Women can't become Buddhas?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby kc2dpt » Sun Jan 25, 2009 3:29 am

genkaku wrote: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?

I would guess it has less to do with enlightenment, since both men and women can become arahant, and more to do with the teaching function of a sammasambuddha. In this we are talking not just of enlightenment but also of enlightenment relating to unenlightenment, teacher relating to student.
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby thecap » Sun Jan 25, 2009 3:41 am

Element wrote: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).


Hi Element,

this explains why the odds are higher for male self-enlightenment, especially considering that men tend more to extreme disposition, which is may be required for unconventional abandonment to begin with. But it does not explain why only men can be self-enlightened.

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


Thanks. :thumbsup:

Peter wrote:we are still living during the age of the previous sammasambuddha. So looking around the the conditions of today's society is irrelevant.


Hi Peter

Fair enough, bar the societal aspect for future self-enlightenment, there's still the biological aspect.

And regardless of that, the human mind is still equally disposed independent of gender, isn't it?
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby Cittasanto » Sun Jan 25, 2009 9:46 am

Peter wrote:I would guess it has less to do with enlightenment, since both men and women can become arahant, and more to do with the teaching function of a sammasambuddha. In this we are talking not just of enlightenment but also of enlightenment relating to unenlightenment, teacher relating to student.


If that is the case I think what ever form the next Buddha will take will be the form most easily listened to, and understood.
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby Element » Sun Jan 25, 2009 10:43 am

Manapa wrote:If that is the case I think what ever form the next Buddha will take will be the form most easily listened to, and understood.

Dhamma is always the same. The last Buddha is always with us in the suttas. If one does not listen and understand the last Buddha, one will not listen and understand the next one.

:popcorn:
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby Individual » Sun Jan 25, 2009 3:34 pm

Element wrote: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.

Right here and now, yes. Aeons from now, in a human realm not unlike our own, possibly not.

Element wrote: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.

There are more female religious leaders in modern days than in the past, and in western countries than elsewhere. You should consider the possibility that cultural patriarchy and misogyny are impermanent.

Manapa wrote:
Peter wrote:I would guess it has less to do with enlightenment, since both men and women can become arahant, and more to do with the teaching function of a sammasambuddha. In this we are talking not just of enlightenment but also of enlightenment relating to unenlightenment, teacher relating to student.


If that is the case I think what ever form the next Buddha will take will be the form most easily listened to, and understood.

...which might be a woman, considering that women have larger portions of their brains devoted towards speech.
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby kc2dpt » Sun Jan 25, 2009 3:53 pm

thecap wrote:
Peter wrote:we are still living during the age of the previous sammasambuddha. So looking around the the conditions of today's society is irrelevant.

Fair enough, bar the societal aspect for future self-enlightenment...

Why? The societal aspect will be just as relevant then as was when Gotama was born. My point is the societal aspect is probably the key to understanding why a Buddha will only be a man.

My other point is that since you and I can't know anything about what society will be like when the next Buddha arises we can't say what role gender will play. All you are doing is looking at our current society and saying "at this point in history gender doesn't seem to matter so much". And I agree with you. I just don't find it to be relevant to understanding future Buddhas.

there's still the biological aspect.

I am not aware of any biological difference between men and women which would preclude one form becoming a sammasambuddha. Nor am I aware of any teaching of the Buddha which describes a biological difference. There is, however, societal differences.

And regardless of that, the human mind is still equally disposed independent of gender, isn't it?

Maybe, maybe not. Various studies have shown differences in mental functioning between genders. Discussion of these studies are probably beyond the scope of this forum.
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby Jason » Sun Jan 25, 2009 7:11 pm

Honestly, I find this entire topic confounding from a Theravadin standpoint. To begin with, you have people who declare Theravada Buddhism to be a philosophy, religion, or ethical way of life free from any form of discrimination. These people claim that everything the Buddha taught was true, and that everything he said is exactly the way it is. Moreover, these people often state that the commentaries faithfully represent the Buddha's message. Whatever he said, whether it appears to contradict this assumption or not, must be taken at face value. Therefore, teachings that state a woman is incapable of becoming a Fully Awakened Buddha are taken to mean that women are incapable of ever achieving this level of spiritual attainment, and at least one commentary states that, "The masculine sex is superior, the women inferior" (Pe Maung Tin, The Expositor, 420).

