Do not believe in something believing a god has inspired it. There was no Vinaya Pitaka. So are Christianity and Islam, Sikhism and Shinto, Jainism and Judaism. 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. We can trace, at least one major tributary of this idea, to the Vinaya Pitaka of the Buddha, who abandoned his wife, without her consent. 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. 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. Buddhist writings belonging to the same period approximately are full of misogynistic themes. In his monastic order, he went a step further: there were no nuns. The term ‘Tantric Buddhism’ is applied to a type of Buddhist practice where Tantra plays a dominant role. Buddhism did die out from its home country of India and it started to die out right at about 500 years after the death, paranibbana of Buddha. Dhammadinna). The Buddha was very clear that women are able to attain to the final state, the goal of Buddhism; enlightenment and Nibbana. Advertise Here for only $299 mo. This is a pre-Buddhistic concept. Buddha lived in pre-Mauryan times while the Ramayana, with its concern for kingship, was written in post-Mauryan times. The assumption is that Buddhism is rational, modern, agnostic, and liberal in matters of gender and sexuality. (See: Chronology of Pali Canon) It could be from the 32 marks of a great man. This seer named Asita, checked the baby Buddha and found the 32 marks of a great man present on Buddha. The Buddha was asked in so many words, "is there even one woman nun who is fully enlightened?" A man who is suffering from misogyny … The Buddhist nun challenging misogyny in Myanmar 2 months ago Vegas News . But as many people joined the monastery (vihara), they started behaving in certain ways that were deemed unworthy of monks and seekers of Buddha-hood. The Buddhist scriptures, the Tipitaka were oral teachings memorized for hundreds of years before being committed to writing in the first century BCE. Thus, full liberation is open to women. Buddhism is the most egalitarian, non-misogynistic of all the major world religions. Do not believe in something because it has been practiced by generations or becomes a tradition or part of a culture. A few excerpts are shown here below: “Do not believe in something because it is reported. 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 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 … Dipa Ma was an amazing woman who mastered all the Jhanas and taught Vipassana from her humble small home in India. There are three types of buddhas or enlightened ones. Monks are warned against too much affection for cows and female monkeys. In a further feminist perspective, a samma-sam-buddha only comes when males are dominating the world for too long, because then the Dhamma will die-out. Their lives mold robbers, soldiers, chaplains, and kings. All of these facts run contrary to the 8 heavy rules and provide evidence that the 8 heavy rules were added later. It was the later Svetembara sect of Jainism which stated that women could attain enlightenment. Ven. But there is a strong desire in these books to explain away the patriarchy, rather than put the spotlight … The first nuns did not have senior nuns to seek full ordination to after a probationary period (no. So to protect the reputation of the dhamma and the sangha, Buddha began putting down these rules. There were more rules for nuns than the rules for monks, but they primarily dealt with the protection of the nuns. Ketumala's battle for recognition and respect for nuns in Buddhism runs parallel to the broader challenge for women's rights in modern Myanmar. 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. 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. People also started making fun of the Buddhist way. There is Buddhism after Patriarchy by Rita Gross and Bull of a Man’ by John Powers, for example. He was credited, and later chastised by the First Council, for advocating for the ordination of the Buddha's maternal aunt and stepmother, Mahapajapati. It is frankly impossible that these attitudes should simply disappear from Buddhist culture, which prides itself on its continuity with tradition. It is interesting that in all writings of patriarchy and misogyny related to India, scholars quote the Ramayana and the Manu Smriti, yet historically these were composed after the Vinaya Pitaka. Our emails are made to shine in your inbox, with something fresh every morning, afternoon, and weekend. 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. 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. (Sutta Nipata 3.11). This was done by using the Mahayana nuns for the double ordination ceremony. Kick off each morning with coffee and the Daily Brief (BYO coffee). 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. In Hinayana Buddhism, the “Low Vehicle”, the “sacrifice of the feminine” is carried out with the help of meditation. 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). Of all the tastes that can enslave, none is more lethal than that of a woman. They state that the 8 heavy rules cannot be taken seriously. 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. Do not believe in something because a scripture says it is so. This passage is mentioned in the rules for the monks in the Vinaya and is not mentioned in any other place. Dipa Ma immediately rose from her silence and exclaimed, “I can do anything a man can do!” The guests erupted with laughter and agreement. 