Research on this topic is well known but restricted to academic circles. In his monastic order, he went a step further: there were no nuns. There are verses in the suttas where the Buddha pointed out some bad monks to some nuns. Yangon (AFP) Each of these claims are examined below. The Buddha did decide to allow women to become nuns. Why was the Buddha so reluctant to take this step? Ven. But there is a strong desire in these books to explain away the patriarchy, rather than put the spotlight … Considering the historical and logical problems already shown in the eight heavy rules, these are the first that must be let go. This is keeping in line with the Buddha's intentions for an Order of monks and an Order of nuns. ; and He who explains a discourse whose meaning has already been fully drawn out as one whose meaning needs to be inferred.” (Shows that the Buddha did not support literalism, at least not in all cases.) It involves the deeply held belief that Ananda played an instrumental role in the founding of the bhikkhuni sangha. The 40-year-old walked away from traditional expectations of marriage and children as a teenager, and has instead spent more than two decades as a fierce advocate for the importance of women in religion. Monks are advised to sleep indoors, not outdoors, after an incident where women had sex with a monk while he, apparently, was sleeping under a tree. Ketumala's battle for recognition and respect for nuns in Buddhism runs parallel to the broader challenge for women's rights in modern Myanmar. In Vinaya Pitaka (the book of monastic discipline) 3.15-21, there is the tale of Sudinna – a young monk who breaks his vows of celibacy after his old parents beg him to give his wife, whom he had abandoned, a child so that his family lineage may continue. Of all the voices that can enslave, none is more lethal than that of a woman. Yet, some of the earliest and most systematic documentation of rejection of female sexuality in Indian literature is from Buddhist scriptures, especially the rules of monastic discipline (Vinaya Pitaka), traditionally attributed to the Buddha himself. There is a list of who can be a teaching samma-sam-buddha in the Khuddaka Nikaya, Buddhavamsa 2.59 and one of the items includes being a male. When Prometheus decides to steal the secret of fire from the gods, Zeus becomes infuriated and decides to punish humankind with an "evil thing for their delight". In the Suttas it is reported that previous Buddhas (fully enlightened teachers of the masses) also had a bhikkhuni order. The Buddhist scriptures, the Tipitaka were oral teachings memorized for hundreds of years before being committed to writing in the first century BCE. The Buddhist nun challenging misogyny in Myanmar. This happened 2,600 years ago. The Buddhist nun challenging misogyny in Myanmar 2 months ago Vegas News . There is Buddhism after Patriarchy by Rita Gross and Bull of a Man’ by John Powers, for example. A thousand years later, these rules were systemised and codified by one Buddhaghosha who lived in the monastery at Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka. There was no Vinaya Pitaka. Aung San Suu Kyi might be the face of the nation, but her role at the apex of the civilian government belies the lack of female representation in positions of power in … Hinduism is patriarchal. Dr. Kusuma are fully ordained bhikkhunis, both with a Ph.D. and are continuing in Sri Lanka and Thailand where Ayya Khema left off and have written on the subject of women's status. One does not need to be a samma-sam-buddha to attain enlightenment or Nibbana. Having said this, I recall that the Jātakas (stories on the Buddha’s previous lives) contain plenty of stories that contain plain misogyny. Tantric Buddhism or Vajrayana in Sanskrit (meaning “Thunderbolt” or “diamond vehicle”) is a complex and understudied part of the Buddhist tradition that is of considerable importance to the history of Buddhism and Indo-Tibetan cultural relations. Enjoy! Buddhist writings belonging to the same period approximately are full of misogynistic themes. This makes Buddhist writings the watershed of Indian literature, after which womanhood came to be seen as polluting, obstacles to the path of wisdom. The Buddha was asked in so many words, "is there even one woman nun who is fully enlightened?" In Jainism, women could be nuns, but had no potential for enlightenment. Thus, full liberation is open to women. Unlimited cpc Adspace ID1. 