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|Women in society|
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Women in Buddhism is a topic that can be approached from varied perspectives including those of "theology, "history, "anthropology and "feminism. Topical interests include the theological status of women, the treatment of women in Buddhist societies at home and in public, the history of women in Buddhism, and a comparison of the experiences of women across different forms of Buddhism. As in other "religions, the experiences of "Buddhist women have varied considerably.
In the case of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism some progress has been made in the areas of women in early Buddhism, monasticism and Mahayana Buddhism. Two articles have seriously broached the subject of women in Indian tantric Buddhism, while somewhat more attention has been paid to Tibetan nuns and lay yoginis.
When there is a talk about women and Buddhism, I have noticed that people often regard the topic as something new and different. They believe that women in Buddhism has become an important topic because we live in modern times and so many women are practicing the Dharma now. However, this is not the case. The female sangha has been here for centuries. We are not bringing something new into a 2,500-year-old tradition. The roots are there, and we are simply re-energizing them.
The founder of Buddhism, "Gautama Buddha, permitted women to join his "monastic community and fully participate in it, although there were certain provisos or "garudhammas. As Susan Murcott comments, "The nun's sangha was a radical experiment for its time." Dr. Mettanando Bhikkhu says of the "First Buddhist council:
Perhaps Mahakassappa and the bhikkhus of that time were jealous of the bhikkhunis being more popular and doing more teaching and social work than the bhikkhus. Their anti-women prejudice became institutionalized at that time with the eight garudhammas, the eight weighty restrictions. We must discontinue that prejudice.
According to Ajahn Sujato, "In fact, as I believe the historical situation makes clear, the garudhammas were imposed by the monks on the nuns, for exactly the same reasons as the "Five Points: to control the nuns."
According to Diana Paul, the traditional view of women in "Early Buddhism is that they are inferior. "Rita Gross agrees that "a misogynist strain is found in early Indian Buddhism. But the presence of some clearly misogynist doctrines does not mean that the whole of ancient Indian Buddhism was misogynist." The mix of positive attitudes to femininity with blatantly negative sentiment has led many writers to characterise early Buddhism's attitude to women as deeply ambivalent.
Some commentators on the Aganna-Sutta from the "Pāli Canon, a record of the teachings of Gautama Buddha, interpret it as showing women as responsible for the downfall of the human race. However, Buddhist interpretation is generally that it shows lust in general, rather than women, as causing the downfall.
However, despite some less positive images of women in "Early Buddhism, there are also examples in the Theravada "Sutta Pitaka that suggest that the very concept of gender differentiation can serve as a hindrance to attaining "nirvana, or "enlightenment. For example, in the Bhikkhuni-samyutta, found in the Sagatha-vagga of the "Samyutta Nikaya, gender discrimination is stated to be the work of "Mara, a personification of temptation from the Buddhist spiritual path. In the Soma Sutta, the "bhikkhuni Soma states: "Anyone who thinks 'I'm a woman' or 'a man' or 'Am I anything at all?' — that's who Mara's fit to address", linking gender neutrality to the Buddhist concept of "anatta, or "not-self", a strategy the Buddha taught for release from suffering. In a sutta titled "Bondage", the Buddha states that when either a man or a woman clings to gender identity, that person is in bondage.
The various schools and traditions within Buddhism hold different views as to the possibilities of women's "spiritual attainments. Feminist scholars have also noted than even when a woman's potential for spiritual attainment is acknowledged, records of such achievements may not be kept—or may be obscured by gender-neutral language or mis-translation of original sources by Western scholars.
According to Bernard Faure, "Like most "clerical discourses, Buddhism is indeed relentlessly "misogynist, but as far as misogynist discourses go, it is one of the most flexible and open to multiplicity and contradiction."
In the Buddhist tradition, positions of apparently worldly power are often a reflection of the spiritual achievements of the individual. For example, any gods are living in higher "realms than a human being and therefore have a certain level of spiritual attainment. "Cakravartins and "Buddhas are also more spiritually advanced than an ordinary human being. However, as the Taiwanese "nun Heng-Ching Shih states, women in Buddhism are said to have five obstacles, namely being incapable of becoming a Brahma King, Sakra, King Mara, Cakravartin or Buddha. This is based on the statement of "Gautama Buddha in the Bahudhātuka-sutta of the "Majjhima Nikaya in the "Pali Canon that it is impossible that a woman should be "the perfectly rightfully Enlightened One", "the Universal Monarch", "the King of Gods", "the King of Death" or "Brahmaa". However, it is important to note that the corresponding text within the Madhyama Agama does not include these lines at all, leading some scholars to speculate whether the lines were a later revision. Earlier limitations on attainment of "Buddhahood by women were abolished in the "Lotus Sutra which opened the direct path to enlightenment for women equally to men. According to "Nichiren” "Only in the Lotus Sutra do we read that a woman who embraces this sutra not only excels all other women but surpasses all men".
