Women can't become Buddhas?

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Women can't become Buddhas?

Postby thecap » Sat Jan 24, 2009 6:53 pm

Hi friends

In the Majjhima Nikaya, in the Discourse on Many Element (115) it is said: "It is impossible that a woman should be the perfect rightfully Enlightened One. It is possible that a man should be the perfect rightfully Enlightened One."

Why?
Last edited by retrofuturist on Thu Jan 29, 2009 8:42 am, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Subject line changed to reflect the true nature of the question and hopefully keep the replies a bit more on topic. Formerly "Women's Can't Be Enlightened?"
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Jan 24, 2009 7:06 pm

Greetings,

This is a statement about becoming a Buddha. There are many Suttas describing Women becoming Arahants (which is what I would understand by "Enlightenment" in a Theravada context).

Metta
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby Jechbi » Sat Jan 24, 2009 7:17 pm

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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby kc2dpt » Sat Jan 24, 2009 7:33 pm

thecap wrote:In the Majjhima Nikaya, in the Discourse on Many Element (115) it is said: "It is impossible that a woman should be the perfect rightfully Enlightened One. It is possible that a man should be the perfect rightfully Enlightened One."

Just to echo what was said...

"perfect rightfully Enlightened One" means sammasambuddha aka "the Buddha".
A woman can certainly be enlightened aka arahant. Many women became arahants under the Buddha's teachings.

Why?

I don't know. My personal theory is that by "woman" the Buddha means "non-dominant gender". In other words, in a male dominated society such as ours a Buddha would never be a woman. Why? Because a female Buddha would have far less influence on the world than a male Buddha. Likewise, in a female dominated society a male Buddha would have far less influence than a female Buddha.

When a Buddha-to-be in the Tusita heaven is getting ready to take rebirth in the human realm, he chooses the circumstances (gender, caste, location) most ideal to helping the most people.
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby thecap » Sat Jan 24, 2009 7:51 pm

Thanks, that makes sense. I understand now that Buddha-enlightenment was meant, rather than Arahant-enlightenment.

Peter wrote:
Why?

I don't know. My personal theory is that by "woman" the Buddha means "non-dominant gender". In other words, in a male dominated society such as ours a Buddha would never be a woman. Why? Because a female Buddha would have far less influence on the world than a male Buddha. Likewise, in a female dominated society a male Buddha would have far less influence than a female Buddha.

When a Buddha-to-be in the Tusita heaven is getting ready to take rebirth in the human realm, he chooses the circumstances (gender, caste, location) most ideal to helping the most people.


Hi Peter,

what you said used to make sense from a political/social perspective. However, I don't agree that men have more influence.

Find one person who isn't born of a woman's womb, or one political leader who has no strong woman on his side.

What I'm saying is, nowadays men bring so much destruction on humanity through war, economic exploitation and ego-politics, that perhaps it's time to rethink whether women can reach "perfect Enlightenment".

Here, the fact that women are often busy having children seems like the smaller of two obstacles to Buddhahood, don't you think?

(But then again, I understand that this is probably not 'Classical Theravada'-thinking. So excuse me if it's an inappropriate question.)
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby clw_uk » Sat Jan 24, 2009 8:30 pm

The statement refers to a time when men had more influence. If buddha had been a women she would not have been taken as seriously and wouldnt have been able to help as many people. If for example the buddha 2,500 years ago never came but would appear in our time instead then there would be more chance of the buddha having female body because in most modern societies women are seen as equal and can have just as much influence as men.



As a futher note in a real sense the buddha of anytime is neither male nor female, only the body are these things and you cant identify the buddha with a physical body.

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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby cooran » Sat Jan 24, 2009 8:41 pm

Hello thecap, all,

All this means is that a being who in this rebirth is a human female cannot become that rarest of all beings, a Sammasambuddha. Every other being who has re-become in human form as a male, also cannot become a Sammasambuddha. A Sammasambuddha is one who discovers the Truth of the Dhamma for himself after all knowledge of it has completely vanished from the world. After discovering it, he sets up the Four pillars of Buddhism: bhikkhu or. male monk, bhikkuni or female monk, upasaka or layman, and upasika or laywoman and, out of compassion, teaches the Dhamma to the world once again. Enlightened beings are Arahants of either gender, but not Sammasambuddhas.

