Women can't become Buddhas?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby Element » Wed Jan 28, 2009 3:06 am

Individual wrote:Can you cite suttas where the Buddha said that compassion was a "male" quality and neediness was a "female" quality?

Buddha said in the DN: A man serves his wife in five ways. Thus being served, a woman returns her love in five ways. Man is to support and serve. A woman's love should be conditional. Thus, a man has unconditional love and a woman conditional love. This is the optimal way of nature or dhamma. If one holds a woman serves and gives unconditionality, the world will be lost. A woman loves a man when he does right. :jedi:
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby Element » Wed Jan 28, 2009 3:11 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

My take is that we need to renounce both masculinity and feminity.

The Buddha merely defines and differentiates them to provide clarity for us on what needs to be renounced.

Metta,
Retro. :)

Renouncing is spiritual but not worldly or moral.

Suttas are full of the Buddha differentiating male and female.

Better to understand one's true nature or purpose than to renounce.

Male and female are 'neutral'. There is nothing inherently in them to cause dukkha. Performing male or female role or duty is not dukkha.

Thus, there is not need to renounce or abandon.

Buddha did not teach non-duality is Nibbana.
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Wed Jan 28, 2009 3:21 am

Elohim wrote:Chris,

Chris wrote:Which particular things do you disagree with, and why? Not arguing, just interested.


I thought it was obvious, but I disagree that a woman is incapable of being a Buddha.

Jason


Hi Jason,

I thought it's that women cannot become a teaching-buddha. Like a nirmakaya. I don't know what we call it in Theravadan. But this thread has left me with the impression that females are capable of becoming enlightened just as males are.

Best,
Drolma
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby cooran » Wed Jan 28, 2009 3:22 am

Hello Elohim, all,

Can you tell me , when you say this, what your meaning of the term 'buddha' is? Do you mean Arahant - as is the usage in Mahayana (still with afflictions) .... Or do you mean Sammasambuddha - the only one called a Buddha in Theravada - completely fully enlightened when the Teachings have died out? And, if you mean Sammasambuddha, are you not stating that the Buddha Gotama was wrong, or that someone deliberately altered the Suttas and the Arahants at the Councils, and later, didn't happen to notice?

metta
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby Individual » Wed Jan 28, 2009 3:35 am

Element wrote:
Individual wrote:Can you cite suttas where the Buddha said that compassion was a "male" quality and neediness was a "female" quality?

Buddha said in the DN: A man serves his wife in five ways. Thus being served, a woman returns her love in five ways. Man is to support and serve. A woman's love should be conditional. Thus, a man has unconditional love and a woman conditional love. This is the optimal way of nature or dhamma. If one holds a woman serves and gives unconditionality, the world will be lost. A woman loves a man when he does right. :jedi:

That doesn't seem to be relevant to my question, so I guess the answer is no. All love is conditional, except the love of Arahants and Buddhas.
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby Jason » Wed Jan 28, 2009 3:49 am

Chris,

Chris wrote:Can you tell me , when you say this, what your meaning of the term 'buddha' is? Do you mean Arahant - as is the usage in Mahayana (still with afflictions) .... Or do you mean Sammasambuddha - the only one called a Buddha in Theravada - completely fully enlightened when the Teachings have died out? And, if you mean Sammasambuddha, are you not stating that the Buddha Gotama was wrong, or that someone deliberately altered the Suttas and the Arahants at the Councils, and later, didn't happen to notice?


Although it should be obvious, my usage of the term Buddha is in reference to a samma-sambuddha. As for what I am stating, I am stating that I disagree with Theravada doctrine that women are incapable of becoming Buddhas. One reason I disagree with Theravada on this point is that I have yet to see a compelling explanation why. Another reason is that I am open to all the available evidence, and I agree with Prof. Gombrich that such passages are suspect and probably date after the Buddha's lifetime.

Jason
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby Jason » Wed Jan 28, 2009 3:58 am

Drolma,

Drolma wrote:I thought it's that women cannot become a teaching-buddha. Like a nirmakaya. I don't know what we call it in Theravadan. But this thread has left me with the impression that females are capable of becoming enlightened just as males are.


Yes, women are capable of becoming enlightened. This is not in dispute. (The term "arahant" in Theravada refers to anyone who has achieved enlightenment.) What is in dispute is whether women can become samma-sambuddhas (link).