What I find so bizarre and contradictory is that the assertion is made that gender is nothing more than a conventional distinction, one that contains no inherent meaning or reality; however, you find teachings stating that "women" are unable to do something spiritually that "men" are capable of doing. If this is true, then for what reason is a woman, or a stream of consciousness in the form of a woman, unable to do become a samma-sambuddha? If it merely depends upon your level of accomplishment through aeons of effort, I do not see what would prevent a woman, or a stream of consciousness in the form of a woman, after developing the perfections and being reborn countless times while doing so in all the realms of existence, finally taking rebirth as a female and bringing back the Dhamma to the world after it has died out completely.

It could very well be, as Peter has suggested, that the reason the Buddha said this was due to the societal conditions at that time. Perhaps the Buddha himself never said that women are inferior to men, or in other words, that being born as a woman is inferior to being born as a man; nevertheless, you have commentarial literature stating that this is indeed the case. So even if the Buddha himself did not say this, that is the way it is interpreted in the "classical" Theravada Tradition in which the entire Tipitaka and its commentaries are considered authoritative. My opinion is that an element of sexism may have found its way into the interpretation of the Buddha's words recorded in the Pali Canon, and that this is not as unlikely as it sounds considering that these teachings have been transmitted through a predominately patriarchal society for almost 2,600 years.
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby kowtaaia » Sun Jan 25, 2009 7:41 pm

Elohim wrote:... Perhaps the Buddha himself never said that women are inferior to men...


Ya think? :) Of course, the Buddha never said that. Awakening has nothing to do with gender.
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby Jason » Sun Jan 25, 2009 8:09 pm

Another thing I thought I would mention is that this idea that only a man can become a samma-sambuddha may have arisen in relation to the idea that the Buddha possessed all "thirty-two marks of a great man." One of the marks is said to be "the part which should be concealed by garments, is covered by a bag," which is interpreted to mean that the penis is sheathed and can be drawn into the body and remain there. Obviously, the mark of having a sheathed penis would exclude women. Nevertheless, I do not take these marks to be a literally description of the Buddha himself. For example, I have always found MN 140 interesting in that the wanderer Pukkusati did not immediately recognize the Buddha when he saw him, but only realized who he was after hearing him teach a profound discourse on four determinations and the six properties of experience. That is hard to imagine if the Buddha literally possessed all thirty-two marks. To me, it is obvious that these marks were metaphorical (i.e., representative of various characters and qualities) or the result of psychic powers (i.e., visions that were given certain brahmins and wanderers who accepted the ancient Indian tradition regarding the "thirty-two marks of a great man"), and were used by the Buddha and the Sangha to entice certain brahmins and wanderers who accepted the ancient Indian tradition regarding the "thirty-two marks of a great man" to learn the Dhamma. In other words, it was just clever marketing.
Last edited by Jason on Sun Jan 25, 2009 10:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby Jechbi » Sun Jan 25, 2009 8:18 pm

Let's not lose sight of the full context of the Discourse on Many Elements. There are other things, according to it, that it is impossible for a woman to do:
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. It is impossible that a woman should be the Universal Monarch It is possible that a man should be the Universal Monarch. It is impossible that a woman should be the King of Gods. It is possible that a man should be the King of Gods. It is impossible that a woman should be the King of Death. It is possible that a man should be the King of Death. It is impossible that a woman should be Brahma. It is possible that a man should be Brahma.

I think it would be useful, if possible, to know more about the circumstances surrounding this particular discourse to the bhikkhus, and whether there are any similar discourses that might help us understanding the uses of the term "man" and "woman" in this context, and if there is some meaning here that we might be prone to overlook because we are distracted by (important and relevant) issues of gender equality.

Calling Pali canon scholars. Come in please. You are needed here.

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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby Element » Sun Jan 25, 2009 11:03 pm

Individual wrote:Right here and now, yes. Aeons from now, in a human realm not unlike our own, possibly not.

Individual

Your view is contrary to the Buddha. The Buddha has said a woman cannot be a Sammasambuddha, either in the past or in the future.

Individual wrote:There are more female religious leaders in modern days than in the past, and in western countries than elsewhere. You should consider the possibility that cultural patriarchy and misogyny are impermanent.

I hold your post is irrelevent to the subject. Further, most female teachers have taken refuge in and reliance on a male master. There are some realised female teachers in Buddhism but most are just parrots for their master.

Individual wrote:...which might be a woman, considering that women have larger portions of their brains devoted towards speech.