Males, in this world, of all species, are usually stronger and more aggressive. Therefore they rule and take most of the important positions as the human world develops after each formation of the universe - especially in rural and more less industrial populations where the first glimmerings of questioning 'why are we here' 'where did we come from' 'where are we going after death' arise. This is usually the time when it is most effective for a great being, a Bodhisatta, to take rebirth and become a Fully Enlghtened Sammasambuddha.

Arahants have the same enlightenment as a Buddha.

metta
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Sat Jan 24, 2009 8:42 pm

Peter wrote:I don't know. My personal theory is that by "woman" the Buddha means "non-dominant gender". In other words, in a male dominated society such as ours a Buddha would never be a woman. Why? Because a female Buddha would have far less influence on the world than a male Buddha. Likewise, in a female dominated society a male Buddha would have far less influence than a female Buddha.

When a Buddha-to-be in the Tusita heaven is getting ready to take rebirth in the human realm, he chooses the circumstances (gender, caste, location) most ideal to helping the most people.


That's been my personal theory too. :)
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Jan 24, 2009 8:51 pm

thecap wrote:what you said used to make sense from a political/social perspective. However, I don't agree that men have more influence.

The point is that it would have been more difficult for others to take him seriously at the time. He would have had a lot more trouble wandering about teaching. And apart the gender, the Buddha-to-be also chose a time and place and a high position in society that helped him to be taken seriously.

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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby thecap » Sat Jan 24, 2009 9:31 pm

mikenz66 wrote:The point is that it would have been more difficult for others to take him seriously at the time. He would have had a lot more trouble wandering about teaching.


Indeed. That was then. Lets not confuse the causality. The Buddha was male, because female teachers at that time were not taken seriously.

However, that doesn't necessarily mean that the Buddha-to-be has to be male in order to be taken seriously. Now we have different conditions.

And apart the gender, the Buddha-to-be also chose a time and place and a high position in society that helped him to be taken seriously.


Sorry, I don't believe in rebirth, but in conditioned arising. ;)
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby Individual » Sat Jan 24, 2009 10:00 pm

thecap wrote:Why?

Before trying to provide a good answer to your question, it would be good to first distinguish several bad answers to this question. A person could not rightfully say that women cannot become Buddhas because it's been repeatedly said, because it's traditional belief, because it's in scripture, because it's logical, it's an assumption of Theravada, it's a bias, or because it has been said by many monks over the years.

Theravada asserts that Buddhas and Arahants are essentially equal (that the Buddha's enlightenment isn't superior to the Arahant's), but only that Buddhas achieve such enlightenment of their own effort, without outside help, but Arahants rely on Buddhas. In this regard, Buddhas might have more siddhis and more expansive knowledge, but the essential enlightenment (into the nature of notself, impermanence, dukkha, and liberation from samsara) is said to be same.

Now, considering that a Buddha's enlightenment is roughly the same as an Arahant's, and considering that there have been female Arahants, it seems difficult to claim that women can never be Buddhas... ever. We also have to consider that fatalism is a wrong view, so saying that women can't become Buddhas, doesn't seem to be justified. Peter's and Drolma's theory seems to be the correct one, although I'm not certain if it's a Classical Theravadin perspective.

thecap wrote:Sorry, I don't believe in rebirth, but in conditioned arising. ;)

Snarky and irrelevant.

With metta :heart:,
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby Ben » Sat Jan 24, 2009 10:12 pm

Dear members

Just a reminder that this is the Classical Theravada sub-forum.

The Abhidhamma and Classical Theravada sub-forums are specialized venues for the discussion of the Abhidhamma and the classical Mahavihara understanding of the Dhamma. Within these forums the Pali Tipitaka and its commentaries are for discussion purposes treated as authoritative. These forums are for the benefit of those members who wish to develop a deeper understanding of these texts and are not for the challenging of the Abhidhamma and/or Theravada commentarial literature.


Given that we are in the Classical forum, it maybe useful to frame any answer in reference to the early sources.

Kind regards

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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby Element » Sun Jan 25, 2009 1:34 am

The teaching from MN 115 is a woman cannot become a self-enlightened Buddha and establish the Buddhist religion.
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby Element » Sun Jan 25, 2009 1:44 am

Individual wrote:Before trying to provide a good answer to your question, it would be good to first distinguish several bad answers to this question. A person could not rightfully say that women cannot become Buddhas because it's been repeatedly said, because it's traditional belief, because it's in scripture, because it's logical, it's an assumption of Theravada, it's a bias, or because it has been said by many monks over the years.