4 min. In 1996 through the efforts of Sakyadhita, an International Buddhist Women Association, the bhikkhuni line was revived. The myth of misogynistic suttas is easily dispelled when you look at the context of the teachings. There is Buddhism after Patriarchy by Rita Gross and Bull of a Man’ by John Powers, for example. He brought the caste system back and then there was the acceptance of Buddha as an incarnation of Vishnu. The Buddha followed this incident with a rule that no nun could walk through the forest by herself. Today there are several hundred fully ordained bhikkhunis, just as the Buddha allowed for and wished for. The Buddhist nun challenging misogyny in Myanmar . Many scholars and teachers have theorized some possibilities for the reluctance: There is some evidence to suggest the latter may be true. In one passage the Buddha specifically mentions that he only creates a rule for the Vinaya when the time is right and the time calls for it (Vinaya, Suttavibhanga 3.9). Monks who do not wake up, or do not yield to temptation despite being accosted by women for sexual pleasure, are seen as innocent and not expelled from the monastic order. In Hinayana Buddhism, the “Low Vehicle”, the “sacrifice of the feminine” is carried out with the help of meditation. This is a pre-Buddhistic concept. Dipa Ma was an amazing woman who mastered all the Jhanas and taught Vipassana from her humble small home in India. The “sacrifice of the feminine principle” is from the outset a fundamental event in the teachings of Buddha . Since the Buddha always considered the context of his audience and what they were ready for it is highly likely that he wanted to gradually phase out the sexist policies, as the people were ready for it. It... 2. Ketumala’s battle for recognition and respect for nuns in Buddhism runs parallel to the broader challenge for women’s rights in modern Myanmar. This seer named Asita, checked the baby Buddha and found the 32 marks of a great man present on Buddha. It helps to convert the uneducated masses, but does nothing to shed more light on the wonderful teachings of the man who became a buddha. Seeing this as misogynistic would be failing to look at the complete context of these passages. Because these women (many who were mothers, daughters, wives, sisters, cousins of many of the bhikkhus) might be subjected to rape, assault, sexual harassment and being termed "prostitutes and thieves", which in fact, did later occur as recorded in the. People also started making fun of the Buddhist way. Of all the tastes that can enslave, none is more lethal than that of a woman. There is Buddhism after Patriarchy by Rita Gross and Bull of a Man’ by John Powers, for example. The Buddhist nun challenging misogyny in Myanmar . Initially, none of these strictures were codified. The Buddha probably thought that having women living in forests posed too many difficulties. Most discourses involve the Buddha giving a talk to the monks and begin with the very familiar, “O Bhikkhus . The founder of the Dhamma School Foundation, overseeing more than 4,800 Buddhist education centers for children throughout Myanmar, she has been described as “a fierce advocate for the importance of women in … 3. This is because he was quite advanced and attained enlightenment, but more importantly shows that many of the Vinaya rules were developed later, as the time and context called for the changes to the rules. The issue is mostly meaningless, since we already have a Buddha for our time and well over 99% of us will not attain to any of the three types of buddha, let alone the samma-sam-buddha title. For the Modern Theravadins, nearly all of these issues are moot, because the seemingly misogynistic issues above are from the later writings and commentaries. There are three types of buddhas or enlightened ones. . The Mahayana nuns had a dual ordination both in Theravada and Mahayana, so the line never did completely die out, just the exclusively Theravada line of bhikkhunis. Buddhism is the only major religion to have scriptures written or composed by women; the Therigatha and the Itivuttaka. Research on this topic is well known but restricted to academic circles. There are a few suttas which mention the 32 marks of a great man and how the Buddha possesses these marks. A few excerpts are shown here below: “Do not believe in something because it is reported. Much of Buddhist literature was put down in writing long before Sanskrit texts (Ashokan edicts in Prakrit date back to 2300 years; the earliest Sanskrit royal inscriptions have been dated to only 1900 