Women can't become Buddhas?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism

Re: No record of Women Buddhas

Postby Dhammanando » Thu Jan 29, 2009 2:56 am

Hi Dhammakid,

Dhammakid wrote:There might be an easy answer to this, but correct me if I'm wrong: the suttas and commentaries were compiled by men (except for the Verses of the Elder Nuns)...Is it possible sexist monks/scholars ignored female Sammasambuddhas?


Yes, it’s possible that the Buddha delivered a plethora of teachings on female Sammasambuddhas and sexist monks engaged in a conspiracy to suppress them all.

And perhaps there were speciesist monks too, guilty of suppressing the Buddha’s many discourses on kangaroo Sammāsambuddhas, chimpanzee Paccekabuddhas etc.

Once we start down the hermeneutics-of-suspicion road, the possibilities are limitless.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu
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    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby jcsuperstar » Thu Jan 29, 2009 3:04 am

also i think it needs to be pointed out that men cant be a buddha, A man can. its not like men get to line up and the best one is chosen, no the majority of beings period can never do this, we might as well be upset that tigers or gods, or trees cant be a buddha. one dude, some super rare guy, who has to go through eons of perfecting himself can do this. and then what does he get for it? not much more than you and i can get for a life time of working hard to reach the same state. sure he gets millions of statues in his honor, but so does mickey mouse... the buddha may be the greatest guy ever, but being a buddha probably isnt the thing most of us really want to be. i mean those great disciples in the suttas if they thought it was such a great thing to do could have may those vows to shakyamuni, but you dont see them doing it, and i dont think it's a matter of ananda, or mahakasyapa or Sāriputta where selfish or lazy.
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Re: No record of Women Buddhas

Postby Dhammakid » Thu Jan 29, 2009 3:17 am

Dhammanando wrote:Hi Dhammakid,

Dhammakid wrote:There might be an easy answer to this, but correct me if I'm wrong: the suttas and commentaries were compiled by men (except for the Verses of the Elder Nuns)...Is it possible sexist monks/scholars ignored female Sammasambuddhas?


Yes, it’s possible that the Buddha delivered a plethora of teachings on female Sammasambuddhas and sexist monks engaged in a conspiracy to suppress them all.

And perhaps there were speciesist monks too, guilty of suppressing the Buddha’s many discourses on kangaroo Sammāsambuddhas, chimpanzee Paccekabuddhas etc.

Once we start down the hermeneutics-of-suspicion road, the possibilities are limitless.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu


Bhante,
I don't appreciate the sarcasm at all, mostly because it's not even applicable. No one here in their right mind would speculate on the Buddhahood of animals. Completely unnecessary. Furthermore, I find it likely that at least a few monks could have been influenced by their biases, just as those in any other religion are, or any other social group or community or chess club or whatever. I'm an African American - the entire western world conspired against us. So your words are so poorly placed.

All of this is easy for a man to say. Lucky us, huh?

I never downplayed the importance of present practice. That's not the issue. The issue is we are taking the suttas for face value, and even discouraging discussion about it.

Like I said before, I appreciated your analysis of the abhidhammic/commentary viewpoint on the issue. I can accept that. It's the idea that women can't be Buddhas in any age, regardless of kamma, social condition or whatever else, that I have a problem with.

If you all don't want to talk about it anymore, then I don't mind stopping.

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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby Dhammakid » Thu Jan 29, 2009 3:19 am

jcsuperstar wrote:...one dude, some super rare guy, who has to go through eons of perfecting himself can do this. and then what does he get for it? not much more than you and i can get for a life time of working hard to reach the same state. sure he gets millions of statues in his honor, but so does mickey mouse... the buddha may be the greatest guy ever, but being a buddha probably isnt the thing most of us really want to be. i mean those great disciples in the suttas if they thought it was such a great thing to do could have may those vows to shakyamuni, but you dont see them doing it, and i dont think it's a matter of ananda, or mahakasyapa or Sāriputta where selfish or lazy.


