Buddhism and Women

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Buddhism and Women

Postby clw_uk » Wed Jan 14, 2009 10:27 pm

Why was it that the buddha was reluctant to admit women into the sangha and why did he give them more rules to follow than the bhikkhus?
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Re: Buddhism and Women

Postby Cittasanto » Wed Jan 14, 2009 10:43 pm

Hi Clw
a contact of mine from a blog or somewhere (defenetly not a group) sent me her Disertation on the subject of women in buddhism, and I still have it storred on my computer somewhere if anyone is interested I'll look for it, have a rough idea where it is! but as one of the teachers I have spoken to about it said, because women at the time who were renunciantes were either prostitutes or wives of the male renunciant, so they were generally looked on badly, how true this is I don't know but maybe the Buddha wanted to make sure that these women were doing it for the right reasons and not fooling themselves?
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Re: Buddhism and Women

Postby Element » Wed Jan 14, 2009 10:51 pm

The life of a monk was the 'homeless life'. Apart from the rainy season, monks freely walked around India, spreading the teachings. A well practised monk, lived in the forest.

If women ordained, they would have to be protected from rape, angry husbands, etc. Thus, the freedom of the Sangha would be lost, with monks having to protect nuns plus themselves facing danger. The homeless life becomes like the household life.

If a man has a wife, he must protect her. Further, his life is in danger because other men crave his wife. This is normal worldly life & not the homeless life.

Just my opinion.
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Re: Buddhism and Women

Postby Element » Wed Jan 14, 2009 10:56 pm

Heavy rules. A nun must never teach a monk and must always bow to monk, even if that nun is the monk's mother.

This stops worldly relationships, such as a woman's natural materal domineering behaviour or immature monks seeking the feelings of a woman's love.

For example, if you read about the disrobing of the monk Santikaro, he states he always enjoyed 'female energy'.

A monk who is mature, relies on the nirodha dhatu for sustenance and not female energy.

Female energy is the sustainer of creation and the nirodha dhatu is the way to nibbana.
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Re: Buddhism and Women

Postby kc2dpt » Wed Jan 14, 2009 11:10 pm

clw_uk wrote:Why was it that the buddha was reluctant to admit women into the sangha and why did he give them more rules to follow than the bhikkhus?

The Buddha didn't say. Thus all we can do is speculate.
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Re: Buddhism and Women

Postby David N. Snyder » Wed Jan 14, 2009 11:25 pm

It probably was a result of the status of women at the time in northern India. I believe some of the commentaries state that the extra rules were to allow for the Dispensation to last longer. It may have been to please the male dominated society. Or it could have been a test of the resolve and determination of Maha Pajapati Gotami and the other future nuns (bhikkhunis).

An alternative, perhaps more controversial explanation is that the written account is wrong or added later: Bhikkhu Dr. Analayo, a scholar monk has been a strong advocate for bhikkhuni ordination and in his research feels that the Buddha was misrepresented in the texts about being reluctant to ordain women. Ven. Dr. Analayo pointed out an obvious timeline discrepancy that amazingly has gone undetected until now. It involves the deeply held belief that Ananda played an instrumental role in the founding of the bhikkhuni sangha. He was credited, and later chastised by the First Council, for advocating for the ordination of the Buddha's maternal aunt and stepmother, Mahapajapati. In a paper presented at the University of Marburg, Germany, Ven. Dr. Analayo writes, "There are many problems chronologically, however, in the traditional account of Mahaprajapati (from the Commentaries). She first requested ordination five years after Buddha's enlightenment; but Ananda, who requested Buddha on her behalf, first ordained only twenty years after Buddha's enlightenment. Considering that Mahaprajapati, as Buddha's maternal aunt, raised him after his mother's death, she would have been about eighty years old when Ananda was senior enough to make the request."