years ago). This is because of some passages in the Buddhist scriptures, the Tipitaka that appear sexist, that the Buddha was reluctant to ordain women, that the bhikkhuni line ended and cannot be revived, that the Buddha said that the teachings (religion) would only last 500 years because women were given permission to ordain as nuns (bhikkhunis), because of the extra rules that were imposed on the female monastics, including the eight ‘heavy rules,’ and the passage that states that only a man can be a samma-sam-buddha who teaches the masses after the teachings have died out. Buddhism is the most egalitarian, non-misogynistic of all the major world religions. In the Maha-paranibbana sutta, of the Digha Nikaya (sutta 16), the Buddha states that the monks and nuns may abolish the minor rules as they see fit:  “After I am gone, the Sangha, if it wants, may abolish the lesser and minor training rules.”  Once again, the Buddha in his wisdom recognizes that there will most likely be a need for revisions in certain rules as society is more ready for egalitarian type conditions. Abandoning sex, which effectively means abandoning women, for a “higher” purpose—be it enlightenment or spirituality or service to the nation—has since become a popular model, embraced by religious sects, as well political organisations such as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Another possibility is that only a male can be a samma-sam-buddha because in a male-dominated society, a female will not be accepted as a savior type of teacher and then the teachings will not be renewed and followed. But the Buddhist scriptures clearly show that at least one monk, such as Sopaka, received full ordination at the age of 7 (Khuddaka Nikaya, Theragatha 486). This was done by using the Mahayana nuns for the double ordination ceremony. If we believe the theory that “Jesus lived in India,” this code of monks could even be said to have influenced the anti-women stance outside India, too—in Christianity as well, for while the Buddha abandoned his wife, Yashodhara, Jesus never married at all. Therefore, many teachers and scholars have applauded the reinstatement. Monks are advised to walk straight, without moving their arms and bodies too much, looking at the ground and not above, lest they get enchanted by “the glance of a woman.” Monks are also advised not to walk with single women, or even sit in the company of men, for it might lead to gossip. Their lives mold farmers, tradesmen, merchants, and serfs. The Jātaka stories, and other forms of popular Buddhist literature, are replete with misogyny. He asked if women had the same spiritual potential as men and the Buddha replied, “Having gone forth from home into homelessness in the Dhamma and discipline women are able to realize all the states leading to enlightenment and enlightenment itself." But this only at a very superficial first glance. To be properly ordained, a nun must be ordained first by a quorum of monks and then a second time by a quorum of nuns. Do not believe in something because the authorities say it is so. One is an Arahant who teaches others; another is a silent buddha who attains enlightenment but does not teach, but presumably can still send his or her “rays” of metta - loving kindness to the world. Sutta 73 Majjhima Nikaya and also in other suttas too. There were more rules for nuns than the rules for monks, but they primarily dealt with the protection of the nuns. The first nuns did not have nuns present to ordain them. A woman, like a man can attain to the same level as the founder of the religion of Buddhism and become fully enlightened, an Arahant. Ayya Khema was a German born fully ordained nun who wrote many bestselling books and was a master of the Dhamma and the Jhanas. The Buddha told the nuns not to respect these bad monks. One day, his wife and son come to him and beg him to come back but he does not respond, and shows no sign of husbandly or fatherly instincts and so is praised by Buddha of achieving true detachment and enlightenment. Female hermaphrodites, women who dress like men, or those of deviant sexuality or simply those who do not look like women and are “man-like” women cannot be ordained as nuns. However, there are fundamentalist Buddhists who contend that only a man can become a samma-sam-buddha. By birth is not one an out-caste. Advertise Here for only $299 mo. Although the position of women in Indian society was much higher that it later became, a lone woman still stood a good chance of being thought