Jason
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Wed Jan 28, 2009 4:02 am

Elohim wrote:Drolma,

Drolma wrote:I thought it's that women cannot become a teaching-buddha. Like a nirmakaya. I don't know what we call it in Theravadan. But this thread has left me with the impression that females are capable of becoming enlightened just as males are.


Yes, women are capable of becoming enlightened. This is not in dispute. (The term "arahant" in Theravada refers to anyone who has achieved enlightenment.) What is in dispute is whether women can become samma-sambuddhas (link).

Jason


Oh I see. I will respectfully bow out now :bow:
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby cooran » Wed Jan 28, 2009 4:07 am

Elohim wrote:Chris,

Chris wrote:Can you tell me , when you say this, what your meaning of the term 'buddha' is? Do you mean Arahant - as is the usage in Mahayana (still with afflictions) .... Or do you mean Sammasambuddha - the only one called a Buddha in Theravada - completely fully enlightened when the Teachings have died out? And, if you mean Sammasambuddha, are you not stating that the Buddha Gotama was wrong, or that someone deliberately altered the Suttas and the Arahants at the Councils, and later, didn't happen to notice?


Although it should be obvious, my usage of the term Buddha is in reference to a samma-sambuddha. As for what I am stating, I am stating that I disagree with Theravada doctrine that women are incapable of becoming Buddhas. One reason I disagree with Theravada on this point is that I have yet to see a compelling explanation why. Another reason is that I am open to all the available evidence, and I agree with Prof. Gombrich that such passages are suspect and probably date after the Buddha's lifetime.

Jason


Thanks Elohim for clarifying. Though, as Gombrich is an academic and not a buddhist, I much prefer the understanding of the Arahants of old, and the teachings handed down in the Traditions over the last two and a half millenia.

metta
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby Jason » Wed Jan 28, 2009 5:54 am

Chris wrote:Thanks Elohim for clarifying. Though, as Gombrich is an academic and not a buddhist, I much prefer the understanding of the Arahants of old, and the teachings handed down in the Traditions over the last two and a half millenia.


I am sure you do, Chris, as I once did. My problem with this kind of reasoning, however, is that there is no guarantee that those "arahants of old" were all arahants, or if everything that has been handed down to us is 100% kosher.
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby zavk » Wed Jan 28, 2009 6:30 am

Chris wrote:Though, as Gombrich is an academic and not a buddhist, I much prefer the understanding of the Arahants of old, and the teachings handed down in the Traditions over the last two and a half millenia.


I'd like interject with a few remarks (btw, what I'm about say is not targeted at you per se, Chris, but at a general tendency that I've observed).

This notion that the views of commentators outside the Buddhist tradition (i.e. those speaking from the secular academe like Gombrich, for instance) are by default less relevant or less instructive in matters of the dhamma is, in my view, terribly disingenuous. I say this for several reasons:

1.) This stance of anti-(secular)intellectualism belies the fact that what we understand of the dhamma today was made possible and continues to be influenced by the work of Buddhist scholars of the 19th century. These forefathers of 'Western Buddhism' were driven by the post-Enlightenment secular ethos, and they employed the rigorous methodologies of the secular academe to uncover what they felt was a more 'authentic' version of Buddhism, a Buddhism that is universalist, rationalist and pragmatic. Theravada teachings appealed to many of them as, through their secular academic lenses, they were deemed to be closest to the original teachings of the Buddha. Are the values of universality, rationalism and pragmatism not the same ones that are celebrated today about the dhamma? Do we not invoke the same values of critical inquiry when we discuss the dhamma?

2.) Rejecting the views of secular commentators on the basis that there are merely 'academic' and not 'applied' or 'practical' belies the fact that within Buddhist traditions themselves there is a high degree of scholasticism. And I'm not talking about Tibetan traditions here. We could assume that one reason Theravada has survived for so long is because of the work of countless scholar-monks who have maintained the canon for a good two millennia, translating and espousing the dhamma to new audiences generation after generation. The suttas and commentaries we have today would not have been possible without continued scholarly work, the kind that requires an analytical rigor not unlike what is demanded of secular academics. In light of this, can we justifiably dismiss the scholarship of secular academics as less meaningful? When we debate about the dhamma, do we not cite from texts, make reference to this argument or that--as secular academics do? When the views of secular academics are dismissed simply because they are 'academic' what is really the issue: is it because rigorous scholarship has no place in Buddhism (evidently not) or is it because such 'merely-academic' views raise questions that are uncomfortable to tradition? Should Buddhism shy away from such questions simply because they are uncomfortable?