I added in "from the Commentaries" because I learned from another monk that that is where Ven. Analayo acquired the information.
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Re: Buddhism and Women

Postby Fede » Wed Jan 14, 2009 11:49 pm

A further possibility (and again, a theory, and as such, speculative due to the Buddha's silence upon the subject) is that when the Buddha declared that the Life-span or duration of the Dhamma would be severely curtailed by the ordination of women (in itself a questionable comment, as the Buddha wrote nothing down during his lifetime) it is possible - if he actually said it - that he intended it as an indication of the lack of will-power exercised by men when it came to lustful thoughts and sexual urges. The temptation for monks to stray from the path and not adhere to their vow of celibacy is what concerned him.

Whwether he originated the comment or not, there may be some truth in it, for two reasons:
More often than not, discussions on desire, lust, masturbation and sexual urges are started by men. Women contribute, it must be said. But mainly, it involves male posters.

And any and all newsworthy issues regarding sex-scandals surrounding Buddhist Rinpoches, Lamas and gurus, have all related to male teachers.
No nuns or female eminent Buddhist teachers have as yet succumbed to, or been subjected to the same problem.

But I hasten to add, this is all hypothetical discussion, and all a matter for speculation rather than definitive conclusion.

As things stand, most traditions and schools are sufficiently aware of how important it is to permit the Dhamma to evolve and be transmitted, and the viewpoint of many has broadened sufficiently to eliminate any overt sexual prejudice or deliberately suppressive bias.
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Re: Buddhism and Women

Postby Individual » Wed Jan 14, 2009 11:56 pm

clw_uk wrote:Why was it that the buddha was reluctant to admit women into the sangha and why did he give them more rules to follow than the bhikkhus?

Most likely culture. I think it's a mistake to think of women today as being necessarily equal with the way women were back then, because of how much cultural conditioning can impact psychology. Because women weren't considered equal, as with oppressed ethnic minorities, women back then may have exhibited inferior mental qualities for no reason other than the fact that everybody old them that's how women acted, and were supposed to act (a deeply-ingrained "inferiority complex").

So, as an analogy, even though biologically, there isn't really much of a distinction between African-Americans, whites, Asians, etc., because there's a common distinction that black Americans are "supposed to be" dumb, whites are "supposed to be" really smart, and Asians are "supposed to be," really smart, there's an observable difference in IQ tests, even when taking into account economic status and education. Because of this effect, it may have been impractical to admit women in that such an order may have been extremely dysfunctional, and it would've destroyed the Buddhist orders' credibility as a whole. They were admitted, with extra rules in place, to make sure that if the order did exist, that it would not be dysfunctional.

With that said, it's also entirely possible the Buddha was a sexist.

Today, I honestly don't see any justification for having different rules for men and women.
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Re: Buddhism and Women

Postby kc2dpt » Thu Jan 15, 2009 1:51 pm

Fede wrote:...when the Buddha declared [this teaching] (in itself a questionable comment, as the Buddha wrote nothing down during his lifetime) it is possible - if he actually said it...

This is a pointless thing to add as it could be said of any teaching we don't like. Don't want to abstain from stealing? Just tell yourself "The Buddha didn't write anything down so maybe he didn't say it" and then you can steal to your heart's content. Don't want to practice moderation in eating? Buddha didn't write anything down so eat all you want. Want to gossip about your coworkers? Buddha didn't write anything down... See? The practice completely falls apart if we take this approach.

If you want to question a teaching, I think it's important to find a better reason than "didn't write it down".
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Re: Buddhism and Women

Postby Fede » Thu Jan 15, 2009 7:28 pm

Yes Peter, but the wonderful things about the Buddha's teachings is that they are testable and corroborated.
verifiable.
This comment, showing the bias it does, cannot be said to fall into the same category, which is why I added what i did.

:namaste:
"Samsara: The human condition's heartbreaking inability to sustain contentment." Elizabeth Gilbert, 'Eat, Pray, Love'.

Simplify: 17 into 1 WILL go: Mindfulness!