of as loose and being open to harassment or worse. This situation is not limited to the Theravada and in fact Zen and Vajrayana have an even more patriarchal line with all of the Zen leaders of the past being male and the re-births of all Dalai Lamas have been male as the search committee only looks for recently born boys after the passing of a previous Dalai Lama. The condition and status of women at the time, would mean that fewer people would become interested in Buddhism if women were ordained. If you see the list of these so-called great marks, you will see that they are truly mythological and completely legendary; certainly nothing to be taken seriously or to justify sexism. Manu Smriti and other dharmashastras were written in the Gupta era when Brahmins played a key role in legitimising kingship in much of peninsular India. In a society where a popular saying urges women to “regard her son as her master and her husband as her god”, Buddhist nun Ketumala is already an outlier. For example, a nun was raped when walking through a forest by herself. . Buddhism is the most egalitarian, non-misogynistic of all the major world religions. After Siddhattha became the Buddha, Maha Pajapati Gotami approached him and asked if he would allow her and other women to renounce the world, thus becoming nuns. This is proven by the fact that Asita, the seer who came to see the baby Buddha just after birth predicted that the Buddha will either become a great king and ruler or a great religious man. We welcome your comments at ideas.india@qz.com. They abandoned Buddhism, but fortunately, the teachings did survive in Sri Lanka and other Southeast Asian nations and then the Mahayana spread to Tibet, China, and the rest of Asia. In Greek mythology according to Hesiod, the human race had already experienced a peaceful, autonomous existence as a companion to the gods before the creation of women. It has been glamorised and valorised as the ultimate indicator of masculinity and purity. . For example, there are passages where the Buddha advises the monks not to pay attention to women, not to look at them, and to avoid their company unless accompanied by other people. The complete silence on the subject of misogyny so firmly entrenched in the Buddhist scriptures, and traced to the Buddha, is quite remarkable. In Misogyny: The World's Oldest Prejudice, Jack Holland argues that there is evidence of misogyny in the mythology of the ancient world. The Buddha and his monks did in fact meet with women, when accepting meals, giving instruction, and on some occasions the Buddha even listened to nuns giving a Dhamma talk, afterward saying how he could not have taught the teaching any better (Majjhima Nikaya 44). These are some of our most ambitious editorial projects. All of the major and important teachings are repeated throughout many of the books of the Pali Canon. There’s a misogynist aspect of Buddhism that nobody talks about Rules of monastic discipline. The Mahayana nuns from Taiwan can trace their lineage to the Dharmaguptaka - Vibhajjavada, which is the precursor to Theravada. The complete silence on the subject of misogyny so firmly entrenched in the Buddhist scriptures, and traced to the Buddha, is quite remarkable. She opened many monasteries and temples in Asia and Europe. Do not believe in hearsay, rumor, speculative opinion, public opinion, or mere acceptance to logic and inference alone. At this time there were no monasteries as such, monks lived in the forest or in parks on the outskirts of towns and cities. No doubt about it. It is frankly impossible that these attitudes should simply disappear from Buddhist culture, which prides itself on its continuity with tradition. Once a woman laughed and showed her charms to Mahatissa, but he remained unmoved. Book after book has conditioned us to see the celibate and chaste Buddha as a kind of androgynous, asexual, gentle sage with a beatific smile. When asked by her husband if he found his wife unattractive, Mahatissa said he saw no woman, only a heap of bones. © 2020 Quartz Media, Inc. All rights reserved. The origin of the 32 marks of a great man has nothing to do with Buddhism. He was credited, and later chastised by the First Council, for advocating for the ordination of the Buddha's maternal aunt and stepmother, Mahapajapati. (See: Chronology of Pali Canon) It could be from the 32 marks of a great man. These are the core obsessions that drive our newsroom—defining topics of seismic importance to the global economy. But the Buddhist idea equating women’s sexuality with entrapment and pollution informed Hindu monastic orders (mathas), especially those instituted by Adi Shankara. The Modern Theravada is a term for some Theravadins who focus on the early teachings of Buddhism and the Pali Canon, but especially the earliest compiled and written texts, such as those listed in the first five of the Chronology of Pali Canon. “It is better for you to have put your manhood in the mouth of a venomous snake or a pit of burning charcoal than a woman.”, “Of all the scents that can enslave, none is more lethal than that of a woman.”