The very reason you cite above is one of the reasons woman struggle to gain Arahantship, let alone Sammasambuddha. Dispassion and silence forms the foundation of enlightenment. The Buddha spoke the Dhamma perfectly. If you cannot discern it now you will not discern it in the future.

Best to work on our own discernment rather than hoping someone will save us. :hug:

Kind regards,

Element
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby jcsuperstar » Mon Jan 26, 2009 1:09 am

i dont know if i brought this up here or on the other forum but
i think women cant be buddhas in the same way a woman cant be a king
a woman can be a queen, she can rule with the same same authority and power of a king, but she is always a queen, never a king

maybe there is the female equivilent to a buddha? who knows.
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby Element » Mon Jan 26, 2009 1:23 am

Individual wrote:There are more female religious leaders in modern days than in the past, and in western countries than elsewhere. You should consider the possibility that cultural patriarchy and misogyny are impermanent.

Individual

Are you inferring the Lord Buddha was a misogynist?

When our minds are free from sexual lust, then it can see clearly.

Kind regards,

Element
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby jcsuperstar » Mon Jan 26, 2009 1:30 am

there have always been women religious leaders, but no matter how good their teachings seem to be they seem to either get upstaged by a male student, or their sect gets relegated to cult status. most societies seem to find the idea of a female religious leader a threat , this goes for women as well as men. i've known many christian woman who believe women are inferior to men , or shouldnt teach men.
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby Element » Mon Jan 26, 2009 1:46 am

By nature, it is a woman's role to teach a man morality. However, once a man is moral, it is not a woman's role to teach a man about the supramundane.
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Jan 26, 2009 1:47 am

By nature, it is a woman's role to teach a man morality. However, once a man is moral, it is not a woman's role to teach a man about the supramundane.


Says who?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby Dhammanando » Mon Jan 26, 2009 2:07 am

Hi Jason,

Elohim wrote:Therefore, teachings that state a woman is incapable of becoming a Fully Awakened Buddha are taken to mean that women are incapable of ever achieving this level of spiritual attainment, and at least one commentary states that, "The masculine sex is superior, the women inferior" (Pe Maung Tin, The Expositor, 420).


The Expositor passage is on page 421 and you have misquoted it. It says: "The masculine state is superior, the feminine is inferior."

Taken in context, this passage is not about 'men' and 'women'. Rather, as one would expect from an Abhidhamma treatise, it's about the derivative rūpa dhammas called masculinity faculty and femininity faculty. These are kammically produced rūpas that are present in certain material octads spread throughout the body, and which lead to the conventionally observable marks of sexual distinction, such as breasts, rounded hips, beards, moustaches etc. Here 'inferiority' and 'superiority' are attributes of the kinds of kamma that generate these rūpa dhammas, not of the conventional realities called 'men' and 'women'.

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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby Element » Mon Jan 26, 2009 2:12 am

tiltbillings wrote:Says who?

Me! :jumping:

I am not talking Buddhadhamma. Just natural evolution. It is just a mere opinion.

If you question me further, I may answer further.
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Jan 26, 2009 2:26 am

I am not talking Buddhadhamma. Just natural evolution. It is just a mere opinion.

If you question me further, I may answer further.


No need.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby Jason » Mon Jan 26, 2009 3:58 am

Dhammanando wrote:The Expositor passage is on page 421 and you have misquoted it. It says: "The masculine state is superior, the feminine is inferior."

Taken in context, this passage is not about 'men' and 'women'. Rather, as one would expect from an Abhidhamma treatise, it's about the derivative rūpa dhammas called masculinity faculty and femininity faculty. These are kammically produced rūpas that are present in certain material octads spread throughout the body, and which lead to the conventionally observable marks of sexual distinction, such as breasts, rounded hips, beards, moustaches etc. Here 'inferiority' and 'superiority' are attributes of the kinds of kamma that generate these rūpa dhammas, not of the conventional realities called 'men' and 'women'.


I see. Thank you for the clarification, Ven. Dhammanando. (I took both the page number and quote from this post by robertk2.)

Even taken in context, though, it still seems like it is saying roughly the same thing, i.e., that the conventionally observable marks of the male sex are produced from superior kamma while the conventionally observable marks of the female sex are produced from inferior kamma. It begs to question why "male" characteristics such as beards, moustaches, etc. are produced from superior kamma while "female" characteristics such as breast, round hips, etc. are produced from inferior kamma. I would appreciate it if you could explain the meaning of this passage in more detail when you have the time.
Last edited by Jason on Mon Jan 26, 2009 5:49 am, edited 3 times in total.
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