Women in Buddhism

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Mahinda Thera and the Role of Women in Buddhism

Mahinda Thera brought Buddhism to Sri Lanka and India at a time when women were seen as weaker and less important (Leslie 110). Women played important roles in Buddhist culture, presided over secular and religious activities. Women were considered inferior during the pre-Buddhist era (Paranavitana 304-308). The Indian culture was similar to other extreme cultures around the world, with women being considered as less important than men. Women, whether young or elderly, were not permitted to perform duties separately, except in their own homes. As a child, a girl was subject to her father, as a woman she was subject to her husband, when he died, she became subject to her sons, thus, never becoming independent in her whole life. Besides, women were prohibited to perform the religious rights and were denied the knowledge of the Vedas (Leslie 110-112).

The Status of Women in Buddha's Time

In Buddha_x0092_s time, women were treated better compared to the pre-Buddha_x0092_s period but did not get a spiritual accord. Men still dominated, as it was with the male_x0092_s principle known as Purusha (Contursi 42). The principle justified the women_x0092_s general exclusion from the social and spiritual activity. In contrast to the attitude that reserved male_x0092_s achievement in spirituality, Buddha proclaimed a universal message. The message was for the general good of humanity without exception in caste, race or sex. Buddha was regarded as a teacher of gods and human and not as a teacher of men alone, and his teachings were said to lead all people to liberation.

Jainism's Influence on Women's Status

The attitude change towards women, which was brought about during Buddhism, should be appreciated and people must remember it is not only Buddha that brought about the change but also the Jains (Pruthi & Bela 43). Jainism had a more enlightened attitude towards women as they conceded a possible spiritual liberation to a woman as compared to Buddhism who saw that a woman could maybe become a man. Some of the Jain sects but not all allowed the women to participate in the religious orders. Buddhism does not identify itself with any particular sex despite leader being a man. The religion is about the universal law that existed in among the Buddha_x0092_s differently and not about the personality of an individual.

The Gender Perspective in the Teachings of Buddha

The Buddhist_x0092_s teachings about rebirth say that gender of an individual can be changed hence there is no concept of male and female, only a single karmic stream (Leslie 111). This doctrine has affected the current society where people are changing their sexualities. The followers of Buddha especially the women, grasped the rule that, the Dhamma was neutral irrespective of the gender of people following its orders (Paranavitana 307). The female gender in India finally started getting liberation, and with time, they were treated equally just like their male counterparts.

Learning from Buddhism for Gender Equality

The women in the other societies, for example, Christians, Muslims, and Hindus also learn from Buddhists for their liberation and hard work. The women, who desire to have a more active role in the society, should rise and fight for their rights as they have learned from the Buddhists in the Indian community. I feel that the push for gender equality is a good move to avoid prejudices and discrimination. From my culture, the change can be implemented because of the flexibility and the liberalistic approach to positive ideas and opinions. Besides, the change will make be at the forefront in advocating for gender equality for the benefit of all societal members.

Works Cited

Contursi, Janet A. "Language and Power in Images of Indian Women." Images of Women in Maharashtrian Literature and Religion: A Translation of the Pratyabhijnahrdayam with an Introduction and Notes, by Ksemaraja (1996): 42.

Leslie, Julia. "Essence and existence: Women and religion in ancient Indian texts." Holden (London, 1983) qv (2014): 110-112.

Paranavitana, Senarat. "Pre-Buddhist religious beliefs in Ceylon." The Journal of the Ceylon Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland 31.82 (1929): 304-308).

Pruthi, Raj, and Bela Rani Sharma. Buddhism Jainism and Women. Vol. 4. Anmol Publications, Publishers & Distributors, 1995.

December 15, 2022

Religion Sociology


Buddhism Identity

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Zen Buddhism Woman Society

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