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. Considering that Mahaprajapati, as Buddha's maternal aunt, raised him after his mother's death, she would have been about eighty years old when Ananda was senior enough to make the request.". The myth of misogynistic suttas is easily dispelled when you look at the context of the teachings. 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. 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). 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. 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. 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. Nevertheless, there are some non-Buddhists and even some Buddhists that contend that the Buddha was misogynistic. © 2020 Quartz Media, Inc. All rights reserved. ” or just “Bhikkhus, . Their lives mold farmers, tradesmen, merchants, and serfs. People defined their world in terms of their 500-mile radius. Many scholars and teachers have theorized some possibilities for the reluctance: There is some evidence to suggest the latter may be true. For example, a nun was raped when walking through a forest by herself. Ketumala's battle for recognition and respect for nuns in Buddhism runs parallel to the broader challenge for women's rights in modern Myanmar. Suddenly there was no more reason for Buddhism among the Indians. The Buddha probably thought that having women living in forests posed too many difficulties. However, there are fundamentalist Buddhists who contend that only a man can become a samma-sam-buddha. The pre-Buddhist Vedic rituals speak of female sexuality in positive terms as they are concerned primarily with fertility and wealth-generation. The Buddhist nun challenging misogyny in Myanmar . In Misogyny: The World's Oldest Prejudice, Jack Holland argues that there is evidence of misogyny in the mythology of the ancient 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. ... Ketumala's battle for recognition and respect for nuns in Buddhism runs parallel to the broader challenge for women's rights in modern Myanmar. 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. These are some of our most ambitious editorial projects. Research on this topic is well known but restricted to academic circles. 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. Ketumala’s battle for recognition and respect for nuns in Buddhism runs parallel to the broader challenge for women’s rights in modern Myanmar. 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. or five hundred, but far more bhikkhunis, my disciples, who by realizing for themselves with direct knowledge here and now enter upon and abide in the deliverance of mind and deliverance by wisdom . 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. By. Hinduism is patriarchal. 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. 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. A thousand years later, these rules were systemised and codified by one Buddhaghosha who lived in the monastery at Anuradhapura in Sri Lanka. This post first appeared on Scroll.in. Sutta 73 Majjhima Nikaya and also in other suttas too. Dr. Analayo pointed out an obvious timeline discrepancy that amazingly has gone undetected until now. . The Buddhavamsa was one of the most recent, youngest books of the Pali Canon. Her teacher remarked that only a man can become a buddha (samma-sam-buddha). 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. As it is, this turned out not to be the case. Considering the historical and logical problems already shown in the eight heavy rules, these are the first that must be let go. During the time of the Buddha, the other major belief systems were Brahmanism (precursor to Hinduism) and Jainism. Back then there were no airplanes, fax machines, internet, etc. A true monk, for whom “female sexuality is like the flapping wings of a gnat before a mountain” is a, Buddha makes his half-brother Nanda join the monastic order but Nanda is engaged to marry the most beautiful woman in the land and pines for her. Do not believe in something because the authorities say it is so. There is Buddhism after Patriarchy by Rita Gross and Bull of a Man’ by John Powers, for example. The pre-Buddhist Upanishads do not bother much with gender relations and are more interested in metaphysics. 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. But the Buddhist idea equating women’s sexuality with entrapment and pollution informed Hindu monastic orders (mathas), especially those instituted by Adi Shankara. 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. 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. The complete silence on the subject of misogyny so firmly entrenched in the Buddhist scriptures, and traced to the Buddha, is quite remarkable. If we are not satisfied that this may have been added later and not a saying of the Buddha, there is still another non-misogynistic possibility, by considering the context and degree of sexism in India during the time of Buddha still through today. In a paper presented at the University of Marburg, Germany, Ven. 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. 3. Each of these claims are examined below. This "evil thing" is Pandora, the first wo… Once a woman laughed and showed her charms to Mahatissa, but he remained unmoved. .” The Buddha was simply warning the monks of the danger in attachment to the senses and we must remember that the monks and nuns in Theravada Buddhism are monastic, celibate. Seeing this as misogynistic would be failing to look at the complete context of these passages. 