Quieta movere magna merces videbatur. (Sallust, c.86-c.35 BC)
Translation: Just to stir things up seemed a good reward in itself. ;)

I am sooooo happy - How on earth could I be otherwise?! :D


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Re: Buddhism and Women

Postby Individual » Thu Jan 15, 2009 8:56 pm

Fede wrote:Yes Peter, but the wonderful things about the Buddha's teachings is that they are testable and corroborated.
verifiable.
This comment, showing the bias it does, cannot be said to fall into the same category, which is why I added what i did.

:namaste:

No, I agree with Peter. What you said could be applied to any teaching.

I would instead argue that noble right view is discernment, that the Buddha did not have a dogmatic regard for Vinaya, that Vinaya was changed for practical reasons on a variety of occasions (something that evolved over time in reaction to specific circumstances -- not arbitrary rules handed down from God), and that the Buddha even said, leading up to his death, that some of the minor rules could be abolished. The additional rules applied to women could fall under this category.
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Re: Buddhism and Women

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Jan 15, 2009 9:23 pm

Individual wrote:
Fede wrote:Yes Peter, but the wonderful things about the Buddha's teachings is that they are testable and corroborated.
verifiable.
This comment, showing the bias it does, cannot be said to fall into the same category, which is why I added what i did.

:namaste:

No, I agree with Peter. What you said could be applied to any teaching.

I would instead argue that noble right view is discernment, that the Buddha did not have a dogmatic regard for Vinaya, that Vinaya was changed for practical reasons on a variety of occasions (something that evolved over time in reaction to specific circumstances -- not arbitrary rules handed down from God), and that the Buddha even said, leading up to his death, that some of the minor rules could be abolished. The additional rules applied to women could fall under this category.


What Fede has written could be applied to any text but that doesn't mean he is wrong! maybe not expanded enough to cover the difference between the verifiable and speculative!
there is a difference between something verifiable and something speculative! saying something is one way or should be one way doesn't make it so, neither does limiting what something is to one aspect!
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Buddhism and Women

Postby Placid-pool » Thu Jan 15, 2009 9:41 pm

I think it is very important to judge systems that exclude women, including certain sects of Christianity, Freemasonry and Lords' Cricket Club by the times in which they were formed.

At the time, the possibility of including women as equals would have been unthinkable. The fact that we have become so much more enlightened and decided that 50% of the human race should be considered as just as valuable as the other 50% should only make us feel pity for the unfortunate individuals born then. Segregation in schools is now viewed as distasteful if not horrific but I am old enough to remember when some brave souls decided to challenge the accepted "norms" and suggest that black and white pupils could study together. At the time, it caused riots. Now, we look back on it and smile wryly.

It would be like suggesting that domestic animals should be given the same spiritual standing as humans ... unthinkable today, possibly acceptable tomorrow.
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Re: Buddhism and Women

Postby Element » Thu Jan 15, 2009 10:18 pm

Placid-pool wrote:At the time, the possibility of including women as equals would have been unthinkable. The fact that we have become so much more enlightened and decided that 50% of the human race should be considered as just as valuable as the other 50% should only make us feel pity for the unfortunate individuals born then. Segregation in schools is now viewed as distasteful if not horrific but I am old enough to remember when some brave souls decided to challenge the accepted "norms" and suggest that black and white pupils could study together. At the time, it caused riots. Now, we look back on it and smile wryly.

First, it had nothing to do with inequality.When the women ordained, many attained full enlightenment.

Second, not all smile wryly regarding the things you mentioned. For example, many choose to send their children to a single sex school. Personally, I see no disadvantage in this given I attended both co-ed and single sex schools and consider single sex schools to be superior for education due to the lack of distraction. At the single sex school, we were 12 and 13 year olds obsessed with sex.

To me, your reasoning Placid Pool is coming from the experience of Western culture. For example, in many Buddhist countries such as Thailand, the traditional culture is quite matriarchal. In the elite and educated classes, it was traditional to encourage women to enter into business and men politics. I assume these elements would have existed in the Buddha's time also, namely, matriarchy.