You make a good point JC. Thanks.

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Re: No record of Women Buddhas

Postby kc2dpt » Thu Jan 29, 2009 3:28 am

Dhammakid wrote:No one here in their right mind would speculate on the Buddhahood of animals.

According to one of the most famous Zen koans, a monk once approached the Zen master Jōshū and asked him, "Does a dog possess Buddha-nature or not?" I guess that monk wasn't in his right mind.

I find it likely that at least a few monks could have been influenced by their biases

The Canon wasn't preserved by a few monks. If a few monks wanted to insert their biases, they'd have to get all the other monks to go along with it.
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby David N. Snyder » Thu Jan 29, 2009 3:38 am

jcsuperstar wrote:i think one of the jain Tirthankaras was female
19th Tirthankar, Malli Nath,
oh and it seems only one sect of jains believes it

I was debating about bringing up the Jains and the similarities to Buddhism, esp., in this regard. It may be a good thing to discuss in another thread.

But in relation to this thread:

The Digambara Jains have naked monks; and nuns who wear white; and believe that only men can attain moksha (roughly equivalent to enlightenment). The Digambaras believe that there have been NO female tirthankara and there never will be one as they are unable to attain moksha of any kind.

The Svetembara Jain sect believes that women can attain enlightenment and that one of the previous tirthankaras was a woman. The Svetembara monks and nuns both wear cloth robes.

But if we look at the history of Jainism, I believe the Digambara was the original. In the Pali Canon, the Jains were called naked ascetics. When the Buddha ordained women and stated that women can attain enlightenment, it must have looked pretty revolutionary in the context of the social structure at the time. Then later, perhaps as late as the 4th to 8th century AD, the Svetembara sect developed, perhaps in a 'one-upmanship' to Buddhism by stating that a previous tirthankara was female.

So, by today's standards some of us might think that no female samma-sam-buddhas appears backward, but in the Buddha's time, allowing a women's Order and stating that they can and do attain enlightenment, must have been seen as very revolutionary.
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Re: No record of Women Buddhas

Postby Dhammakid » Thu Jan 29, 2009 4:38 am

Peter wrote:According to one of the most famous Zen koans, a monk once approached the Zen master Jōshū and asked him, "Does a dog possess Buddha-nature or not?" I guess that monk wasn't in his right mind.


C'mon Peter. You know very well this isn't even close to what I meant. I know the koan, as I used to practice Zen, and the koan is speaking to Buddha-nature, not Buddha-hood; the ability to become a Buddha in the future, not the current status of a Buddha. Animals can't be Buddhas, and everyone here knows that. So, as I said before, no one here in their right mind would speculate on the Buddhahood of animals, thus making Bhante's comments unnecessary.

Peter wrote:The Canon wasn't preserved by a few monks. If a few monks wanted to insert their biases, they'd have to get all the other monks to go along with it.


And obviously they did...

Maybe in this case my intended meaning wasn't so obvious. I meant to say you can't discount the possibility that sexism was common and accepted in the time, as well as unquestioned. Forgive me if I'm wrong though. But for Bhante to mock me and accuse me of speculating a vast male monastic conspiracy is un-called for. Like I said before, whole races of people have been conspired against. Maybe white males need to look past their privilege for a moment...

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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby Dhammakid » Thu Jan 29, 2009 4:43 am

TheDhamma wrote:So, by today's standards some of us might think that no female samma-sam-buddhas appears backward, but in the Buddha's time, allowing a women's Order and stating that they can and do attain enlightenment, must have been seen as very revolutionary.


Yes, I have often made this case to friends and others when discussing Buddhism. However, in light of the information I have gathered from this thread, maybe it was only revolutionary to a point. After all, just as you said, the Buddha's belief is the same as that of many religious types of his day - females don't obtain the most highly regarded achievement.

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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Thu Jan 29, 2009 4:46 am

Sometimes the world really is like a mirror, with the inner workings reflecting onto the outer phenomena.