Although "early Buddhist texts such as the "Cullavagga section of the "Vinaya Pitaka of the "Pali Canon contain statements from "Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, speaking to the fact that a woman can attain enlightenment, it is also clearly stated in the Bahudhātuka-sutta that there could never be a female "Buddha.
In "Theravada Buddhism, the modern school based on the "Buddhist philosophy of the earliest dated texts, "Buddhahood is a rare event. The focus of practice is primarily on attaining "Arhatship and the "Pali Canon has examples of both male and female Arhats who attained "nirvana. "Yasodharā, the former wife of "Buddha Shakyamuni, mother of his son "Rahula, is said to have become an "arhat after having joined the "Bhikkhuni order of Buddhist nuns. In "Mahayana schools, Buddhahood is the universal goal for Mahayana practitioners. The "Mahayana sutras maintains that a woman can become enlightened, only not in female form. For example, the Bodhisattvabhūmi, dated to the 4th Century, states that a woman about to attain enlightenment will be reborn in the male form. According to Miranda Shaw, "this belief had negative implications for women insofar as it communicated the insufficiency of the female body as a locus of enlightenment".
In Theravada Buddhism, it is impossible for a woman to be a bodhisattva, which is someone on their way to Buddhahood. Bodhisattva can be a human, animal, serpent, or a god, but is never a woman. The Theravada does not deny women to become awakened, but they are unable to lead a Buddhist community. If the aspiration to Buddhahood has been made and a Buddha of the time confirms it, it is impossible to be reborn as a woman. An appropriate aim is for women to aspire to be reborn as male. They can become a male by moral actions and sincere aspiration to maleness. Being born a female is a result of bad karma.
However, in the "tantric iconography of the "Vajrayana practice path of Buddhism, female Buddhas do appear. Sometimes they are the consorts of the main "yidam of a meditation "mandala but Buddhas such as "Vajrayogini, "Tara and Simhamukha appear as the central figures of tantric "sadhana in their own right. Vajrayana Buddhism also recognizes many female "yogini practitioners as achieving the full enlightenment of a "Buddha, Miranda Shaw as an example cites sources referring to "Among the students of the adept "Naropa, reportedly two hundred men and one thousand women attained complete enlightenment". "Yeshe Tsogyal, one of the five "tantric consorts of "Padmasambhava is an example of a woman ("Yogini) recognized as a female Buddha in the Vajrayana tradition. According to "Karmapa "lineage however Tsogyel has attained "Buddhahood in that very life. On the website of the "Karmapa, the head of the Karma "Kagyu school of "Tibetan Buddhism, it is stated that Yeshe Tsogyal—some thirty years before transcending worldly existence—finally emerged from an isolated "meditation retreat, (c.796-805 AD), as "a fully enlightened Buddha" (samyak-saṃbuddha)["citation needed].
In the 20th Century "Tenzin Palmo, a "Tibetan Buddhist "nun in the "Drukpa Lineage of the "Kagyu school, stated "I have made a vow to attain "Enlightenment in the female form—no matter how many lifetimes it takes".
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In the fifteenth century CE, Princess Chokyi-dronme (Wylie: Chos-kyi sgron-me) was recognized as the embodiment of the "meditation deity and female Buddha in the "Vajrayana tradition, "Vajravarahi. Chokyi-dronme became known as Samding "Dorje Phagmo (Wylie: bSam-lding rDo-rje phag-mo) and began a line of female "tulkus, reincarnate "lamas. At present, the twelfth of this line lives in Tibet.