3.) The reason Buddhism has survived for so long is because it has been able to adapt to (whilst also transforming) the existing worldviews of the societies it migrated into. This requires conversation and a willingness to listen. In a contemporary secular world--an interconnected world where the secular academe plays an integral (although not a sole) role in providing the knowledge base for society--how is Buddhism to maintain its vitality if it sees the views of those outside the tradition as less trustworthy? Is Buddhism really listening when it dismisses such views as merely 'academic' and of little relevance to its emancipatory and ethical endeavours?

To make this post relevant to the thread I would suggest that Buddhist views about women/men ought to take into consideration secular academic views about women/men. The latter has approached the subject in ways that Buddhism hadn't been able to in traditional societies, and also allowed for new ways of being amongst women/men that wasn't possible (or needed) in traditional societies. This is perhaps a rather banal point. But nevertheless, what I find instructive about secular academic views is the way they reveal how individuals and societies have a great deal of unrecognised craving and attachment to notions of women/men that are not strictly 'natural' or 'inevitable' but which have more accurately congealed over time to appear as self-evident truths. So, if liberation involves seeing how we crave and are attached to certain notions of self (and what more powerful sense of self is there if not woman/man), is it not worth our while to consider such secular academic views in our pursuit of the path? To be true to the FNT, why shouldn't we entertain the possibility that our understanding of the dhamma may be coloured by this attachment to notions of women/men, an attachment which may very well foreclose the truly emancipatory possibilities of the dhamma--or worse, unwittingly turn the dhamma into an impenetrable shining fortress?

Best wishes,
Zavk

PS: I do not pretend that I'm speaking from a neutral position for I am indeed pursuing a career in the academe. However, what I've written above can be considered by most of us, for it seems to me that many here have been educated one way or another in the secular academe and through such prior education is engaging with the dhamma in ways that weren't possible for the laity in traditional Buddhist societies.
With metta,
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Jan 28, 2009 7:19 am

Zavk,

Well said. Thanks.

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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby Jechbi » Wed Jan 28, 2009 7:48 am

I sense we have now changed subjects from the question, "Can a woman become a samma-sambuddha?" to the question, "Are commentators outside the Buddhist tradition as relevant and instructive as those from within it?"

Maybe a new split thread is in order?
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Jan 28, 2009 7:54 am

Greetings Jechbi,

Good thinking.... I'll leave that post there, but I'll copy and paste the content into a new thread and anyone wishing to discuss the points of view further can do so there.

Done: Here it is....

Commentators/academics from outside the Buddhist tradition
viewtopic.php?f=14&t=466

Metta,
Retro. :)
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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby cooran » Wed Jan 28, 2009 7:57 am

Hello Zavk, all,

Sorry, I forgot I was in the "Modern" Theravada folder.

karuna,
Chris
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Jan 28, 2009 8:01 am

Greetings Chris,

No need to be sorry at all... in the Modern section, all Theravadin views and perspectives ranging from the Buddha to Buddhaghosa to Buddhadasa are all perfectly OK and on topic. Thus your comment about your preferences for traditional perspectives over secular academic ones is perfectly legitimate.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby Annapurna » Wed Jan 28, 2009 8:36 am

Dhammakid wrote:Hello Sangha,
It seems Bhante and a few others are basically saying the same thing: feminine dhammas are the result of unwholesome kamma ripening during an age where men have gained dominance and control over society. It's the harsh truth from a Buddhist point of view, just as a "good" person being tortured to death by a serial killer is also the harsh truth. Kamma is a universal law. Compassion evolves out of noticing how kamma affects us based on our actions, and teaching all beings to change their ways in order to cultivate wholesome kamma and eventually attain liberation.

I personally believe I have many feminine dhammas, although obviously they have not manifested as female biology. But I ruminate quite often, I show great compassion and I tend far more to female company than male. Then again, I'm not the only male in the world like this. Gender is a spectrum, and is not the equal to biological sex.

Analogy: I'm an African American male. Statistics show I will likely end up dead or in prison. Furthermore, my people are bound by so much racism and classism still prevalent in today's world. Yet, I am heir to my kamma, born of my kamma, abide supported by my kamma. It has nothing to do inherently with me being Black, but rather I have cultivated unwholesome conditions for myself, and those with higher status and power have cultivated some wholesome kamma for themselves to be in power (although I guess it can be argued that being a racists/classists is either the result of unwholesome kamma or is actively creating unwholesome kamma).