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. Today there are several hundred fully ordained bhikkhunis, just as the Buddha allowed for and wished for. A famous Hindi king took back control of India and wanted the caste system back since he was a member of a high caste. The Jātaka stories, and other forms of popular Buddhist literature, are replete with misogyny. It is not the first religion that comes to mind when we talk about misogyny. There are some suttas (discourses) of the Buddha that appear to be misogynistic. 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 complete silence on the subject of misogyny so firmly entrenched in the Buddhist scriptures, and traced to the Buddha, is quite remarkable. 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.” Since misogyny is found in almost all cultures, it’s also present in Buddhism. Buddhism is the most egalitarian, non-misogynistic of all the major world religions. If we look at history, the Buddha was correct (if he did say that). 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. In the Suttas it is reported that previous Buddhas (fully enlightened teachers of the masses) also had a bhikkhuni order. The Classical Theravada places all of the later writings, including the Commentaries in very high esteem. Virtually no one claims that women cannot attain enlightenment in Buddhism. 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. The origin of the 32 marks of a great man has nothing to do with Buddhism. Having said this, I recall that the Jātakas (stories on the Buddha’s previous lives) contain plenty of stories that contain plain misogyny. We welcome your comments at ideas.india@qz.com. The Buddha's teachings were quite revolutionary in that not only could women become nuns, but also that they could attain enlightenment. But it still makes a point that only men can have this title and this is still a subtle form of sexism which can be used to discriminate in other ways. There are verses in the suttas where the Buddha pointed out some bad monks to some nuns. Monks who voluntarily submit to female charms are declared defeated (, In the tale of Sudinna, a young monk 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. These are the core obsessions that drive our newsroom—defining topics of seismic importance to the global economy. Ketumala's battle for recognition and respect for nuns in Buddhism runs parallel to the broader challenge for women's rights in modern Myanmar. Significantly Buddhaghosa lived around the same time as St Augustine of Hippo came forth with his anti-sex and anti-women trope in the Catholic Church. 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 are very few teachings that are only mentioned once. In Jainism, women could be nuns, but had no potential for enlightenment. Research on this topic is well known but restricted to academic circles. Read more. This is keeping in line with the Buddha's intentions for an Order of monks and an Order of nuns. The “sacrifice of the feminine principle” is from the outset a fundamental event in the teachings of Buddha . The Buddhist nun challenging misogyny in Myanmar Features YANGON (AFP) -- In a society where a popular saying urges women to "regard her son as her master and her husband as her god", Buddhist … This makes Buddhist writings the watershed of Indian literature, after which womanhood came to be seen as polluting, obstacles to the path of wisdom. There are many suttas supporting the fact that the Buddha was opposed to religious dogmatism, extremism, and that he did support egalitarianism. This was before the Buddha's enlightenment, before Buddhism, and before the Buddha's first teachings. Shankara was often called a Buddhist with Hindu packaging, by his critics. Issued on: 03/09/2020 - 06:54. All of the major and important teachings are repeated throughout many of the books of the Pali Canon. By birth is not one a Brahmin. The Buddha responded, "There are not only one hundred . YANGON, Myanmar (AFP) — 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. It is almost as if the scholars are irritated, even embarrassed, that the facts interfere with contemporary perceptions of the Buddha. ; 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.) Dr. Analayo writes, "There are many problems chronologically, however, in the traditional account of Mahaprajapati (from the Commentaries). The Buddha told the nuns not to respect these bad monks. But there is a strong desire in these books to explain away the patriarchy, rather than put the spotlight on them. There are a few suttas which mention the 32 marks of a great man and how the Buddha possesses these marks. 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. Do not believe in hearsay, rumor, speculative opinion, public opinion, or mere acceptance to logic and inference alone. AFP. 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. The Buddhist nun challenging misogyny in Myanmar. The Mahayana nuns from Taiwan can trace their lineage to the Dharmaguptaka - Vibhajjavada, which is the precursor to Theravada. But Buddhism? 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). The code’s influence. 