Respectfully,
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby Dhammanando » Thu Jan 29, 2009 4:48 am

Hi Drolma,

Drolma wrote:If we have taken sincere refuge (or formal refuge) in the triple gem are we automatically protected from falling into the lower realms?


In the Mahāsamaya Sutta an ariyan deva from the Pure Abodes says:

    yekeci buddhaṃ saraṇaṃ gatāse,
    na te gamissanti apāyabhūmiṃ
    pahāya mānusaṃ dehaṃ,
    devakāyaṃ paripūressanti

    "Whoever have gone to the Buddha for refuge
    Will not go to the lower realms,
    Having abandoned the human body
    They will swell the company of devas."
    (DN.ii.255; SN.i.27)

But this principle cannot be universally applicable, for the likes of Devadatta and Sunakkhatta went for refuge and yet ended up in hell. The commentaries take the verse as referring to the supramundane going for refuge, which consists in the attainment of stream-entry. An ordinary person's going for refuge is a wholesome kamma, but it will save him from the lower realms only if it happens to be the kamma that ripens at the time of death. There is no guarantee that this will be the case, for it could be counteracted by some unwholesome kamma.

In some Buddhist circles one will find people voicing rather exaggerated opinions on the benefits of refuge-going that were never taught by the Buddha. In the Suttas (e.g., DN. 5) the benefits of refuge-going rank higher than those of giving gifts to the Sangha, but lower than those of an unbroken observance of the five precepts.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Thu Jan 29, 2009 5:01 am

Thank you :namaste:
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby Jechbi » Thu Jan 29, 2009 5:01 am

Catching up on this thread and wondering: If there was some sutta somewhere stating that only a person with brown eyes could become a samma-sam-buddha, would we be rushing in to argue that people with blue eyes ought not be excluded from consideration as possible samma-sam-buddhas? (No sarcasm intended.)

I realize that gender equity is a significant and important social challenge, but we're talking about a samma-sam-buddha. This is a one-in-a-zillion attainment. We're not talking about whether men or women are more capable, more fabulous, more enlightenment-prone or whatever. All we're talking about is one attribute of a samma-sam-buddha, and an attribute that, as far as I can tell, isn't even going to matter. Let's say a woman could become a samma-sam-buddha, so then what? Would that somehow be a better samma-sam-buddha? Or would samsara somehow be better if throughout the eons the gender distribution of samma-sam-buddhas was equal? I've completely lost track of why this is important.

Reminds me of sneetches.

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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby Dhammakid » Thu Jan 29, 2009 5:02 am

I feel I need to explain my real issue here.

Since I joined this board, I haven't seen anyone take the suttas at face value the way they are being taken here. We have discussed, debated, picked apart and put back together countless topics. Everyone has offered invaluable insight, especially Bhante and Will, who I have always appreciated since my days at ES. But for some reason, I'm getting the vibe that in-depth discussion on the status of females in Sammasambuddha-hood is being nixed. I am being told to downplay it because it has no pertinence to my everyday practice. But neither does a lot of stuff we talk about on here. And those discussions are never discouraged.

If the belief pertains to skillfulness and social structure, then obviously that's understandable. But if the belief is absolute, meaning no matter the social structure or age or whatever, a woman still cannot become a Sammasambuddha, even if they posses every single other perfection...no one has offered an explanation of why. Basically what we're all saying is "that's the way it is, just don't worry about it". Everything else I have studied in Buddhism - literally, everything else - has a good reason to be taken as true. If it didn't, I wouldn't be Buddhist. But there is nothing said so far to support the absolute interpretation that has been offered here.

Forgive me if I'm being just a tad bit picky. But I expect the standards of the board to be upheld in every discussion, not just the discussions that are convenient and light. All of a sudden, we get to a discussion of a fundamental Buddhist idea, and some of the most knowledgeable members here fold?