Another female tulku lineage, that of Shugseb Jetsun Rinpoche (Wylie: Shug-gseb rJe-btsun Rin-po-che) (c. 1865 – 1951), began in the late nineteenth century CE. While she received teachings of all the Tibetan schools, Shugseb Jetsun Rinpoche was particularly known for holding a "lineage of "Chöd, the meditation practice of offering one's own body for the benefit of others. At the start of the twentieth century, Shugsheb Jetsun Rinpoche—also called Ani Lochen Chönyi Zangmo—founded the Shuksep or Shugsep (Wylie: shug gseb) nunnery located thirty miles from Lhasa on the slopes of Mount Gangri Thökar. It became one of the largest and most famous nunneries in Tibet. Shugsep Nunnery, part of the "Nyingma school, has been re-established in exile in Gambhir Ganj, India. The nuns of Shugsep continue their practices, including "Longchen Nyingtig and "Chöd.
"Gautama Buddha first "ordained women as "nuns five years after his enlightenment and five years after first ordaining men into the "sangha. The first "Buddhist nun was his aunt and foster mother "Mahapajapati Gotami. Bhikkhunis have to follow the eight rules of respect, which are "vows called "The Eight Garudhammas. According to Peter Harvey "The Buddha's apparent hesitation on this matter is reminiscent of his hesitation on whether to teach at all," something he only does after persuasion from various "devas. The ordination of women in Buddhism is and has always been practiced in some Buddhist regions, such as East Asia, is being revived in some countries such as "Sri Lanka, and is newly beginning in some Western countries to which Buddhism has recently spread, such as the United States.
In the Anguttara Nikaya (5:33), Buddha tells future wives that they should be obedient to their husbands, please them, and not make them angry through their own desires. Furthermore, the Buddha offers advice to married women in the Anguttara Nikaya (7:59; IV 91-94), from the Pali (Theravada) canon, where he tells of "seven types of wives—the first three types are destined for unhappiness, while the last four, as they are imbued with long term self-control, are destined to be happy. These latter wives are characterised as caretakers (motherly-wife), companions (friend-wife) and submissives (sister-wife and slave-wife)—the Buddha thus endorsed a variety of types of wives within marriage.
According to Diana Paul, Buddhism inherited a view of women whereby if they are not represented as mothers then they are portrayed as either lustful temptresses or as evil incarnate.
The status of motherhood in Buddhism has also traditionally reflected the Buddhist perspective that "dukkha, or suffering, is a major characteristic of human existence. In her book on the "Therigatha collection of stories of women "arhats from the "Pali Canon, Susan Murcott states: "Though this chapter is about motherhood, all of the stories and poems share another theme—grief. The mothers of this chapter were motivated to become Buddhist nuns by grief over the death of their children."
However, motherhood in "Early Buddhism could also be a valued activity in its own right. "Queen Maya, the mother of "Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, had a certain following, especially in "Lumbini, where she gave birth to him. Since Maya died some days after his birth, Gautama Buddha was brought up by a fostermother, his mother's sister "Mahapajapati, who also had two children of her own. She became the first Buddhist nun. Both of her children, her son "Nanda and her daughter "Sundari Nanda joined the Buddhist "sangha of monastics. The wife of Gautama Buddha, "Yasodhara, was the mother of one son named "Rahula, meaning "fetter", who became a Buddhist monk at the age of seven and Yasodhara also eventually became a nun.
One of the attractions for women in "Vajrayana Buddhism of following the path of a "yogini rather than that of a "bhikkhuni nun was the opportunity to practice amidst family life with a husband or spiritual consort and possibly have children. Also Yoginis -unlike nuns- were not obliged to shave their hair. "Machig Labdrön followed such a path, living in a monastery for a while but later leaving to unite with Topabhadra as her consort. According to Machig's "namthar he cared for the children while she practiced and taught. Some of Machig's children followed her on the spiritual path, becoming accomplished yogins themselves. "Tsultrim Allione, a recognised emanation of Machig Labdron, herself was a nun for four years but left to marry and have children. She has spoken of the contribution motherhood has made to her practice:
...in Buddhism the image of the mother as the embodiment of compassion is used a lot. She'll do anything for the children. As a mother I felt that depth of love and commitment and having somebody who I really would give my own life for—it was very powerful to have that kind of relationship. I also felt that I didn't really grow up until I had my children. There were ways that maturity was demanded of me and having children brought forth that maturity. So I wouldn't say my children were an inspiration in the sense of what I thought would have been a spiritual inspiration before I had children. More so I think meeting the challenges of motherhood with what I had learned made my practice very rich.