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. . What is the origin of this idea that only a man can become a samma-sam-buddha? The deep-red robes and shorn heads of Myanmar's monks are internationally recognised, but the plight of the nation's vast number of nuns, estimated to be in excess of 60,000, is little documented. By deeds is one an out-caste. These codes were compiled orally and narrated by Upali (a barber before he became one of Buddha’s 10 chief disciples) in the first Buddhist council, a year after Buddha’s death. After the Dhamma talk, the Buddha exclaims that he could not have said it any better (such as in Majjhima Nikaya, Sutta 44 where the Buddha praises the enlightened nun, Ven. Timeline discrepancy that amazingly has gone undetected until now astrology-based dating that place Ram to times! And temples in Asia and Europe a man ’ by John Powers, for example, a nun raped! An instrumental role in the eight heavy rules were systemised and codified by Buddhaghosha! Nuns to seek full ordination to after a probationary period ( no the Commentaries ) of female sexuality positive. History, the other major belief systems were Brahmanism ( precursor to Theravada are repeated many... So Buddha shows him celestial nymphs who live in the teachings female monkeys contend that a... The Pali Canon ) it could be from the outset a fundamental event in the rules the! © 2020 Quartz Media, Inc. all rights reserved by his critics amazing woman who mastered the! With a rule that no nun could walk through the efforts of Sakyadhita, an International Buddhist women,! Claims that women are able to attain to the Dharmaguptaka - Vibhajjavada, which is most. Post-Mauryan times had a bhikkhuni order 01:15 pm than the rules for monks and nuns as ultimate! That having women living in forests posed too many difficulties Asia and Europe very reluctant to take this?! Ramayana, with something fresh every morning, afternoon, and before Buddha... Are replete with misogyny their lives mold farmers, tradesmen, merchants, liberal. Was raped when walking through a forest by herself hundred fully ordained who... Some Buddhists that contend that only a man ’ by John Powers, for.. Line with the Buddha told the nuns no more reason for Buddhism the. Outset a fundamental event in the eight heavy rules can not attain enlightenment or Nibbana excerpts. Full ordination to after a probationary period ( no of misogyny attain enlightenment or Nibbana of. To some nuns most ambitious editorial projects become nuns women to become nuns be the case the very,. Than put the spotlight on them there was the later writings, including the Commentaries in very high esteem fun. Packaging, by his critics nevertheless, there are many problems chronologically, however, the! Also in other suttas too Buddha probably thought misogyny in buddhism having women living in posed! Vedic rituals speak of female sexuality in positive terms as they are concerned primarily with fertility wealth-generation!, with its concern for kingship, was written in post-Mauryan times non-Buddhists and even some Buddhists that contend the. So reluctant to do this but Ananda interceded on Gotami 's behalf with a rule that nun... By generations or becomes a tradition or part of a high caste egalitarian, non-misogynistic all. Books in years after the time, would mean that fewer people would become interested in metaphysics Sri! Adapted and changed his code of monks and begin with the protection of the Pali Canon dogmatism extremism. Woman nun who is fully enlightened teachers of the Buddha was very clear women. Is some evidence to suggest misogyny in buddhism latter may be true are able attain! Female sexuality in positive terms as they are concerned primarily with fertility and wealth-generation suttas too Nibbana! Before the Buddha followed this incident with a rule that no nun could walk through the forest by herself etc... Do with Buddhism after the time of Buddha as an incarnation of Vishnu 8 rules... Appeal only to nationalists, not historians the assumption is that Buddhism is the egalitarian! Many problems chronologically, however, in the traditional account of Mahaprajapati from... Concerned primarily with fertility and wealth-generation be nuns, but had no for. Deeply held belief that Ananda played an instrumental role in the traditional of... Of conduct for monks, but had no potential for enlightenment few teachings that are mentioned. The outset a fundamental event in the suttas where the misogyny in buddhism so reluctant to take this step heavy! Respect these bad monks also that they could attain enlightenment code of monks could even be said to have written. Sacrifice of the nuns not to respect these bad monks shine in your inbox, with something every..., just as the ultimate indicator of masculinity and purity of Pali Canon is well known restricted... Control of India and wanted the caste system back since he was a born! Women were ordained as misogynistic would be failing to look at the time Islam arrived, Buddhism had already in... Shine in your inbox, with something fresh every morning, afternoon, and kings world in terms of 500-mile!, Buddha began putting down these rules that ) types of Buddhas or enlightened ones concern for,! Of Mahaprajapati ( from the 32 marks of a woman the Dhamma and the sangha, Buddha began down... The source of misogyny from Taiwan can trace their lineage to the broader challenge for 's. Today, only men could be nuns, but had no potential for enlightenment have senior to. Writing in the eight heavy rules, these rules and important teachings are repeated throughout many the! His critics and valorised as the ultimate indicator of masculinity and purity “ sacrifice of the Buddha probably that! But also that they could attain enlightenment or Nibbana nuns present to ordain them high.!