Sure, I'm a beginner and I'm inexperienced. Maybe that's why I'm speaking this way. But when I am experienced along this Path, women still won't be able to attain Sammasambuddha-hood. I can't wait to see how I will react then.

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Re: No record of Women Buddhas

Postby Dhammanando » Thu Jan 29, 2009 5:04 am

Hi Dhammakid,

Dhammakid wrote:I don't appreciate the sarcasm at all, mostly because it's not even applicable. No one here in their right mind would speculate on the Buddhahood of animals.


It wasn't sarcasm and it's wholly applicable, for some Mahayana Buddhists do claim that a nirmanakāya can appear as an animal. Over at E-sangha there are even several threads about Buddhas appearing as medicinal herbs and other useful plants.

Furthermore, I find it likely that at least a few monks could have been influenced by their biases,


Then I can only repeat that the possibilities of what a few monks could have been influenced by, and what they could have done as a result of being influenced are limitless.

Best wishes,
Dhammanando Bhikkhu
    ...and this thought arose in the mind of the Blessed One:
    “Who lives without reverence lives miserably.”
    Uruvela Sutta, A.ii.20

    It were endless to dispute upon everything that is disputable.
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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby Dhammakid » Thu Jan 29, 2009 5:22 am

Jechbi wrote:Catching up on this thread and wondering: If there was some sutta somewhere stating that only a person with brown eyes could become a samma-sam-buddha, would we be rushing in to argue that people with blue eyes ought not be excluded from consideration as possible samma-sam-buddhas? (No sarcasm intended.)

I realize that gender equity is a significant and important social challenge, but we're talking about a samma-sam-buddha. This is a one-in-a-zillion attainment. We're not talking about whether men or women are more capable, more fabulous, more enlightenment-prone or whatever. All we're talking about is one attribute of a samma-sam-buddha, and an attribute that, as far as I can tell, isn't even going to matter. Let's say a woman could become a samma-sam-buddha, so then what? Would that somehow be a better samma-sam-buddha? Or would samsara somehow be better if throughout the eons the gender distribution of samma-sam-buddhas was equal? I've completely lost track of why this is important.

Reminds me of sneetches.

:shrug:


I understand your sentiments, Jechbi, I really do. But as I stated before, all of this would be different if Sammasambuddha-hood wasn't as highly regarded in the world of Buddhism as it is - ya know, if there weren't whole schools dedicated to attaining it.

Would female teaching Buddhas make better teaching Buddhas than men? No, of course not. But at least there would be some. The problem is that so many here are simply accepting it without providing adequate information as to why there aren't any. We're able to provide tons of information for the countless other topics on this board, but this one topic all of a sudden is shrugged to the side when a few of us care about it. That's my problem.

I don't mean to offend anyone, of course not. I have the utmost respect for everyone here. But I feel the downplaying of this topic is a bit telling of our ability to spread the teachings and allow it to fully adapt to different cultures, without all of the watering down that so often happens in the West.

I'm just trying to figure out why. If that's a crime, then whatever. I'll stop.

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Re: No record of Women Buddhas

Postby Dhammakid » Thu Jan 29, 2009 5:31 am

Dhammanando wrote:It wasn't sarcasm and it's wholly applicable, for some Mahayana Buddhists do claim that a nirmanakāya can appear as an animal. Over at E-sangha there are even several threads about Buddhas appearing as medicinal herbs and other useful plants.


This is really unfortunate, haha. But I must admit that I did not know there were any Buddhists who believed this. My apologies.

Dhammanando wrote:Then I can only repeat that the possibilities of what a few monks could have been influenced by, and what they could have done as a result of being influenced are limitless.


Yes, I understand what you're saying. So are we to believe that the early Mahasangha had no outside influences at all?

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Re: the attached cannot be enlightened

Postby Will » Thu Jan 29, 2009 5:58 am

Consider looking at this subject a little differently. There are so many skillful & unskillful actions. The former group lead toward virtue; the latter toward vice. We also have dozens of innate tendencies & qualities of mind & feeling. Sex is just one factor among all these others.