. By deeds is one an out-caste. 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. News Desk Agence France-Presse Yangon, Myanmar / Thu, September 3, 2020 / 01:15 pm . ... Ketumala’s battle for recognition and respect for nuns in Buddhism runs parallel to the broader challenge for women’s rights in modern Myanmar. Their lives mold robbers, soldiers, chaplains, and kings. But anyone with a little common sense can see these mythological claims are designed to elevate the status of religious leaders by making them sound super human. Ven. The Classical Theravada places all of the later writings, including the Commentaries in very high esteem. The Buddhist Nun Challenging Misogyny in Myanmar In a so ciety where a popular saying urges women to “regard her son as her master and her husband as her god”, Buddhist nun Ketumala is … 6 of the 8 heavy rules). As much as I like various of the notions of Buddhism, it is guilty of the typical organized religious sexism and misogyny, largely traceable to this notion: “From what I have heard in Bana preaching by Buddhist monks, a woman could become a Buddha if during her journey through Sansara she accrues sufficient merit to be born as a man and then attain Buddhahood.” In all three types of buddha, there is full liberation and Nibbana. YANGON: In a society where a popular saying urges women to “regard her son as her master and her husband as her god”, Buddhist nun Ketumala is already an outlier. Majjhima Nikaya 98, Vasettha Sutta 57-59, “There are two ways a person slanders the Buddha; He who explains a discourse whose meaning needs to be inferred as one whose meaning has already been fully drawn out. There was no Vinaya Pitaka. It is one of the furthest books in years after the time of Buddha. There are 227 precepts that bhikkhus (monks) take and 311 for bhikkhunis (nuns). All of these facts run contrary to the 8 heavy rules and provide evidence that the 8 heavy rules were added later. Dhammadinna). People defined their world in terms of their 500-mile radius. Suddenly there was no more reason for Buddhism among the Indians. Do not believe in something because a scripture says it is so. Some of the items on this list of 32 marks of a great man include a lion's chest, a jaw like a lion, a tongue that is so long that it can reach the forehead and both ear holes, 40 teeth, and a penis encased in a sheath. By birth is not one a Brahmin. 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. We can insist that Vedas and only the Vedas, are the source of misogyny. We could, of course, argue that that most educated Buddhists were originally Brahmins and so transplanted Hindu patriarchy into Buddhism, that the Buddha had no such intention. When this is revealed, the Buddha admonishes him thus: “It is better for you to have put your manhood in the mouth of a venomous snake or a pit of burning charcoal than a woman.”, In one conversation, the Buddha states, “Of all the scents that can enslave, none is more lethal than that of a woman. Shankara was often called a Buddhist with Hindu packaging, by his critics. Another criticism is that the Buddha is said to have remarked that the teachings (Buddhism) would only last 500 years because he agreed to ordain women. The Buddhist nun challenging misogyny in Myanmar In a society where a popular saying urges women to “regard her son as her master and her husband as her god,” Buddhist nun Ketumala is already an outlier. Anguttara Nikaya 2.25, Prise de Jérusalem par Hérode le Grand.jpg, 1-10 early to recent Chronology of Pali Canon, The Complete Book of Buddha's Lists -- Explained, https://religion.wikia.org/wiki/Buddhism_and_Misogyny?oldid=278568. Read more. Issued on: 03/09/2020 - 06:54. Dr. Dhammananda (C. Kabilsingh) and Ven. By providing your email, you agree to the Quartz Privacy Policy. Monks are warned against too much affection for cows and female monkeys. Since misogyny is found in almost all cultures, it’s also present in Buddhism. Buddhist monks, unlike other monks of that period, are not allowed to wander naked for fear they would attract women with their charms, believed to be enhanced because of their chastity and celibacy. Of all the caresses that can enslave, none is more lethal than that of a woman.”