Theravada asserts that Buddhas and Arahants are essentially equal (that the Buddha's enlightenment isn't superior to the Arahant's), but only that Buddhas achieve such enlightenment of their own effort, without outside help, but Arahants rely on Buddhas. In this regard, Buddhas might have more siddhis and more expansive knowledge, but the essential enlightenment (into the nature of notself, impermanence, dukkha, and liberation from samsara) is said to be same.

Now, considering that a Buddha's enlightenment is roughly the same as an Arahant's, and considering that there have been female Arahants, it seems difficult to claim that women can never be Buddhas... ever. We also have to consider that fatalism is a wrong view, so saying that women can't become Buddhas, doesn't seem to be justified. Peter's and Drolma's theory seems to be the correct one, although I'm not certain if it's a Classical Theravadin perspective.

Dear Individual

A woman cannot attain Buddhahood through her own efforts and then establish the Buddhist religion. That is impossible.

First, a woman has little natural spiritual authority & power and would be readily dismissed by spiritual seekers, kings, the powerful, etc. For a person to establish a religion, they must exude a natural authority and awe, as we read of the Buddha or Jesus.

Second, I theorise, much of a woman's attainment depends in part or initially on the sublimation of her feminine affections upon a man. Most female practitioners are caught up in some kind of guru yoga.

Temples and churches are full of women but the world is not full of female arahants. If Jesus or the Buddha was a woman, the temples and churches would not be full of women, praying for their hopes and wishes and fears.

It is like on Buddhachat. I little birdie has told me you have a female admirer, who thinks you have authority. :heart:

For your consideration,

Element
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby jcsuperstar » Sun Jan 25, 2009 1:50 am

It is like on Buddhachat. I little birdie has told me you have a female admirer.
huh?
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby thecap » Sun Jan 25, 2009 2:10 am

Chris wrote:Males, in this world, of all species, are usually stronger and more aggressive. Therefore they rule and take most of the important positions as the human world develops after each formation of the universe - especially in rural and more less industrial populations where the first glimmerings of questioning 'why are we here' 'where did we come from' 'where are we going after death' arise. This is usually the time when it is most effective for a great being, a Bodhisatta, to take rebirth and become a Fully Enlghtened Sammasambuddha.

Arahants have the same enlightenment as a Buddha.

metta
cooran


Hi Chris

This seems to be a correct observation.

However, from a scientific point of view (and I take it the Dhamma is largely scientific due to the principle of conditioned arising), the conditions for male dominance are of cultural and biological nature. But the Buddha-Dhamma deals with dukkha nirodha through the mind-ful eightfold middle-path, isn't it so?

Thus I understand why the self-enlightened Buddha was male.

But I haven't heard a sufficient explanation (based on Dhamma and Reason) yet why a self-enlightened Buddha has to be male.

Apologies for the rule-breaking by the way. Please move the thread to a proper subforum if possible.

And thanks for all your answers, friends.
Last edited by thecap on Sun Jan 25, 2009 2:20 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby Element » Sun Jan 25, 2009 2:18 am

thecap wrote:But the Buddha-Dhamma deals with dukkha nirodha through the mind-ful eightfold middle-path, isn't it so?

Indeed it does. Male sexuality is more brain centred and easily triggered whilst female sexuality is more body centred and pervasive.

In SN 48.22, Budddha said:
Bhikkhus, there are these three faculties. What three? The feminity faculty, the masculinity faculty, the life faculty. These are three faculties.

For a man who sees the shortcomings of reproduction, sexual nirodha is easy because it is directly connected with the brain and ditti (view) rather than being inherently pervasive.

Buddha's are male because nirodha of the five hindrances is easier for a male.

Buddha taught the five hindrances are the food (ahara) of ignorance (AN X.61).
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Jan 25, 2009 2:52 am

Greetings thecap,

thecap wrote:Please move the thread to a proper subforum if possible.


We've now moved from the Classical Theravada to General Theravada forum.

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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby genkaku » Sun Jan 25, 2009 3:26 am

Please delete if it is somehow off-topic, but I would like to ask:

If we make distinctions between men and women, are we still talking about enlightenment?
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby kc2dpt » Sun Jan 25, 2009 3:28 am

thecap,

Just to be clear, now-a-days neither male nor female can become sammasambuddha because we are still living during the age of the previous sammasambuddha. So looking around the the conditions of today's society is irrelevant.

We don't know what the social conditions will be when the next sammasambuddha arises.
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