What does Buddhism say about women. The roles are usually very much framed by the liturgies, as far as the man and the woman are concerned. From simple responsibilities at home to singular activities as the case may be. Each religion gives a role to a person, and the case of women in Buddhism has been no exception to this.
However, when we think of Buddhism, we are very likely to think of a monk, but not a nun. Why is this? Next, we will know what has been the role of women in Buddhism.
A struggle for balance
Traditionally, Buddhist civilizations have corroborated Buddha’s argument about the unique role that men have for Buddhism, explaining that only men can achieve salvation, and that women, in turn, would have to be born again as a male in order to find this path.
This principle is, perhaps, the reason why the Buddhist population is constituted, fundamentally, of monks. However, this has not always been the case, as there have been struggles to insert women into the Buddhist liturgy, precisely in the search for the same status as men.
Buddha claimed that women possess traits that do not allow them to reach the true path. He explains that “they are malicious, mischievous and lacking in truth,” so they cannot achieve the necessary order that men can.
Additionally, he argues that monks should do their best to avoid women, addressing them only when strictly necessary, avoiding making eye contact or establishing links with them. Let us remember that we are analyzing one of the principles of Buddhism, that is, its first canons.
This attitude is explained in the way women have been conceived in Buddhism. They are classified as a distraction for man, because they were responsible for distorting his paths, being, in this sense, a danger to his path to enlightenment. This is why it is argued, it was necessary to “despise” women.
Reborn as a man
For Buddhism, women were, by nature, erratic beings. Therefore, ” being reborn as a man” would be the only way to begin his path to salvation. This means that a woman had to discipline herself throughout her life, acquiring a “male mentality”.
In other words, a woman had to learn from the monks and reproduce their lifestyle in order to be recognized in the caste of monks. This would be the only way to rise and acquire the same social values in order to integrate into Buddhist society.
However, the situation would not always be the same, since, a Maha Gotami, remembered as Buddha’s aunt, would have demanded from the great Buddha his ascent to enlightenment. However, he would not accept such a request, a response that, in turn, was rejected by Maha Gotami. This is how he would start a movement whose objective was to vindicate women on the path of enlightenment.
Mahata Pajapati Gotami: First bhikkhunis
Mahata Pajapati Gotami is one of the most important figures for Buddhism and its female population, because her merits were aimed at dignifying the position of women in this religion, being one of the first to demonstrate her ability to lead the life of a monk.
It would be called “bhikkhunis” to the first lineage of Buddhist women, led by Gotami, who She would dare to walk an approximate distance of 250 kilometers completely barefoot, as proof of his ability to control his mind and body despite the devastation of that scenario.
Gotami faces his nephew Buddha again, reporting this feat, which would allow him to legitimize his lineage within Buddhism. This fact would mark a before and after to Buddhism for different reasons.
The first lies in making Buddhism the first religion that would give women the same position as men. The second, to create a lineage based on the adaptation of a woman’s life to that of a monk. There would be no more prejudice, or at least that’s what was thought at that time as a peak for Buddhist women.
A struggle from its roots
The problem is that traditional Asian society would not agree with this reform, as this undermined the role of women in the home. Thus, while the bhikkhunis were able to develop largely on the mainland, this lineage was despised over time, leaving few traces of their activity in China.
It is in this way that Buddhism has been carried out by men for centuries. In their most important countries such as Burma and Thailand, women have not managed to transcend positions of monastic assistants. Although the situation has shown a change at the end of the twentieth century.
In the words of one of the most important modern demonstrators of Buddhism, Dhammananda, she argues that “Buddha gave us the right to be ordained, and established that there had to be four Buddhist communities.”
These communities are composed of lay women, lay men, monks and monks. In Dhammananda’s words, she argues that her responsibility is to “carry on what life gave us,” referring to his teachings. This is how, since the 90s, there has been a constant struggle to dignify Buddhist women in different societies.
A struggle that has come to be branded as “feminist”, but that Dhammananda rescues and argues is “an entirely theological battle”, where the objective is to grant a solid position to all women who belong to Buddhism, as capable of being recognized as any monk respectively.
A discussion since the time of Buddha: what does Buddhism say about women
To this day, that of Buddhist women persists. A reform that seeks equal rights among practitioners of Buddhism without distinguishing between sex or gender. A place where everyone can reach Nirvana without having to stop for their features or their origins included.