. This passage is mentioned in the rules for the monks in the Vinaya and is not mentioned in any other place. The Buddha's teachings were quite revolutionary in that not only could women become nuns, but also that they could attain enlightenment. . Dr. Analayo writes, "There are many problems chronologically, however, in the traditional account of Mahaprajapati (from the Commentaries). In the Buddhist Vinaya there is a rule that monks and nuns cannot receive full ordination until the age of 20, prior to that time they are novice monks and nuns. ” or just “Bhikkhus, . By. By deeds is one a Brahmin.” (Sutta Nipata 3.11). Do not believe in something a teacher tells you to. But Buddhism? The Buddha was very clear that women are able to attain to the final state, the goal of Buddhism; enlightenment and Nibbana. Nevertheless, there are some non-Buddhists and even some Buddhists that contend that the Buddha was misogynistic. As it is, this turned out not to be the case. Our emails are made to shine in your inbox, with something fresh every morning, afternoon, and weekend. But there is a strong desire in these books to explain away the patriarchy, rather than put the spotlight on them. The third type of buddha is a samma-sam-buddha, which is a special buddha which comes around only once every 5,000 to 15,000 years or even longer to teach the Dhamma when the Dhamma has died out from the world. A woman, like a man can attain to the same level as the founder of the religion of Buddhism and become fully enlightened, an Arahant. Reverend Sayalay Ketumala has been a Buddhist nun since July 1999, when she joined Pa-Auk Meditation Center in Mon State, some 40 kilometers east of the former Myanmar capital, Yangon. However, the nuns’ lineage continues in most Mahayana countries, and, in places like Taiwan, nuns are a dynamic and respected presence within the Buddhist community. In addition, any other rules that might suggest inequality should be let go and those women who have fully ordained should be fully accepted by all Buddhists as there have been ordinations with monks and nuns present and they need not all be from one tradition at the start of the reinstatement. The more controversial rules are the so-called eight heavy rules, which clearly appear to place the nuns lower than the male monastics, including rules that a women ordained for 100 years is still lower in rank to a monk ordained one day and another rule that nuns cannot teach or ordain monks. Buddha lived in pre-Mauryan times while the Ramayana, with its concern for kingship, was written in post-Mauryan times. AFP. The introduction to the Dhamma Wiki's Buddhism and Misogyny article says, Nevertheless, there are some non-Buddhists and even some Buddhists that contend that the Buddha was misogynistic. Advertising. During the time of the Buddha, the other major belief systems were Brahmanism (precursor to Hinduism) and Jainism. They state that the 8 heavy rules cannot be taken seriously. The Buddhavamsa was one of the most recent, youngest books of the Pali Canon. By the time Islam arrived, Buddhism had already waned in most of India. 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It ’ s also present in Buddhism runs parallel to the broader challenge for 's... Wife unattractive, Mahatissa said he saw no woman, only a man ’ by John Powers, for.. Of these passages condition and status of women at the University of Marburg, Germany, Ven Yangon AFP... As misogynistic would be better back since he was a member of a ”..., only men could be from the 32 marks of a culture, Inc. all rights reserved taken seriously was... Woman nun who wrote many bestselling books and was a German born fully ordained bhikkhunis, as. Runs parallel to the broader challenge for women 's rights in modern Myanmar he found his wife,. Morning with coffee and the Itivuttaka all of the nuns not to be the.! One of the Buddhist nun challenging misogyny in Myanmar 2 months ago news. Hundred fully ordained bhikkhunis, just as the ultimate indicator of masculinity and purity that drive our newsroom—defining topics seismic. Latter may be true so reluctant to take this step the latter may be.! 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