One cannot become a buddha with hatred toward beings dominating one. One cannot become a buddha with attachment to beautiful sunsets. The list is long.

So why this kerfuffle over sex? Is it because we are powerfully identified with not only ego, but our ego's sex? Yes indeed. There is also a strong era bonding, if I may call it such. During this "progressive" time everything that is better must be identified with, because I live now and here.

Place bonding, era bonding, sex bonding, ego bonding are major obstacles to any form of bodhi, never mind buddhahood.

In addition we are not always born males, nor always females.

Equanimity toward this subject would be beneficial.
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Re: the attached cannot be enlightened

Postby Dhammakid » Thu Jan 29, 2009 6:06 am

Will wrote:Consider looking at this subject a little differently. There are so many skillful & unskillful actions. The former group lead toward virtue; the latter toward vice. We also have dozens of innate tendencies & qualities of mind & feeling. Sex is just one factor among all these others.

One cannot become a buddha with hatred toward beings dominating one. One cannot become a buddha with attachment to beautiful sunsets. The list is long.

So why this kerfuffle over sex? Is it because we are powerfully identified with not only ego, but our ego's sex? Yes indeed. There is also a strong era bonding, if I may call it such. During this "progressive" time everything that is better must be identified with, because I live now and here.

Place bonding, era bonding, sex bonding, ego bonding are major obstacles to any form of bodhi, never mind buddhahood.

In addition we are not always born males, nor always females.

Equanimity toward this subject would be beneficial.


Sure. But you've stated things we have already discussed.

And providing a reason - a why - for this belief to hold true would also be beneficial, just as we do with everything else in Buddhism.

Since it seems unlikely a why will be given, I'm going to back out gracefully.

Goodnight...or morning. Whichever applies.

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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby Jechbi » Thu Jan 29, 2009 6:07 am

Hi Dhammakid,

Dhammakid wrote:The problem is that so many here are simply accepting it without providing adequate information as to why there aren't any.
Maybe there's no good answer. If there was adequate information as to why, I bet it would have been offered by now.

Dhammakid wrote:... this one topic all of a sudden is shrugged to the side when a few of us care about it. That's my problem.
You might be looking for something that's simply not available.

Dhammakid wrote:... I feel the downplaying of this topic is a bit telling of our ability to spread the teachings and allow it to fully adapt to different cultures, without all of the watering down that so often happens in the West.
So what if someone comes up with an explanation that you find acceptable, like maybe, the reason only a man can be the perfect rightfully Enlightened One, the Universal Monarch, the King of Gods, the King of Death or Brahma is because only a man is so egotistical as to really think he can be one, and just about every single man who thinks that way is wrong, and women are much more realistic? Ok, that's probably not a very good explanation, but let's say someone could speculate well and come up with an explanation that you find acceptable. Would that make you feel better about Buddhism? And is that really the goal, to help people feel better about Buddhism?

Different people often find different things about Buddhism that they don't really like depending on where they're at with their understanding. This might just be one of those things for you at this moment. That's probably not very helpful, I guess. But so far I've found that the things I'm uncomortable with one day are less bothersome another day, and I just try to keep moving forward to better understanding. That might be as much as we can do.

I'm just trying to figure out why. If that's a crime, then whatever. I'll stop.
It's not a crime. And everyone knows it's hard to stop.

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Re: Women can't be enlightened?

Postby jcsuperstar » Thu Jan 29, 2009 7:38 am

one thing i always disagreed with my fellow anarchists on was utopia. i dont think it's possible. now i believe to strive for it is probably one of the highest goals one can have and that we should always strive to make a perfect world. but the reality is it will never happen.

maybe samsara sucks? maybe the world will never be this place where men dont dominate over women? that could be why women can never be a buddha...
it keeps being asked "well if we lived in a society where...." but we dont, and maybe we never will? :shrug:
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