's the definition. Check any dictionary you like.

Dictionary definitions can be misinterpreted to suit your own prejudices.

Discrimination also means the application of wisdom and discernment, and is not necessarily prejudiced and discriminatory.


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