Today, when one is a monk in Thailand, many women, especially the wealthy, wish to sponsor monks regarding requisites. I have heard for myself, an elder female benefactor of a monk physically bite him due to anger over something he did. I knew both of these people personally. A young monk is always warned about wealthy female beneficators and the potential they will wish to 'control' the monk.
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Re: Buddhism and Women

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Jan 15, 2009 11:34 pm

Element wrote:First, it had nothing to do with inequality.When the women ordained, many attained full enlightenment.

Are you sure, just because some women for example can doesn't mean all can! but the same can be said about men.
there may of been other social factors to do with the reasons or personal reasons the Buddha didn't initially ordain them, maybe he wanted to make sure their reasons were proper or maybe social conventions at the time and area made it more difficult for women who had renounced the worldly life before then?

To me, your reasoning Placid Pool is coming from the experience of Western culture. For example, in many Buddhist countries such as Thailand, the traditional culture is quite matriarchal. In the elite and educated classes, it was traditional to encourage women to enter into business and men politics. I assume these elements would have existed in the Buddha's time also, namely, matriarchy.

Today, when one is a monk in Thailand, many women, especially the wealthy, wish to sponsor monks regarding requisites. I have heard for myself, an elder female benefactor of a monk physically bite him due to anger over something he did. I knew both of these people personally. A young monk is always warned about wealthy female beneficators and the potential they will wish to 'control' the monk.


in the middle ages women had a different role in Briton than they did 200 years ago, and 200 years ago they had a different role than today in society.
so comparisons can not be assumed especially when hundreds of miles are included Briton can not be compared Poland in modern standards of either
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Buddhism and Women

Postby Element » Fri Jan 16, 2009 2:50 am

100 years or so ago in the USA, women could not even own property I have heard.

However, in Islam, women could always own property.
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Re: Buddhism and Women

Postby Individual » Fri Jan 16, 2009 3:38 am

Manapa wrote:
Individual wrote:
Fede wrote:Yes Peter, but the wonderful things about the Buddha's teachings is that they are testable and corroborated.
verifiable.
This comment, showing the bias it does, cannot be said to fall into the same category, which is why I added what i did.

:namaste:

No, I agree with Peter. What you said could be applied to any teaching.

I would instead argue that noble right view is discernment, that the Buddha did not have a dogmatic regard for Vinaya, that Vinaya was changed for practical reasons on a variety of occasions (something that evolved over time in reaction to specific circumstances -- not arbitrary rules handed down from God), and that the Buddha even said, leading up to his death, that some of the minor rules could be abolished. The additional rules applied to women could fall under this category.


What Fede has written could be applied to any text but that doesn't mean he is wrong! maybe not expanded enough to cover the difference between the verifiable and speculative!
there is a difference between something verifiable and something speculative! saying something is one way or should be one way doesn't make it so, neither does limiting what something is to one aspect!

I am not claiming that Fede's conclusion is wrong, but I am agreeing with Peter that the argument is not a coherent one, even if it is born of compassion.

Verification is born of and leads to faith. Speculation is born of and leads to doubt. Whether Fede meant verification or speculation, either way, it does not directly address the issue of what the different rules mean, in context. :smile:
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Re: Buddhism and Women

Postby Jason » Fri Jan 16, 2009 5:45 am

clw_uk,

clw_uk wrote:Why was it that the buddha was reluctant to admit women into the sangha and why did he give them more rules to follow than the bhikkhus?


That is a good question. Nowhere in the Pali Canon does the Buddha ever say that women are less capable when it comes to achieving awakening. As the story goes, Ananda, the Buddha's cousin and personal attendant, asks, "Venerable sir, if a woman were to go forth from the home life into homelessness in the doctrine and discipline made known by the Tathagata, would she be able to realize the fruit of stream-entry, once-returning, non-returning, or arahantship?" To this, the Buddha answers, "Yes, Ananda, she would she be able to realize the fruit of stream-entry, once-returning, non-returning, or arahantship" (Cv.X.1). As Thanissaro Bhikkhu explains:

    As the story makes clear, gender is not an issue in determining a person's ability to practice the Dhamma and attain release. But from the Buddha's point of view it was an issue in his design of the Saṅgha as an institution. His concerns were pragmatic and strategic, aimed at the long-term survival of two things: the true Dhamma and the holy life. As SN.XVI.13 explains, the survival of the true Dhamma meant not simply the brute survival of the teachings but the survival of the teaching unadulterated with "synthetic Dhamma" (saddhamma-patirupa), later improvements that would call the authenticity of the true Dhamma into question. Why the existence of a women's Community would speed up the appearance of synthetic Dhamma, the Buddha didn't say, but he was willing to make the sacrifice so that women would have a chance to gain the noble attainments. The survival of the holy life, however, is a matter of the simple survival of the practice, even after the true Dhamma no longer has total monopoly in the Community. The analogy of the clan predominantly female shows that, in the Buddha's eyes, the survival of the holy life required a Community predominantly male. That was why he delayed granting Acceptance to his aunt, so that she would be willing to accept the eight rules of respect; that was why the requirements for Acceptance in the Bhikkhuni Sangha were more difficult and complicated than the requirements for Acceptance in the Bhikkhu Sangha; and that was why many of the rules governing relationships between the two Communities favored the bhikkhus over the bhikkhunis. (Buddhist Monastic Code II, Chapter 23)

In essence, we can see that whatever the Buddha's reason for his initial refusal to accept his aunt into the monastic Sangha, it was not because she, or women in general, were less capable when it comes to achieving awakening. In fact, when Mahapajapati Gotami initially asked the Buddha for acceptance into the monastic order, she was said to have already been a sotapanna, i.e., a stream-enterer. Therefore, while it is true that the Buddha was initially hesitant to admit women into the Sangha, it was more likely due to social reasons, and not because women are in any way spiritually inferior to men. Please see: Women in Buddhism: Questions & Answers.

Jason
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Re: Buddhism and Women

Postby Cittasanto » Fri Jan 16, 2009 8:24 am

Individual wrote:I am not claiming that Fede's conclusion is wrong, but I am agreeing with Peter that the argument is not a coherent one, even if it is born of compassion.

Verification is born of and leads to faith. Speculation is born of and leads to doubt. Whether Fede meant verification or speculation, either way, it does not directly address the issue of what the different rules mean, in context. :smile:


just because something is born from somewhere doesn't mean it is leading back to there and knowledge is something gained from both when used properly
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Buddhism and Women

Postby Placid-pool » Fri Jan 16, 2009 8:52 am

Element wrote:
Placid-pool wrote:At the time, the possibility of including women as equals would have been unthinkable. The fact that we have become so much more enlightened and decided that 50% of the human race should be considered as just as valuable as the other 50% should only make us feel pity for the unfortunate individuals born then. Segregation in schools is now viewed as distasteful if not horrific but I am old enough to remember when some brave souls decided to challenge the accepted "norms" and suggest that black and white pupils could study together. At the time, it caused riots. Now, we look back on it and smile wryly.

First, it had nothing to do with inequality.When the women ordained, many attained full enlightenment.

Second, not all smile wryly regarding the things you mentioned. For example, many choose to send their children to a single sex school. Personally, I see no disadvantage in this given I attended both co-ed and single sex schools and consider single sex schools to be superior for education due to the lack of distraction. At the single sex school, we were 12 and 13 year olds obsessed with sex.

To me, your reasoning Placid Pool is coming from the experience of Western culture. For example, in many Buddhist countries such as Thailand, the traditional culture is quite matriarchal. In the elite and educated classes, it was traditional to encourage women to enter into business and men politics. I assume these elements would have existed in the Buddha's time also, namely, matriarchy.

Today, when one is a monk in Thailand, many women, especially the wealthy, wish to sponsor monks regarding requisites. I have heard for myself, an elder female benefactor of a monk physically bite him due to anger over something he did. I knew both of these people personally. A young monk is always warned about wealthy female beneficators and the potential they will wish to 'control' the monk.


The "wry smile" comment, if you read my post more carefully, was specifically referring to racial segregation .... I assume you don't approve of that?
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