In general, "While Buddhism regards the celibate monastic life as the higher ideal, it also recognizes the importance of marriage as a social institution." Some guidelines for marriage are offered. Although "Buddhist practice varies considerably among its various schools, "marriage is one of the few concepts specifically mentioned in the context of "Śīla, the Buddhist formulation of core facets of "spiritual discipline. The fundamental code of "Buddhist ethics, "The Five Precepts contains an admonishment against "sexual misconduct, although what constitutes misconduct from the perspective of a particular "school of Buddhism varies widely depending on the local "culture.
In "Early Buddhism, the "Sigalovada Sutta of the "Digha Nikaya in the "Pali Canon describes the respect that one is expected to give to one's spouse. However, since the ideal of Early Buddhism is "renunciation, it can be seen from examples such as the story of the monk "Nanda and his wife Janapada Kalyāni that striving for the bliss of "Nirvana is valued above romantic love and marriage. Despite having married her just that day, encouraged by his cousin "Gautama Buddha, Nanda left his wife to become a "bhikkhu in the Buddhist "Sangha. In stories like this from the Pali Canon, romantic love is generally perceived as part of attachment to "samsara, the endless cycle of "rebirth. Susan Murcott has pointed out that Early Buddhist attitudes to romantic love and marriage generally reflect the "Brahmanic ideals of India at the time... including the recent rise of the renunciate ideal and the associated decline in the status of romantic love and marriage.
In "Vajrayana Buddhism, a sexual relationship with a consort is seen in a technical way as being a spiritual practice in "anuttarayoga tantra intended to allow the practitioners to attain realizations and attain "enlightenment. The union of tantric consorts is depicted in the "yab-yum iconography of "meditation deities.
Warfare has traditionally been carried out primarily by men, since they seem better physically equipped for aggressive behavior. Women, on the other hand, tend to be more caring and more sensitive to others' discomfort and pain. Although men and women have the same potentials for aggression and warm-heartedness, they differ in which of the two more easily manifests. Thus, if the majority of world leaders were women, perhaps there would be less danger of war and more cooperation on the basis of global concern – although, of course, some women can be difficult! I sympathize with feminists, but they must not merely shout. They must exert efforts to make positive contributions to society.
He also said that by nature, women are more compassionate "based on their biology and ability to nurture and birth children." He called on women to "lead and create a more compassionate world," citing the good works of nurses and mothers.
In 2007 he said that the next Dalai Lama could possibly be a woman, remarking "If a woman reveals herself as more useful the lama could very well be reincarnated in this form".
In 2010 he stated that "twenty or thirty years ago", when discussing whether a woman could be a Dalai Lama in the future, he said yes but "I also said half-jokingly that if the Dalai Lama's reincarnation is female, she must be very attractive. The reason is so that she will have more influence on others. If she is an ugly female, she won’t be very effective, will she?"
During a 2014 interview with "Larry King when asked if he thought we will ever see a female Dalai Lama he stated "Yes! That's very possible." he recalled telling a reporter in Paris many years ago that it is possible mentioning that there are some female Lama's in history dating "...six or seven centuries ago, so it is nothing new." He then recalled joking with the reporter, "If female Dalai Lama come, that female must be very, very attractive. [It's] More useful"
In 2015 he repeated this anecdote during an interview with the "BBC on refugees. When asked if the Dalai Lama could be a woman he answers "Yes". Recalling again an interview in Paris of the possibility "I mentioned, Why not? The female biologically [has] more potential to show affection and compassion...therefore I think female[s] should take more important role and then - I told the reporter - if a female does come her face should be very, very attractive." The interviewer Clive Myrie then asked if a female Dalai Lama must be attractive, he followed up, "I mean. If female Dalai Lama come, then that female must be attractive. Otherwise not much use." Myrie replied "You're joking, I'm assuming. Or you're not joking?" to which The Dalai Lama insisted "No. True!". The Dalai Lama then pointed to his own face, stating that to some people think he is very attractive and continued to laugh.
"Buddhist feminism is a movement that seeks to improve the religious, legal, and "social status of women within Buddhism. It is an aspect of "feminist theology which seeks to advance and understand the "equality of men and women morally, socially, spiritually, and in leadership from a Buddhist perspective. The Buddhist feminist "Rita Gross describes Buddhist feminism as "the radical practice of the co-humanity of women and men."
This section is in a list format that may be better presented using "prose. (November 2017)