I also have depression, and no health insurance to pay for medication or check-ups. I had to drop out of school due to lack of funds. And, worst of all, I was born in the States! (Haha). And yet, I have to listen to all you elitist Buddhist hippies tell me it's my fault? Well, yes, kind of, because I am heir to my kamma, born of my kamma, abide supported by my kamma.

That doesn't negate women's struggle for equality and fair treatment in society (I am a feminist, after all). But it also means we should be wise and listen to the compassionate teaching when it's available to us, so we can cultivate the conditions for a favorable rebirth.

I, for one, hope to cultivate the conditions to be born as a woman during an aeon when women dominate society. Why not? The point is to eliminate suffering, and right practice now makes it possible later.

Consider the fact that the Buddha was the victim of an apparent murder attempt by his own family member and was forced to endure a quite excruciating stab to the foot by a sliver of hard rock. Did he complain? No. He guarded his sense-doors and gained the devas' applause. True compassion for all beings sees through the delusion of others, even when it's male chauvinists and misogynists ruining society as we know it. Because true compassion is selfless, and understands we are all deluded in some way. And when the powerful are deluded, they show it in more outwardly devastating ways than the delusion of the subordinate. All it means is the Dhamma is that much more important to society.

I love the explanation that the Enlightenment of a male Sammasambuddha is no different than the Enlightenment of a female Arahant. That pretty much answers the question.

I'm either right, wrong, or neither - but I guess I'll find out! (Thanks, Manapa!)

:namaste:
Dhammakid


Analogy: I'm an African American male. Statistics show I will likely end up dead or in prison.


(((Dhammakid)))

No. We shall overcome.

You as an Afro American male, I as a white woman.

Yes we can.


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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby Annapurna » Wed Jan 28, 2009 8:44 am

Elohim wrote:Chris,

Chris wrote:Can you tell me , when you say this, what your meaning of the term 'buddha' is? Do you mean Arahant - as is the usage in Mahayana (still with afflictions) .... Or do you mean Sammasambuddha - the only one called a Buddha in Theravada - completely fully enlightened when the Teachings have died out? And, if you mean Sammasambuddha, are you not stating that the Buddha Gotama was wrong, or that someone deliberately altered the Suttas and the Arahants at the Councils, and later, didn't happen to notice?


Although it should be obvious, my usage of the term Buddha is in reference to a samma-sambuddha. As for what I am stating, I am stating that I disagree with Theravada doctrine that women are incapable of becoming Buddhas. One reason I disagree with Theravada on this point is that I have yet to see a compelling explanation why. Another reason is that I am open to all the available evidence, and I agree with Prof. Gombrich that such passages are suspect and probably date after the Buddha's lifetime.

Jason


Seconded.
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby Annapurna » Wed Jan 28, 2009 8:47 am

Chris wrote:
Elohim wrote:Chris,

Chris wrote:Can you tell me , when you say this, what your meaning of the term 'buddha' is? Do you mean Arahant - as is the usage in Mahayana (still with afflictions) .... Or do you mean Sammasambuddha - the only one called a Buddha in Theravada - completely fully enlightened when the Teachings have died out? And, if you mean Sammasambuddha, are you not stating that the Buddha Gotama was wrong, or that someone deliberately altered the Suttas and the Arahants at the Councils, and later, didn't happen to notice?


Although it should be obvious, my usage of the term Buddha is in reference to a samma-sambuddha. As for what I am stating, I am stating that I disagree with Theravada doctrine that women are incapable of becoming Buddhas. One reason I disagree with Theravada on this point is that I have yet to see a compelling explanation why. Another reason is that I am open to all the available evidence, and I agree with Prof. Gombrich that such passages are suspect and probably date after the Buddha's lifetime.

Jason


Thanks Elohim for clarifying. Though, as Gombrich is an academic and not a buddhist, I much prefer the understanding of the Arahants of old, and the teachings handed down in the Traditions over the last two and a half millenia.

metta
Chris


Even if it's perhaps already watered down by men who made little additions which suited them better?

We have no proof that this didn't happen to the old teachings...

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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby jcsuperstar » Wed Jan 28, 2009 9:10 am

we have no proof it did either, so its kinda a moot point
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